self-portrait as a god on fire

by Hussain Ahmed

everything in the circle runs away from me into ashes.

they sing my praise, so that I dampen the flames

that consume the eggs midway to pupa,

but I am on sabbatical this sabbath.


every part of me is a mirror the moths mistake for a night sky.

I am on fire with the kangaroos,

their pouches hold the love they own, or what taught them to love.


I baked everything to stillness,

in the rest of the seventh day, I assumed their cries to be songs

that herald rainfall after a long drought.

the sky grieves all that was lost inside my body.

today, I mourned the kangaroo that hangs on barbwire,

its eyes are barns where willow warblers saved their feathers

when they couldn’t fly against the wind.

I mourn everything lost to my body,

even though I do not have the language for condolences.

koala bears escaped, but they have been thirsty ever since.

the world has enough water to salt your tongue but not your wounds.

if bears could speak, would they ask after the fur that flies, shredded in the air?

I wouldn’t answer, because they were created to someday seize breath,

and my body is a perfect maze to surrender their memories of haunting.


HUSSAIN AHMED is a Nigerian poet and environmentalist. His poems are featured or forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, POETRY, The Cincinnati Review, Poet Lore, The Rumpus and elsewhere. He is an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Mississippi.


Art by Ellen Sharman

Somerville College
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The ORB is published with permission of LM Publishing Ltd, Palladium House, 1-4 Argyll St, London W1F 7LD.
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