Poetry: This city was once beautiful by Michael Imossan

Exuberant in its decay, crushing delicacy, hopping over spilt blood and the ruins of bodies and cities and pointing a gun directly at you, the reader, face lit by a screen of metal and glass: Michael Imossan’s “This city was once beautiful” is an invitation to loss.


This city was once beautiful

this city was once beautiful. come! stand on that tower that
holds a bell swinging sunflower in gentle wind like st. peter’s
glottis in a storm of hymnodies. peer into its past, see
how beautiful the landscape was: watery in its colours like dew
drops dripping onto the canvas of a skilled artist —green in
its right, green in proper ablution, in mediterranean
glamour. & when the sun sprinkled hues of itself onto the
lush grasses, it glistened into a garden groomed in smiles.
yet today, i walk the dust of kaduna and find bodies rotting:
overflowing from mortuaries like spilled blood, piled over
themselves in columns, sprawled out in rows like a spreadsheet
stuffed with dead bodies. in the midst of
these bodies, i find a girl, still in her blossoming pink. she
raises her hands in the shape of a gun & makes a gunshot
sound. i reckon that is how she was killed, snatched away
from purity. beside me, a vulture gnawing through eyes takes
flight. i run after it. give me back their dreams. the smokes
from the near villages call to me, as if to say look how terror
wrestles beauty, look how cruelty, like grasses, grow deep in our
bones. i see a building held together by a single strand of
hope & memory. i touch it and it crumbles. in the rubble, a
butterfly breaks free. i want to name it but what is named
after terror can never be free. i hold it instead, clamping it
between fingers and it bleeds like blood. how often we crush
delicate things in the heat of our wants. on my way back, a
man hedges himself along my path, points a gun at me.
what is the name of your god?  i want to answer him, to tell
him i have no god; that i am made of water and hibiscus. but
my mouth betrays me. dead from silence, my body
hardens. my eyes shut themselves inside a room of darkness. i
open the door & find the little girl -again- still in her
blossoming pink. she raises her hands in the shape of a gun,
this time shooting something out of them: a butterfly
drifting into the wild. a moth bending towards fire.



Michael Imossan

Michael Imossan is a writer whose works navigate memory, country and love as a reason for grief. He is studying for a Master degree in linguistics at Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto. He is a winner of the Radica Arts Review Poetry contest (2022). He was awarded an honorable mention in the Dibiase poetry Prize (2022). He was named finalist for the Lumiere Review poetry contest (2022). He is a winner of the Shuzia poetry competition (2021). He has been longlisted for the Shuzia prose competition (2021). He was longlisted for the Nigeriannewsdirect poetry competition (2020). He is a friend to MartinsDeep (Author, A sheaf of whispering leaves) Michael's works are forthcoming from: Lumiere Review, BrittlePaper, FrontierPoetry, Radical Arts Review, Salamander Ink and elsewhere. tweet him via: michael_imossan

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