by Samuel Ugbechie

With hands scarred in fire, with breath dipped
in pride and propane, my father burned metals,

strummed electric strings, poured pressure
on the hardest things. Much of life, it seems,

blossoms out of fumes, springs out of fuel and fire
slurring in the wind. Isn’t this the sweet ugliness

we fuse and alloy out of love: burning two to make
one? But love made our parents and love

broke them. What happens when, one day,
no amount of hugs we burn, no volume of kisses

we warm, no fistful of palms we shake or join,
or touches we pierce and pour into one another’s

bodies are hard enough to stop our loved ones
from melting away? What happens when one day,

all the tongues we’ve bitten, all the paths we’ve ridden,
the scars and dishes we’ve worn and eaten

come leaking out of our pasts, come dislodging
out of our memories, arcing into history, asking

to repeat? I’ve tried to weld me to your arms,
dear country. But all I attach your bullets detach

and bruise. Meantime, down the fields, healing melts
tortuously and spills tenderly like rain. I walk

into it with burns written on my skin. I bathe my soul
in stuttering drizzle and bent grasses unbend

their plaited hair. They grip the curtains of the skin
-soft mist, and cry, leaf after leaf, a beatitude of breezes

thrumming in my belly. And out front, big buildings sculpt
petals out of mud. I dip my legs in it and wholeness

blows against my jaw. This, too, is welding, me burning
into words, me thrumming out of all the moments

that gasp outside of my belly. Dusk cakes and dawn
pours, and clouds stiffen in my arms. Your face—

the comfort welded by a smile—clots itself in the wind
and sharpens its lips like a finger, all unblurred

with a thousand rays. The trees write their griefs
in reverse, and their branchlets brighten out of gums.

Broken, but whole. The token stolen out of our homes.
All bright, all muddied, spitting mist and memories

out of skin-deep flames.

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