Telephone by Hussain Ahmed

Everything was dying when the telephone came alive.

the first ring was from a woman

one of the eleven that had called        before the sun

spreads on detached limps      & licks off the blood.

until the rays are boxed in the gloves of maghrib

I pray for night not to come, but it came crawling.

I feel nauseated by the shouts of dying men and the silence that ensued.

their fading voices pounced on the prayers,               we dare not say aloud

you are alive. I feel the balm spreads             down my throat

she said her prayers are answered but I feel lost,

I am as dead as the city itself. the minarets are empty

the bells jingled           but everything that speaks our language

could be a bait             to trap our tongues      for the wolves.

I got another call from my dead grandmother,

I recognized her voice above the clatters       on her end.

I have been on this corridor for days,             I don’t know if it’s a dream

or not. can you hear me? she said

I remain silent, afraid to ask her         what I had kept in my mouth for too long.

did I start this war       & can I stop it?

it seems the full moon has raised everything back to life,

there are eelgrasses sprouting from the floorboard

water trickles down     and soon forms a pond.

I see my reflection for the first time in seven months,

this house has come alive       with songs that began with sneezes.

what is my name and why am I here alone?

the phone went back dead      when all else were coming back alive.




Hussain Ahmed is a Nigerian writer and environmentalist. His poems are featured or forthcoming in Prairie Schooner,  The Cincinnati Review,  The Journal, Magma and elsewhere.

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