Precious Arinze — We: Origins and Burns

Our biography is dusk: tranquil
horizon graded with ash, the color of my mother,
flecked with streaks of violet, pale residue of my father’s burning

If my birth was an act of arson,
I will always be half heat, half woman
tired of being rekindled, culture lined with scar tissue,

a language folded in two,
burning with thirst

I am searching for a name to give to my brothers
before they vaporize, and I am left holding emptiness
in my arms

My sisters are unraveling like onion springs,
every slice a trauma our eyes are forced to witness;
mourning the chasm we call family, fair skinned

magnolia plucked mid-bloom and tossed
into the arbitrariness of night, blackened
by fire

it is impossible to contemplate the loneliness
we carry, the mistakes we carve out of ourselves
into lumps of coal that will feed a foreign flame,

my father as a young boy selecting the finest rocks,
skipping them across Oghelli like dreams. Before he
learns to harm enough without leaving marks,

before my mother becomes therapy, spreadsheet
for his pain we still will not name,

before that act of arson, before we begin to confuse
rage and affection, before we remember to forget
love is a luxury measured only in burns

My father is a young boy selecting the finest rocks,
skipping them across Oghelli like dreams. My father
says our people come from water, he omits what turned

us into chimneys. If that is true, I want to carve
my next mistake into a young boy drowning, inside him

Knowing all this, lover, if you ever find my love leaking
in places it should not, finger the holes into a trauma
of silence, send to my mother to roll under her tongue

when she carves out another decade, a stale mistake
with my father, I will fill her lungs with sooty forgiveness.
She will carry my ashes everywhere, one with the other,

one absolving the other until dawn pierces through