Three Poems | Michael Imossan

The reason why I watched “wrath and revenge” (WAR)

Because I know you
would have loved that we watch this
movie, I am watching it—alone.
My room a dark box large enough
to hold my breaking.
Loneliness sitting beside me like
a loyal dog.
I run my hands over its fur, tickle its
sides and watch it roll and roll and
wag its tail as if to say, I am your only
friend.
This is the few ways I get to touch
you: Lipton for tea, sauced
spaghetti in the morning, Ali Jita’s
music because you loved them.
Sometimes, I hold memory by
the neck, allow its sharp edge cut me
open in the way death, while passing,
cuts a family open.
The movie is still playing,
Rahama Sadau comes on screen.
Her face, just like yours, colours
the scene. Her mouth speaking
becomes your mouth. The Hausa
tumbling off her tongue belongs to you.
And towards the movie’s end,
where a dark curtain readies to fall
over the screen. I feel you leaving
me again. The space in my ribs
where you once stayed, growing
darker and darker.

The way you loved Ali Jita’s music

Days after we knew ourselves, we began
learning each other’s language. The day
had itself wrapped in fire. A large ball of
sun was heaped on our backs. Sweat dripped
from your nape and gathered around your
shoulders like a lake.
I wiped it off.
You said the word for heat in Hausa is “Zafi”.
I said the word for heat in Ibibio is “Ufiop”.
You laughed at me, said it was funny. I said
yours was too light for the mouth to carry.
Nothing softens the body like love.
Even a bullet knocks on the flesh with a kiss.
I felt us thawing like ice, flowing into each
other like a tributary—intimacy borne out
of the exchange of language.
And a little to our left, Ali Jita’s “Fatima”
flew out of the girl’s phone who
sat close to us. I tapped you by the shoulders.
We both walked inside the song.
I can still remember how you opened like
a new day.

How to say “I love you” in Hausa and Ibibio

Every story begins like a song;
the intimate movement of words through
sound—ours began in Sokoto.
After years of schooling, our country had
asked us, as graduates, to serve.
And there we were, partitioned by tribe
and language, saving ourselves from the
hatred of the world.
In that sun-bright afternoon, you dazzled
before me like a star traveling across decades
of darkness.
All my life I had been lonely. Afraid my
father’s hands belonged to me, I had refused
touching any flowered thing.
The camp bustled with noise. Our fellow
corpers, in their white and white, littered all
over the open space like a garden of white lilies.
In the centre, a man was giving a lecture
on how sharp the country’s differences are,
how we could be cut by it.
All I could hear in his voice was the fear of
violence, the trauma of war.
There’s something about love that makes a man
surrender every bit of fear in his stomach.
I held you by the hand. You asked: how do you
say “I love you” in your language? “mme uma
fien”, I responded. You giggled and whispered
into my ears: in my language, you’ll have to say
“ina son ki”.


Michael Imossan is a poet, playwright, and Editor. He is the author of the award-winning chapbook “For the Love of Country and Memory” (poetrycolumnnd, 2022) as well as the gazelle “A Prelude to Caving” (Konyashamsrumi, 2023). His full-length manuscript, “Broken in Three Places,” was named semifinalist for the Sillerman Prize for African Poetry ‘23. He is a recipient of the PEN International Writers Grant.

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