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A Boneyard of Flesh// Post-War Trauma by Nnadi Samuel

"my joy is a dead language"—KHALYPSO



yet, a nameless gravestone rolled between cold war & now.

a maddened apparition, manifesting from the boys' quarter of my pain, of each

bullet-eaten cave by the roadside—razed down to a crumpled papier-mâché.


my brother, ulcering out of my grip the way a blood-soaked font detaches 

from the page of medical record as a pulsing illness, or a budding lump.


'tonight stinks like an open sore.’ & in the wild gift of event, a scar 

shapeshifts towards healing. violence scrawled in its wake.

& styling its way into turbulence—it thunders through a ribcage. 



there: the hurt, bruised to whitening. there: the chewed carnivorous 

water—yawning a boneyard of flesh. the shore is language dead enough 

to drown in, to squeeze to a thorough blot & punctuate with rumpled bodies 

of my race. their negritude, whitewashed into effervescence.

our crude & grief-infested dialect like yellow bile, unsettling the tongue.



post-war, a fragment of our surname drown in bulletproof soil.  brother, 

deboning the wild knit of concrete. he yanks off a body from its loamy 

existence, & the air reeks of Ma. a boy ago, he grieved the dry season 

of his infancy into a bonfire with no bones to hawk the flame.

amusement parks grew less amusing—slaughter driven by the urgency 

for blood. carousel, racing same way into the tummy of an ambulance.



the kill are smuggled in body bags on trolley, headed for nowhere.

grief grows surplus & doubles over with loss. a lad, foisted to a 

stretcher—brandishes his dislodged wrist as a teenage gadget, 

& grieved a purple sore boomeranging everywhere across town.


what bullet colors my accent? the impact, too sporadic to chew a whole 

lineage. what language meets a bomb halfway between beauty & boom?



lights-out: a soft shadow loiters the lone street, scavenging the bloodshot 

yard for tampon. & in a sleight of hand, unshelves a pregnancy test-kit.

a sergeant pounds her from behind—as if I mean, without a gun.


[prenatal]: she binge slowly on the fat bile of loss. gloom, trellising her insteps.

[postnatal]: she craved fish stew on empty cartridge, bullet-shaped torso of 

a lamb—marred in gunpowder. see how sorrow makes a carnivore of us.


beware of me. grief burdens my core. a fetus once there has gone missing

& not one blood to show for it.



say: the ancestors has no hand in our woe. say: their spirit misjudges the bullet.

resurrect their ancient loin, for each fallen shape to plead in cold-blooded language.

say, I was the voice peeling the wind, there's the probability you'd find me un-alived 

by a missile or near miss, or vowel explosion. my tongue: a dead language.

phoneme, plastered to my cheek. its cruel alphabet—liquifying my gum,

as sadness foams in maritime rage.

the saltless blessing, roaming in my mouth like rotten carcass.



in the year of disaster, your ghost come home to roost on the eve of May:

an earthshattering sound—headed towards chaos. at the crack of dawn, 

you're boar leaping toward light: a violence dead on arrival.

in a country that speaks fire, 'my joy is a dead language.'

a dark accent, scrubbing grief on pink tongue.

the colonist's verb keep revamping more corners for us to die in.


I wear my mouth in reverse, & gun a pronoun down in one shot. cheers to 

how we self-identify with hurt: a bullet for dodged bullet—in this ghastly language.


say, you find harm to outpace. thank the fitness of foot,

thank the femur & the calcium that fills it with tonight's horse race.



there, my dead relatives unfurling like a peeled chorus.

their unrehearsed glow—putting light to guesswork.

dear brother, happiness is a far cry from here, & at the rough edge lies

a matchet moon—the way the sky slit supplication into sore throat.


you shape out, voiceless from the onslaught.

see, what troubles your larynx: medieval's wreckage.

a cannon ball, gunning for your lung.

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