Anatomy of My Grief Coming to me First as a Hissing Thing

how not to say father does it better than a snake,
how he folds his tongue to kill a dialect.

I do not make my facts boring here,
I hold a sweetener as I knead these words
into something long enough to keep me sighing all my life.

& you might want to know how I found my voice in this poem,
what I did when words return void, as the hole in my throat.
forgive me if I do not impress, when I say I crawled back & did nothing to live.

in our block, i'm stopped as a consonant:
a rankshift between plosive & flaps.
I wish for living things to know me first as sound—which means in good health,
which means placing the worth of a sibilant before me.

my father trains his mouth to yawning,
the pink reptile in there is nobody's plaything.

liquid worship to God—we make anti-venoms this way,
bathing prayer into our red loins,
mopping his teeth for bitemarks.

fangs that break my breath,
& pours me to rupture.

whatever knew us knew a diphthong,
knew the Siamese of two.

my father, deviating from the norm,
sounding like a mood when he yawns to feed his reptile with words.
sometimes, he milks his tongue,
& spills the venom on our plush.

NNADI SAMUEL is a Black writer and student of English and Literature from the University of Benin. His works have been previously published in Suburban Review, Seventh Wave Magazine, North Dakota Quarterly, Quarterly West, Blood Orange Review, PORT Magazine, The Cordite Poetry Review, Gordon Square Review, Rough Cut Press, Trampset, Beestung Magazine, Journal Nine, Liquid Imagination Eunoia Review and elsewhere. He's the winner of the Canadian Open Drawer contest 2020; the Splendor of Dawn Poetry Contest April 2020; and the Bkpw Poetry Workshop Contest 2021. He was shortlisted in the annual Poet's Choice award; the second-prize winner of the EOPP 2019 contest; and on the longlist of the NSPP 2020 prize. He is a Pushcart Nominee and the author of "Reopening of Wounds." He reads for U-Right Magazine and tweets @Samuelsamba10.