Off


By Samuel Ugbechie

Now that a poodle is a member of the family,
on walks like this, the day stretching out its limbs

across the whole lawn, you imagine yourself
carrying the dog on your head the way the alligator

does her young, or the way the female wolf spider
secures hers in her silk-spinning spinnerets.

There are spicebush and staff trees at the avenue,
and there are shallons and shumacs too. But those days,

after a hundred nightmares and unrest on the bedrest,
you had begun to see the land as an architecture of pain.

The thickets, to you, were your coarse-furred skin
in their primness—swamp and silver and sweet birches,

thinleaved sense organs, regulating the land’s temperature
like the skin of a hair does to mammals, covering the stem

of the spicebush that’s the shape of a vertebral column,
or a pouchlike lung, or an outstretched limb.

You knew this was never the picture, but after years
backstroking on this riverbed of discomfort,

on these currents of grief, pain blurs plainness,
mind muddies clarity, and you know the difference

while being able to walk the dog, you observe that the land
that’s forever a painting in your mind, transforms

from abstract to semi-abstract, from semi-abstract to realism,
and you realize you’re more than an upstroke, and that

somehow, you’re the painter with the paintbrush,
the artist with the applier. But the dog is a doggie

of silence beside you, and you’ve learned to listen
to the high pitch of its hush, the music

of its muteness, the rhythm of its quietness.
It’s been how the tasteless water tasted bitter

on your tongue, the plain wall depicting a painting
of Pollock and Picasso, the cold room scorching

the fabric of your skin. It’s been moments of inverse
and opposite, and three years of sudden change,

which the dog sniffs and understands. It frolics
on the bromegrass, and wags its tail at you.

The city is as smooth as a pier mirror.
And you see your newer life in it. The cloud breaks

and smells of rain. And you begin to walk the dog back,
while it pulls you towards a tea rose, and then pulls you back

to the road—the land skews and lands like a line
on a paper, while the city mutters its susurrus and showers. 


Samuel Ugbechie’s works have appeared in Sentinel UK, Elsewhere Lit, Jalada, Nottingham Review, and elsewhere. He recently won the Frederick Holland Poetry Prize (2016) and had two poems longlisted for the Vice Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize (2016). He is currently working on his debut poetry collection.