Bougainville, by Nnadi Samuel

“Wake up and ache for your life.” — Natalie Diaz

I do not assure you the ligament protruding from your rib cage
is an act of kindness. say, you were born a leakage of skin &
rotten suspense,
with no ache to salve the blood. a sacrilege of meat—fiddling
your bone marrow. growing up, I fed slowly on damnation,
& amazing grace
was my most small sin. I think of you blooding the


the stubborn white—each by its flamy bright head.
I kneel into the chaos. we’re capable of burning in all the wrong
ways. I attempt
to put out the light birthing half-light in your loin, gaslight Pa into
branding me:
a boy obsessed with self-destruct.
I’m nameless as the inferno, haunting this house of a body down.
my memory

                                       outlived the slaughter, till age leaks finely
into the wound. you: a rough breed, begrudging the land that
                                                                                        once loved

you to sprouting. your pain is a dead language.
whatever word fashioned against you has ceased
to be in vogue. I starch the archaism to my throat, & ache over the

                                          weren’t you joyous, the night I blotted your loin
with vinegar? weren’t we wasteful—spilling everywhere a brightness torch,
like flame is wired for our transgression. cupping your palm:
                                            a wealth of sobbing gold pouring into shape:

the currency of many deaths. your lips grating mine is a more dangerous
blend of rhythm. when I’m questioned on what dirties my instinct,
what leaves me in still-life filth.

                                                Is mud fashioned to market soft hand-towels?
yes! I tell them. I am your culebra. I am in the dirt for you.

With an ending line from “Post Colonial Love Poem” by Natalie Diaz

Nnadi Samuel (he/him/his) holds a B.A in English & literature from the University of Benin. Author of Nature knows a little about Slave Trade selected by Tate.N.Oquendo (Sundress Publication, 2023). His works have been previously published or are forthcoming in FIYAH, Fantasy Magazine, Uncanny Magazine, Strange Horizons, Timber Ghost Press, Haven Spec Magazine, Utopian Science Fiction, Penumbric Speculative Poetry & Fiction Magazine, Star*Line Fiction & Poetry Magazine, and elsewhere. A 3x Best of the Net, and 7x Pushcart Nominee. He tweets @Samuelsamba10.

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