Homeland

By Ogaga Ifowodo

What are the things that grow here?
Those that grow from stone, lacking
life and root, flesh and water,
things cut as caps
for the baldness of stone.

What are the things that flourish here?
Those that rise from dust, without
teeth for the nourishment of sand,
things frail and fallen
that toss and fly with every wind.

And what are the harvests here?
Of corn crippled before teething
Of tubers poorer than the planted head
Of tomatoes rotted before ripening
Of sand and gravel, burntbush and anthills.

What are the dwelling places?
Houses bitter like a weeping face
homes grievous like smoke-pipes
walls held up by pillars of anguish,
where lament makes bed and roof.

And how do children grow here?
Out of wombs whipped with want
and desire, they burst forth, to be
tough like street leather, sweet and hardy
like sugarcane, to learn love in safe time.

Here, we will walk the street
where laughter is hidden in deep places
and stores cannot shut their doors
chock-full with hearts that bleed from gathered wounds
and you will see, nothing can grow here—but agony.

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