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by Nnadi Samuel


retracing frowns is how we forego boundaries, to chase greener passports.
on the counter, 
brittle flesh sit beside waste bins to trash the little white we bring,
like children getting rid of their old toys.

we share our stories at regular intervals.
palms greasing palms,
slick treachery for a town killing its poetry.

cantos bear them all in rude lengths,
fourteen lines for thin migrants waiving cost for a snow hike.
no refrain, 
till they lose weight to sanity.

the embassy has a room for rare gifting,
cages the negroes in one show of negritude.
in the White man’s court, a young man brights his color on a candle stand,
& asks why the others do not speak his language.

he would call the cops to knee on you,
till your whole race begs for their breath.

when kneeling is not prayer, it kills a black man.
it makes him unworthy of his skin — this one they wound to the bare floor,
stifling the shock on their knees.

without feeling a semblance of brother skinning brother,
making color seem like death race with a want for swoon:

a near-death experience in a steep top where no one knows how you exist,
how you lived your last breath sleeping the night lonely,
dreaming of hot dogs in cocktail leashes.

what you seem when they sniff their own blood stray,
careless as a hog with no room for contact tracing.
& when we do not know how to claim the body,
we forge a cold word that ends with casualty.



Makeshift Borders

weigh it which way,
boundaries are cuffed barrels tongued to a busy road,
oil & hate trickling down to receive migrants in a befitting green.
you would almost beg to carry the whole fun below your chin.

at the steep edge, nature knows a little about slave trade.
she lays in blocks,
to break the world into a foreign queue.

rip off those lies in sack clothing,
& the shady officers — blond mannequins making reckless gains in cheap currency.
what makes you feel the snow kills better over there?
how come you’ve lost so much weight in chasing a life that feels like your own?

sweet-tongue me into your grief,
how you bear this lesson for someone out there with a brown skin,
about to cross a border that is no border.

tell the truth that is no truth,
that an eruption quaked this land to meet us at both ends.
make a folklore of this,
& watch variety stalk the most of its meaning.


Nnadi Samuel is a graduate of English & literature from the University of Benin, who lives in Lagos (Nigeria). His works have been previously published in PORT Magazine, Suburban Review, Gordon Square Review, Blue Nib journal, The Elephant Magazine, Rigorous Magazine, Artifact magazine, Inverse Journal, Canyon Voices, The Collidescope, Jams & Sand magazine, Journal Nine, & are forthcoming in the The Quills, Lunaris Review, Eunoia Review & elsewhere. He won the Splendor of Dawn Poetry Contest April 2020, got shortlisted in the annual Poet’s Choice award & was the second-prize winner of the EOPP 2019 contest. His first chapbook “REOPENING OF WOUNDS” is forthcoming in the WRR publisher. He is a co-reader at U-Right Magazine, who sees poetry as a beautiful accident of language. On Twitter he is @Samuelsamba10.


Featured artwork created by Meg Sykes in response to Samuel’s poems.