When this happens, it is usually because a poem is in a waiting room

A poem by Othuke Umukoro

Photo of a white flower in a pond

Everything I know begins with fire
& ends with disappearing. I
swallowed a megathrust earthquake
once. That is a red flag for a
barred jagged owl circling a dome.
When I showed my therapist
the HuffPost article that reported
that at least 22 trans
& gender non-conforming people in
the US alone, mostly black transgender
women, were killed in 2019, I found
my shadow lying face down in
her trembling palm like
coral peonies. The tectonic
interpretation is that I come in bloom,
wingless screws & bolts. When she goes
to use the toilet, her perfect excuse to hide
her misty eyes from me, I will spread
the years my country has given us,
like familiar grief, on her walnut dark
office table & use her translucent, lavender
plumed pen to circle all the swollen places
oozing with our names: Bubba Walker,
Ashanti Carmon, Muhlaysia Booker,
Zoe Spears—how many poems does it
take to stop a bullet from making a
mess of your brain? The night comes with so much
tiredness these days & in my dream, the
one where I am playing the piano before a
Jay Z kind of crowd, the neon moths come
in a stainless tray of primroses. I am aware,
a ghost meets
us in the middle of every song,
& there is a stillness that comes
between saying you’re a flower
& knowing you’re the least
favourite flower in your country.

Othuke Umukoro is a poet & playwright from Nigeria. His demons have appeared in The Sunlight Press, Kissing Dynamite Poetry Journal, Eunoia Review, Brittle Paper & elsewhere. When bored, he watches Everybody Hates Chris. He tweets @othukeumukoro19.

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