Chubueze Obunadike’s Biafra, Land of the [ ] Sun was the 1st runner up for the June 2020 Collins Elesiro Literary Prize.
i have always known home as the empty space
between two bodies
[say, my mother & father fighting over
which side of the bed to sleep on],
between two countries fighting to fit into one leg
of a torn trouser.
2017 & my father got married to his radio.
the small voice of a yellow man claiming to be a Jew
walked into our house & never left.
i think this is where it always starts. with a voice.
a man declaring war. a man declaring a country.
it’s funny, you ask for home & they say you are looking for a fight.
you ask for home & they give you war.
give you bullets. give you bombs. give you caskets
to bury your children in but nothing to feed them with.
it is like this, yesterday, i listened to a man talk
about surviving the war like he was running home
only, school is a mouth trying to eat you alive & there
is nowhere to escape to.
maybe you make it home, maybe you don’t.
2018 & we’re still trying.
crawling at this point but any movement is progress.
they keep pointing east to a rising sun like it is there, but
it is noon already & we still cannot see our shadows.
my father has started sleeping with his radio on
& I imagine the voice of the yellow man living in his head.
his infection has spread & everywhere you look are Igbo
men stuck to their radios, bodies blackened like new batteries
left out in the sun too long.
their eyes all look like hope, which means they are red & forgotten.
most days I can’t even tell them apart, but you can still see the corpses
of their children stuck to their fingers, bones angrily sticking out.
together, they will reach the Promised Land.
come, quiet now, lay these bodies down here, by the water.
let the river carry them home, towards God.
my mother tells my father it’s time to come home from the war,
everyone else has, & he turns, takes off his shirt & points to the
missing collarbone, the bullet holes left in his chest.
for the first time, they sleep with their backs to each other
& I am left in the middle, border child, laying claim to half of each
broken country, until we look like a sun trying to put itself together
on a map.
2019 & my country is an aborted child lying half-dead on the
sofa in the parlour, reaching for the remote & trying to see what
else is on.
anything but the sound of its own name.
anything but the sound of its young swallowing police bullets,
biting machete steel & pushing through riots.
two more channels & it’s ’67 again.
half-bodies lying dead in the streets, families unrecognisable to
each other, handshakes gone unfamiliar.
my mother tries to kiss my father & the place their mouths
meet is a marketplace, a country trying to run away from itself,
say, the sound of bombs exploding on the tin roof,
saying, come in, it’s time for lunch.
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