Anu Soneye’s How our Hearts Become a Haven for Hate won the December 2020 Collins Elesiro Literary Prize

I thought music was a cure for cancerous memories;
to find great calm when loss turns a fertile field
and agony is weed spreading without season

and in this, we all try to still our storms.
We cast lots on the things we love
till we are a coliseum of emptiness
where darkness falls upon us

in daylight, my brother’s body is burgled by a bullet,
escapes with blood gushing out his neck –
like a broken water-pipe

for refusing to open his phone,
I see a life lost –labyrinth into
a pattern that unlocks the hate
in my heart where loss is a loop
of regrets that remind me that:

rights are to remain, unstrained
and this is why we are choked by checkpoints,
clogged by policemen, with heavy guns
strapped as a reminder that
“in all things, give thanks”

and this scripture is where we have
learned silence and other habits
that snares the salvation of our soul

blessed is “to not be Nigerian”
or find succor in a Visa. The Spirit is weary
and out-of-service to comfort the heap of brokenhearted
mounding from this murder-land

where death reaches the gate of heaven,
uniformed, in twilight – on a Tuesday, darkened
when anthems became background music
for a tragedy and faith in flags unbodied
into farewell waves and goodbyes

and this is how our hearts become a haven for hate:

We become victims of plagues.
All the Niles in us turn to blood
when frustration flutters in our hearts– like
swarming locusts, and “do not lose heart”
is a spell, broken on the death of our firstborns.

do not think a difference till you are
made to starve with a weapon in hand
this is how to make beast from humans
and criminals from cops –where
hunger licks dry every drop of good
and when you gaze around, hope flies
away like a bird off a branch.

and children are thought to be silent;
to bear the yoke of oppression like
an heirloom – do not speak; swallow
the chaos lingering in your throat

and isn’t this why we’ve learned to disguise;
to wear ourselves into lies –become a mask;
to live in a wasteland and act normal
as though music were a cure for cancerous memories

when your country’s name digs the grave
of all the light in your bosom – you smile
and despair finds a home -drops the guest-tag

a friend falls by my right hand, at a loud bang,
bowels plashed, and a woman unbuckles
her virginity into vulnerability – raped by a law
that detests the sweat on her skin

born by a search for palliatives to calm
the storm in her belly

so I home my hate –dehumanized,
I convince myself that there is a tomorrow
lurking at the next checkpoint on a bright noon
but before my eyes, another body falls
-my body falls.

Help us keep this literary blog free! Don’t miss our latest Magazine call for submission. We are dedicated to bringing you the best of new fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. This literary magazine and our prizes are run solely by volunteers. In order to keep doing this, we rely on voluntary donations and sponsorships. Click here to donate.