Back to Issue Forty-Six

Progeny of Wounds



I am as dark as my grandfather
and I understand why my father knelt
to my height when he began to beat me.
His voice touched my jaw as he muttered:
Can you remember where it hurts?
Now I understand pain
as a question of perfection;
it must be carried through.
It frightens me, the mind we have
for wounding one another.
I was made in Kumasi, Ghana.
Something leads me back.
A breeze, a past beating, a floating balloon.
Maybe I have not loved as much
as a man should.
In Kumasi, my grandfather
goes to the lake to search for birds.
What did he need among the birds?
Here in New Orleans, I write down
my grandfather’s name on a music sheet.
I continue to conspire with God
to keep my grandfather breathing
long enough to say:
do you still remember where it hurts?


The Revival


Previously published in POETRY.


I sit in the psychiatric unit
because my dog lived for only an hour.
Many times, unlike the mountain or the water,
it’s hard to recognize I’m not a god.
Maybe the river is filled with boys trying to float.
Maybe the mountain will bloom.
But there are other things I do not know.
A snort of cocaine might ruin me,
or I might become a mountain instead,
trying to understand boyhood.
It’s terrible enough to be naked under the river,
far worse to feed a dog peppermint.
So why aren’t we more cautious being boys?
Many of the paintings on the unit’s wall
are werewolves smoking. The brown color
positions itself upward, bright and leaking.
Many times, the water talks back
with a voice not entirely sane. Merry Christmas.
Why the brain decides to live for 10 minutes
after the heart dies is a riddle.
There are other things I do not know
and because my dog only lived for an hour,
I aspire to become water. There’s immortality
in the understanding of a dead boy floating in me.
In an hour the psychiatrist will finish talking.
In a year I might find another dog.

Brian Gyamfi is a Ghanaian American writer from Texas. He is a recipient of the Hopwood Graduate Poetry Award, the Michael R. Gutterman Award, and the Helen S. and John Wagner Prize, and a finalist for the Oxford Poetry Prize and the Poetry International Prize. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from UT Austin and is currently a Rackham Merit Scholar at the University of Michigan, where he teaches academic composition and creative writing.

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