Writer, poet and editor, Chiamaka Enyi-Amadi shares three recent works on love, belonging and scepticism.
The following poems were first published in Writing Home: The ‘New Irish’ Poets edited by Pat Boran and Chiamaka Enyi-Amadi.
Home is not where you are born, home is where all your attempts to escape
cease – Naguib Mahfouz
…without knowing how or when, or from where*
I have stopped dreaming of escape from a country
on whose ground I could settle my feet
but not my spirit. I thought my mind had betrayed me
the day I woke wanting to remember each moment
where I feel at home. My memory is a wool blanket,
fraying at the edges, an unreliable garment
barely thick enough to throw over my back
to trap time, smother it safely, keep each moment
Intact, and I can open my time-blanket
whenever I’m in need of spare-keys
or the balm of love-soaked nostalgia. Instead I bookmark
the NY Times article “36 Questions That Lead to Love”,
mark a google-calendar date every month for us to brunch
sitting on a high or low olive wood stool
in some high-end or back street cafe
in Dublin mostly or Galway at Doyle’s
or Amsterdam or Belfast at Bert’s
I sit anywhere, always facing you.
Each time we are old strangers
equipped with questions to connect new dots,
afterall we hacked the ‘love algorithm’ once before.
What are the odds of us
not getting sick of each other.
What are the odds of getting to a place
where all our attempts to escape cease?
Sure you take the piss, keep saying
this kind of carry on will make you end it all,
you’d sooner dig deeper, grimace at some dormant malaise,
bare your sores rather than risk losing your way…
Your need for ‘organised chaos’, sneaking scoops
of butter onto your tongue the moment my head is turned,
and my tendency to dissect every situation
if only to keep me sane in this epic guessing game.
…without knowing how or when, or from where
I have stopped dreaming of escape
And began wanting to remember each moment
where I feel at home, with you.
*from a line by Pablo Neruda
My mind is weak on isolated detail.
I ask that each book, each song, each supper of yours,
must have a story attached whether it’s the first
or last, or I’ll struggle to make memory of it –
… goes in one ear then leaks out …
the other night I went digging in old drawers
reached into my memory box,
I’d kept it all, fourteen months
from the fourteenth day of February
the night you first cooked me dinner
sirloin steak seared
in a pan of melted butter,
toss the button mushrooms to fry
in clear juices, spring onion chopped
without watering your eyes,
bulbs of garlic crushed,
baby potatoes seasoned – bold flavours –
with your mother’s many spices.
On a cold evening I wait for you
outside Dun Laoghaire station:
a faded figure rushing through
approaches with a smile, shy, falters,
both of us shielded by the inadequate roof
of the bus shelter. You hand me
red roses, as if we’d dined before.
I pull a gloved hand from my coat pocket
to take them. As we walk towards the house,
dinner warm in the oven waiting to be served,
my fingers stiffen from the chill.
I’d kept it all, crisp red petals
now a dark shade of brown –
stalk and flower pressed
into my journal pages together with
the note you wrote in gratitude
for that copy of Neruda (‘the gift of life,
that without cease I give you’), once a vibrant thing,
soaking up the scent held to my nostril;
let the petals lick my lips,
brown on top, pink beneath.
the harmony of skin
on skin, of flesh meeting
in hunger, in wonder, i ngrá
in sweat, tears, blood
between my legs too soon
painting your cotton sheets crimson.
While I sleep it seeps through,
some old part of me steadily
leaving, this time too soon.
I am at a loss, I have no tool
to plug this sudden drip.
This time, I do my one good trick:
turn a site of desire into a pit of despair,
and bury myself in shame and stained sheets.
You wake and reach for me,
the harmony of skin on skin, of flesh
meeting in hunger, in wonder, i ngrá;
you feel the sheets, wet, my body in retreat.
You spring up, grabbing towels,
manoeuvre me (half against my will),
wrapping thick white towels around my waist
and between my legs. I have no choice:
I give in, allow my body take centre stage,
announce my pain out loud,
and you reach for me again, the harmony
of skin on skin…my body in distress.
For more information on Writing Home: The ‘New Irish Poets’ here.
For more of Chiamaka’s work visit her website here.
Images by Jon Tyson, Debby Hudson and Nina Kopfer on Unsplash