• “i think my father is dying”

    A Poem by Akwaeke Emezi

    this was meant to be about palm oil
    red pooling in the clay on my altar
    how that taste is the most igbo thing i know
    the wet fibers from a ripe palm fruit
    flat stones cracking the nut inside
    the white kernel in our mouths
    something inside something inside something
    that place in ụmụahịa where the white sand,
    ụmụawa alaọcha, meets the red
    five masquerades, a chain, and a whip
    the seven villages of old ụmụahịa
    there before the city was born
    ụkpabịs before we became emezis
    the smallest village, fire seekers
    grandfather during the bombs
    the war that ate him alive
    a dead bee in a gourd of palm wine
    children of the weaverbirds
    because we were so many, so many
    de nnanna’s heart finished in brixton
    de abel was buried last friday
    my father is grayskinned and shrinking
    his storytelling rots in real time
    before his own betrayed eyes
    we used to be so many, so many
    a flock of whirring yellow
    the third wife hails him with titles
    her mouth full of gold and horsehair
    ugwumba! the greatness of a people
    ọchịagha! the commander of war
    we will kill a cow when he dies
    put him inside the red earth
    he will sleep inside his compound
    and i might never go home again

    Article continues below


    From Content Warning: Everything by Akwaeke Emezi. Used with permission of Copper Canyon Press. Copyright by Akwaeke Emezi.

    Article continues below
    Akwaeke Emezi
    Akwaeke Emezi
    Akwaeke Emezi (they/them) is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Death of Vivek Oji, which was a finalist for the Dylan Thomas Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the PEN/Jean Stein Award; Pet, a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, a Walter Honor Book and a Stonewall Honor Book; Freshwater, which was named a New York Times Notable Book and shortlisted for the PEN/Hemingway Award, the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize; and most recently, Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir. Selected as a 5 Under 35 honoree by the National Book Foundation, they are based in liminal spaces.

    More Story
    Exclusive cover reveal: Akwaeke Emezi’s Content Warning: Everything. Literary Hub is pleased to reveal the cover for Freshwater and The Death of Vivek Oji author Akwaeke Emezi’s debut poetry...
  • Become a Lit Hub Supporting Member: Because Books Matter

    For the past decade, Literary Hub has brought you the best of the book world for free—no paywall. But our future relies on you. In return for a donation, you’ll get an ad-free reading experience, exclusive editors’ picks, book giveaways, and our coveted Joan Didion Lit Hub tote bag. Most importantly, you’ll keep independent book coverage alive and thriving on the internet.