Back to Issue Forty-One




(Again, for Ty)

In this poem, you’re not dead.
You do not come to me

lying on your back, your face
gentle & quieted into

sleep. I like to think the years
backwards until we’re

small & together again. After
class we play tennis till

the sun recedes, none of us
aware of how your body

betrays itself. Here, I wipe you
clean from all that dust,

lead you upwards into a room
slippery with white, & the

doctor (this time around) cuts
open only the right spots,

leaves nothing to remind us that
you could have lived—

Here, could you have lived?
Nothing reminds us. Leave, cut

open only your right spots. This
time around the doctor,

slippery with white, leads you up-
wards to all that dust. Cleans

you. Wipes you. Your body
betrays itself, none of us aware

that the sun recedes. After tennis,
class. We were once together

& small. I like to think the years
backwards: your face gentle

& quieted into sleep, your back
lying on the floor. You do

not come to me. Dead, you’re
not in this poem.



Last Game



The last game could have
been like every other one—
ball spinning, your backstrokes
tromping across the net like
a cannonade, except of course
when the Benin boy comes
around. Beats you soft and
hard till you start to blur out of
bare light. But the last tennis
was never so. Throughout the
game, you missed each stroke,
the ball fault-landing. It seemed
for a moment you were not
there, you must be somewhere
else all at once, tucked away
between the eonian spinning
of time’s wheels. You lost each
game, slipped that one time
the ball aimed straight at your
bat. Stupid us. We should’ve
known. What’s a game after all
when the fluid in your brain was
so thick as gel. When— unknown
to us— you’d been slit open by
a doc, had your soft skull turned
inside out, then injected with
gadolinium here and there, before
he peered at your insides with
the MRI. It’s been so many years
now, still the boys talk of you
each time we meet. We come
around most holidays, bats in
hands, nearly two-third of us
sprouting a beard. The joke is you
never left. You must be the breeze
that fiddles the ball each time
someone positions his hand and
misses a stroke.


Chiwenite Onyekwelu is Nigerian and lighthearted. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Chestnut Review, America Magazine, Gutter Magazine, Prairie Fire, Rough Cut, and elsewhere. He was a finalist for the 2021 New York Encounter Poetry Contest, winner of the 2020 Jack Grapes Poetry Prize, as well as runner up for the Foley Poetry Prize 2020. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief at the School of Pharmacy Agulu, where he’s an undergraduate.

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