Michael Imossan

Like Shovels That Have Known The Taste Of Graves

Heartbreak songs are better in English

sunflowers swung gently in the wind.
the sky had its mouth filled with stars
but we were not concerned with the beauty
of things. we traced what we wanted back into
the house. the night fell into our bodies.
we unwrapped ourselves like birthday presents
in search for it. what was lost had crawled up
to our mouths. you asked, what is the
taste of holiness? what is the sign for betrayal?
all answers led me to where the questions came
from —your lips melting on my tongue like
candle wax. i held you by the hips. time froze a little.
i could see it stand still —a silhouette above the
lintel. it is true the clock never did work but i swear
time froze for us — just like our clothes colouring the
darkness like crayons —splashed on the floor like water
did nothing but watched as bodies brushed against bodies;
as fingers dug deep into hollowed places like shovels that
have known the taste of graves. the wind breezed in and out of the
house. there were sunflowers growing out of your
skin, the size of goosebumps, as if to declare: beauty
has moved here . after we had finished, you smiled like
you always did. the curve in your smile walked past me to
punctuate the night’s silence, like a comma, like an
ellipsis saying, there’s more to this sentence than the heft of your
breaths. & you sat there, at the end of that night, an object of
the verb hold, of the verb lovely* & i sat there too, at the
beginning of it —a subject to those same verbs. then
morning came & broke us like sad news/into past tense,
into what used to be.

*poetic license.

[Insert name]

… It’s sad the only time I get to hold you
Is when I carve you as a poem or mould you into a song
—in my throat—unsung —but still a song —or do you
say there is no air because the dead cannot breathe?
I’m holding myself from saying your name. I do not
want you spilled all over the place like garbage —like
an overplayed song —like Kwaku’s of course I fucked up.
Before this poem are ten of my poems with your name,
spoken ten times to the sea —its waves crashing against the
shores of my mouth saying, it’s too much, it’s too much. I’m
scared the critics will say you are too much —littered all over
my poems like em dashes. [insert name], they’ll say you’re
too cliche —too wrong —wrung of your worth.
I don’t want them to say that. Fuck the critics, what
do they know of you? what do they know
of butterflies making love to flowers? they’ll only call it
Pollination & leave it open for the wind. I recall that night:
evening beads rattling around your waist & you – poured over
my bed like water — your moan pattering against my ears a
cathedral of rain. You said, oh comforter, cum into me & I
did, as you commanded. I teased you, overcomer because,
like me, you too came (poured into me like little tenderness)
—& you smiled, of course you did — splashed your silver teeth
over the darkness of my room & everywhere became lit with starlight
—the bed, drunk of your wetness, testified, there’s no wine sweeter
than passion —no righteousness solemn as intimacy.
The poem is getting to its end & I don’t want to leave you,
I don’t want you to leave
I don’t want you overspilling into another empty page.
I don’t want another empty page overspilling into you.
see how language sentences you to being present —being subject
sometimes, I dream you will, in a moment of sweet tenderness, run
back inside my body like soft evening breeze & my arms,
wrapped around your waist, will be a city shutting its gate to
keep a butterfly but for now, let’s close this poem and sleep…


Michael is a writer keen on expressing himself through all genres of writing. He won an honorable mention in the DiBiase poetry prize 2022. He was named a finalist for the Lumiere Review Poetry contest 2022. He is a winner of the Endless Sky writing competition for Radical Arts Review 2022. He is a winner of the Shuzia Redemption poetry competition 2021. He has been shortlisted for the Shuzia prose competition 2021. He was longlisted for the Nigeriannewsdirect poetry prize 2020. His works are forthcoming from Brittle paper, Lumiere Review, Salamander Ink, Small Leaf Press & elsewhere.

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