Wordview 2021: Déjà Vu
by Akpa Arinzechukwu
I spent the first months of the lockdown at my mum's house, where she occasionally shared baby pictures & stories surrounding them with me. She lost my brother two years after birth. Here, I am reimagining my mum (who is coincidentally Maria) & her man, an artist, in his diary trying to give words to her grief.
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Wordview 2021: Déjà Vu
By now the baby has developed a routine.
Morning, Maria & I are lovers.
Since the baby is not watching,
we can also be our own babies –
spilling coffee, throwing pillows,
staying in shower together.
I make Maria pancakes, the size of stars,
name each one after all her favourite TV stars.
It is easier to be a father when you have a dead child;
easier than making pancakes. You feed
your partner hoping to suck from their blood
during lovemaking the nutrients you lack.
It is easier to be a father than a husband.
Maria folds herself into a gumball, demanding
to be loved. I recite the Ruqyah till she falls asleep.
& when it is Dhuhr, the baby, oh! how it loves God,
jolts us to prayer. Thence we notice a presence not us.
If a mother stops worrying about her breastmilk,
a father starts worrying about nighttime. The tears
of a baby is a plea for rain.
Maria slouches off to the qibla in a sea of sweats.
If she forgets a line of the al-Fatihah she weeps
till I am speaking into her moonshine; the smoldered
face of a restless baby. It is difficult to be
a father when you are not a father. We are interlocked
in prayer for a baby we don’t have anymore.
Poem recorded as part of Poetry Archive Now: Wordview 2021. Used by permission of author.
A special thank you to our WordView 2021 poets.
Chair of the Judging Panel, Imtiaz Dharker, says: "An idea that began as a response to the world shutting down has, joyfully, become a way to invite the whole world in. It has been exciting to see the entries come in from different countries, from marginalised voices, from people of all backgrounds who now know this space belongs to them. My fellow judges and I were struck by the immediacy of experience and commitment to language in the winning entries. It's also good to think that the rest of the entries will continue to be seen as an invaluable record of our times."See the collectionWatch the full Wordview 2021 playlist