I used to pray a lot growing up,
this baby afraid of what remains,
the heavy dark. Dark
shadow’s breath breathing back
from every corner of the room.
The dark things that tease sleep, when
mother’s prayers, whispered
and handwritten offerings I could press to my chest,
the willpower of words soaked in blood
for the round body, the heart
that circulates, and becomes invisible in the dark
of nightmares. My mother’s prayers
an offering on my tongue, a giant apple—
One night forgotten, I woke halfway, a snake
bite on my leg. I watched mother wipe blood
off my two-pin piercing.
In the morning I woke up with no wound, nor scar.
Father said it all happened in my head.
Mother prayed, her handwritten prayers
wrinkled beneath my pillow,
their crinkles said, I will tell and tell
it so much until it stops making sense.

And I wonder how god
will understand what falls between her teeth,
what lands puréed on my tongue,
what is still being swallowed.

Saddiq Dzukogi's poetry has featured or is forthcoming in literary publications such as: New Orleans Review, African American Review, The Best American Experimental Writing Anthology, Chiron Review, Vinyl Poetry, Volta, among others. He was Shortlisted for the 2017 Brunel African International Poetry Prize.