Poems from Uche Nduka

I met Uche recently in New York. I didn't know his work, but came home to San Francisco and checked out his book eel on reef from the public library. Here are some of the pieces from it. No titles. Lots of water and linguistic jouissance. And apropos of recent posts here--some ships/boats.

your father was
a seaman who could
not disown the bells
of the waves.

a liquid sessioneer, he bawled:
give me some mammaries!
where is your stepladder?
where is your screwdriver?

his gigs were interactive.

he mined your line
for age and rust
and made you wobble and
sink in the dust.

his nuggests, frameable.


centralize my prayers
certify my wankings

fumigate cultivate
the gardens of my body

my interrogational
abysses and crossings

my attempts to come ashore
upon your summering affection

leaven with delight
my fisherfolk my naturalists

the vagaries of faith
on the edge of days

absolve needy eyes
from fractal entrapments.


are we only to have
flowers and fruits
talk to us
at table,
hug us
with stalks,
chasten us
seeds where snowflakes
veil our blemishes?

water splashes through itself
and into its own door.
we dive into it
and emerge on the other side
of a glistening tabernacle
a unio mystica?

we fall into ourselves.
we fall like rainsnakes and rain,
droplets on bellies and
details of sailing.
without our knowing,
we are water's burden.
fugitivies from
the hotchpotch of highrise blocks.


you danced slaveships into you.
rejoiced at bloated bodies.
chained hands and feet
flattered your waves.
you betrayed your algae
your conches your anemones.

i'm a victim of your speech
yet i like to hear you speak.
perishable is sleep perishable is sleep
yet i like to fall asleep beside you.

eel on reef
is published by Black Goat. The cover painting is by Chika Okeke. Uche Nduka was born and raised in Nigeria. He is a poet, percussionist, essayist, and lecturer. He lives in New York.

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