Ashes by Hussain Ahmed

Dear __________,


The parade ground                 is a field                                    of cocoyam leaves.

 There’s a tuber            beneath your boots,                            but you must stand

Until the sky is lighted                     with the names of everyone     before you

Made into an umbrella                              to hide a bag of salt                  from drizzle.


The similar scars          made a family                         of strangers.

In many years,                        you may never meet               except on a runway

Where you only stare                       into the halogen lamps,             and match on.


There is a demise of a soldier          that you may read                      on your way to the kitchen

Or on the radio                      after a music break.                It will break you 

For now, you are                    a branch of a dead figment,             smothering in the dark.


Henceforth,                  all the dead                   lives in you.


You will live in someone                    who would see your face                 in a photo album

And tell                   how you rescued a family of rabbits          on the battleground.


You will live in the body of a stranger,       who watched                how you fed the rabbit

And her seven kits                  slices of mangoes you ripened                     in powdered charcoal.

Hussain Ahmed is Nigerian, poet, and environmentalist. He holds a master’s degree in Ecology and Environmental Control from Obafemi Awolowo University. His poems are featured or forthcoming from AGNI, Poetry Magazine, The Kenyon Review, Transition Magazine and elsewhere. He is a 2021 Semi-finalist Cave Canem Poetry Prize, 2022 Finalist for the University of Wisconsin Press’s Brittingham Prize and Felix Pollak Prize poetry competition, and several others. He is an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Mississippi and the author of chapbook “Harp in a Fireplace” (Newfound, 2021) and debut collection Soliloquy with the Ghosts in Nile (Black Ocean, 2022).