Poetry: If You Could Trick Death with a Name by Timi Sanni
Timi Sanni’s poem, like the mother it portrays, does not flinch from darkness, even in its musicality. The “we” who speaks insists the reader follow them into the observation of this unbearable moment and learn something difficult about love and loss.
If You Could Trick Death with a Name
“To love something is to name it after something so worthless it might be left alive—untouched.”
We watch the mother stare,
unflinching at the death of her newborn,
and whisper, in that din of spirits,
Àbíkú, look, there is no plea left
in these eyes you worsted with tears.
Sorrow burns, old names crackle
with glee—we see Bámitálẹ́ go up
in flames, Dúrójayé following
into the ash like a lost lamb. In this dearth
of memory, we watch the darkness
as it watches the mother
watching her newborn,
tender as the underbelly of love.
We see her spit a name so vile it stank
and slap it on his face. Nobody
remembers when we begin to cry
in our place beneath that tree
in the shadow of God, where we do not
realize that this was the hardest act
of love—the mother,
on smacking the child, signing
please don’t leave, my baby
hoping death, blind to this nuance
goes off in search
of more precious things.
Timi Sanni writes from Lagos, Nigeria. He was the winner of the 2021 Anita McAndrews Award Poetry Contest. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, New Delta Review, Palette Poetry, Wax Nine, Lolwe, and elsewhere. Find him on twitter @timisanni