Illustration: birdbath photo digitally manipulated to resemble a color-reversed cigarette end or a burning landscape seen through clouds


I begin this poem with my father’s
bones assembling in his grave, flesh

rewinding its decay to shroud him
in the glorious sleeve of a body —

his body. How can the earth contain
this miracle?           The grave splits and

spits him out as beautiful as the day
he died,           as beautiful as the day he

was born into God’s hands like a
prayer.           His eyes closed in slumber,

we carry him back home,           walking
backwards into the house, and we

lay him on his bed.           Time falters.
He wakes up on the morning           of

the day he is to die.           We meet him
at the balcony, lighting a cigarette

against the doctor’s order. We panic.
He takes the first drag, his eyes shut

in ecstasy, then he blows the smoke.
It has been written in the tales of old

what must kill a man… but in this
poem,                 no one dies, not even the

already-dead. We see him suck back
the smoke into his mouth,           we see

him blow it into the cigarette         and
pull it out anew.           We see him back-

step into his room and lay down to
sleep.                 We tuck him in, the sheet

white as a fleet of snow,                 white
as the face of the dead.           We leave.

Timi Sanni writes from Lagos, Nigeria. An NF2W scholar, his work appears or is forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Palette Poetry, Lucent Dreaming, Down River Road, SAHIFA, Flypaper Lit, and elsewhere. He won the SprinNG Poetry Contest 2020, the Fitrah Review Short Story Prize 2020, and was the third-place winner of the Stephen A. DiBiase Poetry Prize 2021. Find him on twitter @timisanni

Illustration by C.B. Auder.

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