Poetry: Belonging by Ugonna-Ora Owoh
Ugonna-Ora Owoh composes a world wherein bodies reign—holy and radiant, so much born and buried from the thighs and mouths of “Belonging.” Notice the black grazed elbows, the swallowed saliva, the forbidden appendage. Notice the holy love for the earthly flesh.
At birth, my mother promises my sisters a river that
would drown them out of this thigh.
As late teens, they recite their sins, my mother serrates
the good language in their mouths
and tells them to say a name too beautiful to describe,
too beautiful to keep them alive.
Black grazed elbows, a bead of prayer around their necks.
At Cyprian church, all three of my
sisters sing in the choir and buys the form to enter
the convent. My father wears anger
in his blood, warns my sisters to each have a
boyfriend before summer resurrects
the dust and dust becomes a morning full of boys too
handsome to be buried inside their bodies.
At winter, I sneak into my father’s room and drink the
political scotch and drink the memory
of my father stealing a bullet for his boss. I get drunk
and begin to touch my favorite body part,
places the nun in the church teaches us God sneaks out
of us if they are played. I scream God out
of when there are rooms filled with surrender. My immediate
elder sister calls me faggot when she
catches me playing vogue and there are lot of answers to
give my father. At Christmas, I turn fourteen
and still don’t watch romance movies. A boy in the street
kisses the air to my face and repeats the
four words we are denied to inhabit in our mouth. At the
last Sunday of the year, I refuse to take
the holy communion and my mother starves me all day,
forces me to tell her what sin denies me
from keeping the bloodline of Christ safe in my body,
I refuse to tell her and run down the
street to get my last kiss for the year, from a boy I didn’t
know his name. I swallow his saliva and
refuse to break the kiss in the empty shadow staring at
what next we do to our bodies.
When he tries for sex, I remember a temple I mustn’t
destroy if I had to live, I rename Christ my spouse.
Ugonna-Ora Owoh is a Nigerian poet and model. He is a recipient of a 2018 Young Romantics/ keat Shelley prize and a 2019 Erbacce Prize. He is a winner of a 2019 Stephen A Dibiase International poetry prize and a 2018 Fowey short story prize. He was a highly commended poet for the 2019 Blue nib Chapbook Contest. His recent poems are on The Journal of Compressed Art, The Malahat Review, The Matador Review, The Puritan, Crab Fat Magazine, Confingo Magazine, The Vassar Review or elsewhere. He is featured in Pride Magazine and Puerto Del Sol Black Voices Series.