Poetry: “a dead child has something to say about _____” by Martins Deep

“i mean, my kindred +spirits calling me +out of my nostrils +just when i could
make a promise +to not go +down in the river with a sun +the yellow of my jaundice.”

In this poignant poem, Martins Deep utilizes form and spacing to delve further into the nuances of death, grief, and the afterlife.

a dead child has something to say about _____

loss is
++the mother +tongue of life. see how +whatever it touches becomes +fluent, speaks
it differently, obeying its rules +of grammar like it never, +anything else. before now,
you never knew you+ were this multilingual. i mean, you could+ uninstall duolingo now
& be good. you say +perte in french, & autocorrect +turns it into a year—an event
that reminds you +how fragile an animal you are +with that will, that hope, in that body
with hands holding my +hands, trying to draw it +out of this circle +drawn with salt.
i mean, with the fingers+of your hands+with a history+of escape routes, trying to save me
from being a memory +at six in six places. i, +an innocence +guilty of b-r-e-a-k-i-ng
my promise of staying+to tread, in gazelle grace, its shards+as upon confetti, into the definition
of death +as simply a return to solitude. +what else could it mean +but staying awake +outside
a body dead +asleep, keeping watch +for mother’s voice +just when, just where
it cracks +to bear a root +with the lifespan of its bloom.

& this thing you have +against yourself keeps me +returning to the space +in this loop
to speak that one language +to it, hoping it fails to speak it +back to me; reminding me
of the sweet scent of baby oil, of+that dream of growing up+into a memory+at twenty-
two with a lover’s lips +burned into my birthmark, the music of a yowl +at midnight.
a hope to speak it back to me+ mounted on an anopheles, +so there is an excuse +to mishear it.
i mean, my kindred +spirits calling me +out of my nostrils +just when i could
make a promise +to not go +down in the river with a sun +the yellow of my jaundice.
but the silence of my heart +is not my silence. you must listen for +me, as i am, +for you,
a chirping cricket somewhere +you never find to swat it +quiet, a birdie +asking you when
the season will come +again i will be +wanted madly, yours +sincerely, the hope
that kills—that leaves+ the fingerprints of loss++ at

+++++++++the murder scene.

Author’s Note: This is about Abiku, a Yoruba term that refers to a spirit believed to be reborn into the same family, often associated with the repeated, premature death of a child.

Martins Deep

Martins Deep (he/him) is a poet, photographer, digital artist, and a graduate of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. His manuscript, "Sighs in Translation", achieved semifinalist status for the '23 Sillerman Prize. His creative works have graced—or are forthcoming—in reputable magazines including Magma Poetry, Strange Horizons, Palette Poetry, Fiyah, Lolwe, Tahoma Literary Review, 20:35 Africa, Augur Magazine, and elsewhere. Feel free to connect with him on X @martinsdeep1.

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