Black December by Nome Emeka Patrick

after Christiana Im

On the first day of December, we peer at the fish, its skin a
dark wet mat. Asleep—all its river sorrows. It’s the month

that ushered my mother into a coffin’s yawn—its daily creaks
almost a wooden hiss behind my heart. It is the season of death—

stars erased off their sparks. This time, I know fear, an itch in
my throat—a cough clot with blood, with premonition. Here,

I nightmare—my hands: prosodies of their own honest pasts.

Let’s say I walk into the night looking for a night: the fact is
my eyes forget even its purpose. I drown so deep into terror.

Say I am carving the wood, smoothing the surface, sobbing &
telling myself I am making a boat—an escape from the eclipse.

It is drought in my head. The river munches the road, & we lost
sight of the beckoning. Ahead,

                            what blazes is a temple’s roof sticking
its tongue to taunt the sun—I metaphor everything futuristic.

              The vivisection of vision: I twisted the forks in,
plucked my river-ed eyes off, held it out to the closest animal

                            —this scene is all violence & nothing else.

I wanted to keep trudging under the street light, keep mistaking
my feet for a stray’s, but there’s yet a promise nestled behind

my good ribs, there’s yet good air swelling around my good heart,
good blood pumping itself like a boombox—a hozier of birth.

Terror slips inside my heart like a child, sleeps there —a faint
fairy. I recite Psalms, imagine myself a David, soliloquize my

soul to slumber; wake up in dreams with papers & a hunger
to be seen. Let’s say I sleep close to the cat, its body a prelude

to some greater myth, would I heal? my ache a vanishing? All
I seek is a place to place my crown, whisper the premonitions

away, scrape off the odds of disaster carved on the walls—this
is never a riddle: this leap towards redemption, this gasping fear.


Nome Emeka Patrick is a Nigerian poet. His works have been published or forthcoming in POETRY, AGNI, TriQuarterly, Waxwing, West Branch, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Poet Lore, Beloit Poetry Journal, Black Warrior Review and elsewhere. A Best of the Net, Best New Poets, and Pushcart prize nominee. He emerged third place in the Frontier Poetry Award for New Poets, 2020. His manuscript We Need New Moses. Or New Luther King was a finalist for the 2019 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. He writes from Lagos, Nigeria. Say Hi on Twitter @nome__patrick