How We Died
A poem from Innocent Chizaram Ilo
life I had seen through Mama’s rheumy eyes
celluloid eyeballs ridden with fear
smeared with dust
the dusts sailed around what used to be her hut
now reduced to cinders.
when we were sans shelter, sans clothes, sans hope
when death called our names in pith-dark voices
when charred rubbles of bone and flesh lay in fine poses
when we endured the painful penile stabs
staring life in the face, we defiled death.
the blue caps came with their warped gifts,
a little food
a little water
a little assurance of a life erstwhile.
we huddled into dingy powerboats
covered with brightly colored blankets and dreams
dreams of—well, away from this burning earth.
the howling winds capsized our boats
water, sweat, salt and blood mingled in tiny rivulets
choked us here, below our thyroid,
when we thought we’d survived
Mama read a placard: GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM
and we died.
Innocent Chizaram Ilo
Innocent is twenty years old and lives in Nigeria.
He writes to make sense of the world around him.
This poem appears in A Beautiful Resistance: The Crossing.