Lengthy Poem Contest


Untitled gen z poem about empathy.
by Abdulrazaq Salihu

Ma became enough emotion wrapped together in silence after pa died,

She became part of a wrecked ecosystem where women without husbands

Were never tagged beautiful. Ma became tough—the way the music would
Do your body what it does to rhythms, what it does to silent prayers lyric-ed

Around the broken corner of your neck, ma became days running into solitude
She  became the wind, she became the empathy, she  was like  the windy form

December breeze took to break our lips, ma would empty her body’s water into herself
Ma would laugh after Taraweehi, ma would pray after every salat that the thing that took

Pa returns to take her, she would want to talk to the ghosts on some days. Ma would run her
Hands across the tap and melt like light. She  would tell us love stories of her

And pa before the civil war, the time pa used to grow roses enough to sustain an ecosystem
With as much thorns as the Nile could drown. Ma would pause sometimes, between her

Breaths, she  would force her weak palms to attempt to hunt the mosquitoes hovering
Around our goosebump-ed bodies, ma would end some tales sadly, she  would tell us

She might not live to spit every ever after and ma would reduce the intensity of the lantern,
Enough to lit only that which her eyes can manage to see ma would let us go, ma would go,

Ma would not tell us the story of the day pa died , she  would stuff all the stories in her mouth
Ma would squirrel. Ma would be full-cheeked with loss, she would mistakenly spit  on the floor,

On us, on everything she’d rather hold too dearly to want to lose ma would fade into the night,
Ma would watch us sleep, ma would always come in dreams where ma had became enough

Emotion wrapped together in anxiety, in longing, in silence after pa died and left the roses
Farm with enough weed the world would not bed roses again.

Wormhole to survive death scenes and memories of the wa(te)r.

I promise I do not know  much about dementia

The  way I know  the effects of the reset button
On my iPhone. On our way to Sarkin pawa,

I tell a learned brother how scientists have
Tagged my father’s reincarnation in the wrong
Man’s body “an alien invasion”. He washes my sins

The  way the sun is forgetting to touch the edges of
Some things —the silent tip of sick leaves; call them humans.
I want to skip part of this journey when my father was kidnapped

In a certain year before I grew a strong limb.
I want to  get to the war front, the meeting place of silent lovers;
Call them my parents. At the same time, I want to pass it, slowly,

& consciously breathe the same air the people
And the town breathe & I want to run my fingers on
The sands. I want to know how much work it took

The earth to swallow something that wasn’t hers
& at the same time,  the war just started, in a different year,
Somewhere waters away, & my body is in a

Sailor’s , I write to another me & a pigeon is enough fuel,
& at the same time I’m somewhere in a time-industry,
Reshuffling the meant to be’s of myself, I’m swiping

Through my screen-arm; editing the story of my life
& at the same time, boys are born in  purple tuxedos
To argue the validation of Evolution. &

We’re in time like  apple seeds sowed into each other;
The thread and the faith, the slim fear to never rise.
& it’s the time of the mind-communication,

the English has  long lost  its worth & people are still making YouTube videos
telling each other they’re from thousands of
Years in the past & nobody had still seen a woman with my

Mother’s face since the day the war ate a solid part of the earth
And  time carries our tired bodies and we thumb-press the refresh
Button up our sleeves and androids are slowly erasing these tribal marks

Off our skin and reassuring us of our survival as the last human race
& I’m deleting from my life-cycle photo album because I need more
Space to store more memories &  I’m before the Tuesday market

In sarkin pawa, &  I see the bandits & I  see the bullet before
It left their guns to find straight target on my father’s chest
And before I see too much to cost  data, I press delete.

Somewhere , I’m silently grieving & at the same time my father
Never existed & I have more space & my mother
Is alive in a parallel universe with the right colour of skin

& the right accent to pass her iPhone’s voice recognition test
& at the same time I do not remember why I’m still glued
To this rated- 18 cycle & at the same time we’ve resolved

The problem of Over population with an equal death sign.
The present mirrors the past on my left screen-palm and
The future, that is to come, on my right screen-palm

& time moves on. And in another time in a whole
Different level of time-expertise, I’m before the
Entrance of sarkin pawa with an ayah enough to

Guide and protect my leaking body from that which I know
And that which I fear would come & at the same time
Some scientists at NASA are calling my reincarnated father

A gone-wrong science experiment and sorry, but I must ask,
Haven’t we gone pass this phase

the silent fear  between strangers in a subway.

A woman was choked as she sat on a bench

inside of a subway station on Sunday in Brooklyn

in what police say was an unprovoked attack,
That woman would have been me just that I was

15 minutes late arranging my office files before
Leaving for the subway.

I burn my conscience like a thin wildfire,

& today,

There’s  a separate silence between
The weight of this slim quiet

Between lips of all the silent people
In this subway and every stranger

I want to hug wants to hug me back
And every other stranger I fear would

Annihilate me fears me more
And, to be a stranger in America

Is to yearn for a thousand hug
In silence; is to wish to kiss

Strange boys in illegal clubs and not get shot;
Is to wish to let a weak part of an

Ocean tide rinse you clean of this queerness;
Is to be so close to a woman

That would love you, yet
Let her skin color determine your relationship

It’s to want to feel seen and important
Before these 11500 cameras and more

This is America, & you’re only given

What you ask for; yet, 
You’re only allowed to ask for 

All the  wrong things you already own:
Your gbagyi accent; your thick dark mole

Your empathy, the thing around your neck —
The small tag of slavery.

Earlier today, on a  slow paced journey,
In a subway with brown broken angels,

I asked for a skin colour to cloak my accent
I asked the gap between myself and the blonde

Woman with a thick gap between her two front teeth
To bring us closer, I asked the silence to [ ]  us;

The silence mistakes my silence for  fear and I pass.
For this, I water my right fist for all the boys

Whose left cheek were unfortunate enough to taste
The wrong prayer I’ve grown all my life holding unto.

Five minutes to my stop, loneliness buffs out of
Strangers mouth and it’s this communal hug

We all seek; this slow love song to leave a strangers mouth
To come flourish before our scattered accent & rhythm & loneliness.

I shift back into my body and
Let the night carefully arrange the stars to my favour;

Let my shadow hug all the silence between us strangers.
I offer this child a chocolate bar and his mother slaps my hand,

There’s a dark cloud beneath her left eye, I’m too human to ignore
So today, a stranger hugs a stranger on the subway

Tell themselves they’re water enough to seek
Serenity, to seek purity in public &

Every passenger doesn’t care in silence —every other passenger wants  this hug,
But, this is America so we unhug

We do not say a thing, we let the silence win,
We let the child sob  and the chocolate rot in its floor silence.

On a scale of night to sadness , I would walk straight to a girl
With just the right gap between her teeth for my own to fill

I would hug her; the night would hold
Us in her embrace—in perfect harmony like lovers.