This week I’m delighted to feature friend and poet Saddiq Dzukogi whose book, Your Crib, My Qibla, is currently available for pre-order from University of Nebraska Press. Here’s a bit about the book:
Your Crib, My Qibla interrogates loss, the death of a child, and a father’s pursuit of language able to articulate grief. In these poems, the language of memory functions as a space of mourning, connecting the dead with the world of the living. Culminating in an imagined dialogue between the father and his deceased daughter in the intricate space of the family, Your Crib, My Qibla explores grief, the fleeting nature of healing, and the constant obsession of memory as a language to reach the dead. (book description by University of Nebraska Press).
I have had the pleasure of knowing Dzukogi over a number of years, sharing correspondence over poems and life. In his work, I have always found a paced, meditative way with the line that develops emotional depth across images that hold for a reader like sunsets: intense, clear, and with a momentum one can feel.
“Wineglass” below is a good example of this. Through intimate narration, the poem develops from its title image into a vessel of its own, holding the speaker’s grief while also moving through the experience of it. Physical details such as “Hands, cloudy from rubbing the grave,” evoke the speaker’s state of mind through the image of cloudiness and emphatic action of rubbing, while the word choice of cloudy/grave parallel the speaker’s desire to mix and be heard across worlds.
When your mother found strands of your hair
hung up in the teeth of your comb,
your father squirreled them into a wineglass.
It bites him hard that your life happened
like an hourglass with only a handful of sand—
this split to the seam of his body, a split
of darkness that won’t kill him but squeezes
adrenaline into his veins, so he lives
through the pain of your absence. He’s not alright
to speak. His voice rims with bereavement,
and he wants to sing by your grave, child,
now that birds blow songs through
the window—counts sadness on the prayer beads
necklaced around his collar. If he had known the sky
would inhale you out of him so quickly,
he would have stayed with your toes forever
in his hands. Your face is still everywhere,
even in the places he is not looking.
He presses a deep kiss on your grave,
on your forehead.
Hands, cloudy from rubbing the grave,
as if on your tender skin.
The distance he feels is more
than the 400 kilometers that often stands
between you. He will travel this far
to hold you against the moon.
They say you are like his reflection
pulled out of the mirror he stares into.
To pull you out he plunges his hand
inside himself and pulls.
Your Crib, My Qibla is available for pre-order from University of Nebraska Press.
Saddiq Dzukogi holds a degree in mass communication from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (Nigeria), and is pursuing a PhD in English at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. A 2017 finalist of the Brunel International African Poetry Prize, he is the author of Inside the Flower Room, selected by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani for the New Generation African Poets Chapbook series. Dzukogi’s poems have appeared in the Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Gulf Coast, World Literature Today, New Orleans Review, Oxford Poetry, African American Review, Best American Experimental Writing, and elsewhere.
Author’s Twitter: @SaddiqDzukogi