Black Poets: Chris Abani

Black Poets
Chris Abani

Chris Abani was born in 1966 at Afikpo in Nigeria. He published his first work, a novel, while just 16. Involved in pro-democracy activism, he was imprisoned twice in the ’80s. He holds a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the University of Southern California. He is a Professor of English at Northwestern University.

Incantation

 What words can you wrap around
a dying brother, still dying, even now.
A man who has not eaten for a month
sips at water and says, even thirst is a gift.
He asks what other gifts God has given him.
I’m your gift, his daughter says from a corner.
And he smiles and rasps—
you can only unwrap a child once.
The rest is prayer and even more prayer.
You sing softly to him in a language
only the two of you speak and he
snores softly into your palm, breath and blood.
 

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