Poetry: All the Boats I Have Built by Nome Emeka Patrick

A lyric exploration of self and its truths and questions, Nome Emeka Patrick’s poem draws in the reader through long-lined, lush couplets. As we are introduced to the speaker’s landscape of thought, we are invited to delve into the core of desire, vanity, grief, and more.

All the Boats I Have Built

While I plunged the fishing hook into the river, I was thinking of you: the self—
flawed, hysterical, animal & true— I was thinking of what it meant to walk into

a field & pluck a song, what it meant to dive into a river to fish out the rungs
of forgotten things. Desire—that’s all I was to the other part of my body moving

in the mirror, that’s all I am in the nameless dreams. Vain, the birds tear secrets
out of leaves, make nests out of them. Can I do the same with my glories—moments

when I dance in my mother’s room, nights when I write with my father’s hands,
days when I speak in my lover’s want? The simplicity of grief really troubles me—

the bloodstained rosary, the carpet crowned with dust, the boy at the table looking
out into a world that wouldn’t remember his name, years from now. The vanity

of life fascinates me—that all the boats I’ve built with my beliefs would someday
tumble in their motion, that all my efforts at language would walk ahead of me

beyond my death, that all there is to life is death: that door we strive towards, so
unaware that it is before us. I will speak the language of joy—dip my tongue in

a hymn that preludes with joy & continues with the names of those I love. Farmer,
I would labour in the fields where my body only waters under the weather of a true

tenderness. Tell me, wetin else I fit give the world to show them say all these kini, all
these talks of blood aren’t about darkness but beauty—that the camel could strut via

a dark desert only to arrive at the bluest dawn. Tragedy—it’s all the birds trapped in
a falling tree dream off—but what if tragedy is a prelude to tenderness? Try reason am.


Nome Emeka Patrick

Nome Emeka Patrick is a Nigerian poet. His work has been published or is forthcoming in POETRY, Narrative Magazine, Granta, AGNI, TriQuarterly, West Branch, Waxwing, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Poet Lore, Beloit Poetry Journal, Black Warrior Review, A Long House, and elsewhere. A Best of the Net, Best New Poets, and Pushcart prize nominee, he emerged third place in the Frontier Poetry Award for New Poets, 2020. His manuscript We Need New Moses. Or New Luther King was a finalist for the 2019 Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. He writes from Providence, RI where he is currently an MFA candidate in Poetry at Brown University.

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