ode to the body – Michigan Quarterly Review

ode to the body

Published in Spring 2024 Online Folio

blessed be the body in death 

                                                         & blessed be the hands touching

the body in death to know the coldness

                                                            of the body, the hands carrying

the body in death, the hands folding

                                                                the bedsheets that reek of the body

before death & in death. blessed be the

                                                               stillness of the body in death, the smell

of the body that shows how quick the

                                                                   body decays in death & how sad that

the body, before death, never understands

                                                                      the ordinariness at the end of life. 

blessed be my grandmother’s body that,

                                                                   in death, was carried tenderly

from her bed to the casket  

                                                & to the grave. blessed be her body wrapped

in a burial shroud, prayed on by the bereaved who bowed

                                                                                             to Allah as they prepared

the body for the earth.

                             blessed be the last days of her life:

                                                                                      the stroke deepening, ravaging her to

bones, to the emptiness of healing.

                                                        blessed be the silence of her mouth in death & the shut doors

of her eyes.

                                    blessed be the horse of grief trampling the bodies of the bereaved,

the birds howling in the sky on the day of her passing,

                                                                                      the sky clouded & heavy with sorrow.

This piece is from our Spring 2024 African Writing Online Folio, an online-exclusive extension of our special issue, “African Writing: A Partial Cartography of Provocations,” guest edited by Chris Abani. You can read more from our Spring 2024 issue, available for purchase in print and digital forms here.

Rasaq Malik Gbolahan is a Nigerian poet. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in PloughsharesPrairie SchoonerThe NationTransition, and elsewhere. In 2017, Rattle and Poet Lore nominated his poems for the Pushcart Prize. He was shortlisted for Brunel International African Poetry Prize in 2017. He was a finalist for Sillerman First Book for African Poets in 2018.

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