From Issue 21: "Expect Grace" by .chisaraokwu. (Poetry)

Reading time: Approximately 3 minutes

When I first read this poem many months ago, I was moved by the complicated emotions of frailty and strength, the contrast of a little girl and what it is to have a national identity. The images in the poem, while specific and visceral, also seem to span decades and country borders, residing instead in a universal space. .chisaraokwu.'s words, for me, find this vulnerable place of survival, offering a humanity wherever we standing.   

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Mare Heron Hake

Poetry Editor





by .chisaraokwu.


on the expressway’s edge

slender-armed girl in gray 


squats to relieve her self


a toddler 


his mother

& curls up 

           in an abandoned hollow


smoke rises       above above

charred remains 


an abandoned shed: an altar

zinc & cement. 


the bush burned,

Abraham—seduced by blood

& altar—ignored the coming 



                                                             What does it mean to be 


                                    you ask the question in english & expect 


                                    Autonomy when you cannot name 



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  squat american girl

                                                             picks up the charred remains

                                               of a book her dead father once read to her: 

                                           the recycled story of blood & beginnings

                                   where another fire burns.

                      where a people whose names are written

in a book dare to stop the coming war.



reprinted with the permission of the poet

.chisaraokwu. had this to say about her work:

This poem is part of a series on the Biafra War born out of regular visits "home" to Nigeria. Each visit home comes with a requisite drive up the expressway between Port Harcourt and Umuahia. Each visit, I look for clues—sounds, images, anything—that might strengthen the internal bridge between my country/ethnicity of origin and the country of my nationality. Where is home? Does home claim you? What is home telling you? This is where the poem starts and is going.

.chisaraokwu. (she/her) carries Moleskine notebooks in her pocket, considers the stage her home away from home, and believes in universal access to high quality healthcare for everyone. Twitter: @chisaraasomugha

Photo credit: KJC Photography