Two Poems by Jonathan Chibuike Ukah
"What Love Can Be" and "The Theatre of Bones"
What Love Can Be
After we hit our heads against the sky,
or divulged all the secrets of the galaxy,
after we punched the walls of the clouds
hoping to shove our fists into the frame of time,
we realise that this music stinging in our ears
like a band of wasps seeking a way into our body,
is not the one we invented to avenge our loss.
We want to leave a memento of our delirium
as a symbol of how much loss means to us.
What if love is a constant chameleon,
rolling out colours of strange bewilderment,
every season, arriving with a different smile
and weeping, diminishing and something else.
Love is not a dream that sleeps in motion,
or an echo with different sounds;
it is not the warmth of cold nights
or the cooling of the warmest days.
I embraced the sun; my arms died to life.
I shall need a second arm to return to myself,
since the one I lose will no longer make sense
if I stand naked in the rain dead to love.
The eyes lose see it; the ears may not hear it,
But the truth is the only form of secrecy
whose origin is common knowledge.
Dawn is the night of love's touching moment,
when beauty wears a cloak to hide out,
where true love is in constant decline;
so amorphous is the shadow lingering over us
That we hang our shoulders in Heaven’s line,
waiting for it to dry up in the wet wind of time.
I have waited for the perfect storm to blow up
what I take to be the foundation of our love,
yet the longer I wait, the dimmer the light
shining us through this tunnel of flickering light.
Now I realise I must tear down your shame
which you wear like a veil and a dirty dress
that you may be light, free and warm
glowing in my light full of love’s delight.
*One of our nominees for the Pushcart Prize
The Theatre of Bones
Like a man in a garden of Chrysanthemums,
I seek a gloss among the leaves,
but all I see before me
is the theatre of cracking bones.
Perhaps, my eyes are multiplying things
and see what is not there;
or an optical, wrecking illusion,
where what is, is what is not.
I cannot see what flowers lie on the ground,
nor what plants have grown overnight,
but I will send a postcard of love
to all the bones crying for flesh;
a bird will rise; among them a horse,
then a lion, a cat, a tortoise,
the sheep and the shark will rule the garden,
until all bones turn into a bubble of leaves,
in white flowers and green stalks.
It's hard to believe that's how we grow,
shiny and bright like a field of flowers,
but totters of guns, shooting and killing,
shelters of ants, shields of insects,
turning into war zones, execution grounds
from where children and women run
to hide behind parked vehicles,
or unfinished buildings.
About the author: Jonathan Chibuike Ukah’s work has been featured and will soon be featured in The Cortland Review, Strange Horizons, Words of Possibility Magazine, Space and Time Magazine, Atticus Review and elsewhere. He is a winner of the Voices of Lincoln Poetry Contest 2022 and a finalist of the African Diaspora Award 2023.