The PdS Black Voices Series Presents: UGONNAORA OWOH
Bad God’s Blood
on my God’s first sermon I tariff my grief & do not wish to carry the cargo of the lost alone
I don’t want the world’s brand of heretic I adopt a religion a guiltless God of sorrow
& try to live along memory on a road path that is broad & keen it must be God who said
touch not my anointed & do my prophet no harm
well I think pleasure is a jealous God itself to steal what belongs to another God my body a confused prophet to forget anoint & its increment when my lover slip his hands into my sphincter & say
cuddle you are all mine & no one is destroying us together cuddle get out of your clothes & make me lucky cuddle take God out of you as well & let him rest
& God leaving my body the prophet rooting into seduction the prophet the body
becoming it precarious sin the penance doesn’t make the sin evade the language of moan
escape my lips an astrolabe of ecstasy God mustn’t see when his temple is unsacred
tell me must the stars see the sky it wears beauty to live to unspool their worth
[ the body & its creator’s hum]
in me a merciless joke explore too many names for God forgiveness mercy is my
lover’s glorious shame mercy is his hand around my neck slicing trying to repel everything that makes sex a pleasure that uncover the holster of God out of my body mercy is him saying let’s call it murderous too much sex scene in God’s hands to erase
my lover stuffs things my body define defiant don’t come in
to be bottom is to please to be the object & never relent to be fecund & never give out I
want to do things I wake up & can’t find in my reminder list I want to rest & never think of God’s blood running through my veins it’s simplicity to be worshiped
pleasure is God’s unwanted worshiper a small jealous God
I want to spend each night a temple where worshipers are handsome men with churned muscles who don’t leave my body without untouched pleasured liturgies
The body and its songs
We carry an orchestra inside these bodies. Too much hymn for requiem services.
One summer of guilt, my mother becoming became two blood moons at once, says it’s better to give
God something to receive enough. And prayer is too my metaphor for too,
drink too much salt and to keep the orchestra malfunctioning. My mother’s tongue is music.
Inside the block, children pile themselves in a rift and sing off the hunger blooming in their bellies.
I forget mother winter, I walk into the Catholic Church to join the choir.
I still feel the world is most large if when we do what we know best. My brother brings all the songs he has to the church
and the choir stream it them on, drown it beneath warmth roof, the church folds sounds inside, a it perfect weight.
Like a strapped in orchestra, nothing falls outside. I don’t go absent to church for three weeks and my mother say
“all these good things and you choose the be shrouded by darkness” and I still know it’s winter,
which means God is coming no sooner. I drink salt water to avert the darkness growling in my belly,
it exorcises me, pull off the evil eyes, its language is full of forced silences.
A few good words with Ugonnaora
BVS: Often, when I think about poetry, I think about how we as writers get to build world, both strange and familiar, how creating poems can make gods of us all. How does god, religion & spirituality play into your work?
UO: Well religion is one thing I know that makes me African, and speaking of African, I really think we are so encumbered with spirituality. We as Africans really confuse morality and ethics with religion and it’s the problem we have come to face. For me, I think my standings these days shows that I’m not part of that movement though I grew up like every normal child in the sociality of their environment where such sort of mentality is embedded, but I have come to know that pushing religion in all spheres of living to give an answer is the lie I want everyone to know about. Because I have created my own phrase of seeing religion and calling it by its name.
In "Bad God’s blood," I made an intersection of two oxymoronic things--first juxtaposing spirituality with sexuality and conceptualizing religion as a practice of sex, or a body awaiting sexual worship. Verily, God in the poem is a central figure. God is a necessary being in the poem because as children in communion classes, we are taught that God is in our bodies so we shouldn’t let anyone touch us because as not to touch the temple of God. The body in the poem is a seductive prophet that is irresistible to men, so when the prophet touches the prophet and says “cuddle, take God out of you and let him rest” God leaves the body, until the body (the prophet), asks god for forgiveness, then God returns again and it becomes the lover’s shame.
BVS: How has your own relationship to religion shaped the way that you think about your art?
UO: I really think that it is art that has shaped my view about religion, because recently, literature is my religion and art as literature is infinitesimal. I always think seeing art in the manner of religion is restrictive, because art is endless and there are still most motions religion oppose that are endlessly art, so it’s super confusing to speak of art in the view of religion.
BVS: I love the lineation and use of space in “Bad God’s blood”, do you come to a poem having an idea of what you want it to look like or does form follow content?
UO: I will first say thank you for loving it. Writing poems comes with a sort of inspiration and difference from other poets, but I give my poems a visual space to become what they want to be. In "Bad God’s blood", the poem led me into its form. I feel there is an aspect of slam poetry that appeals to me--the idea of voicing the poem in a way that's influenced the poem itself. Before I wrote the poem, I wanted it to come with a portrait, I wanted the poem to be illustrative, to be emotional and fun, that’s what I had in mind, and that’s what I gave it.
Ugonnaora Owoh lives in Nigeria. His works has or are forthcoming in Existere journal, Agbowo, Pangolin Review, Selene Quarterly Magazine and elsewhere. He is a 2018 Young Romantics Prize finalist & a 2018 Fowey Prize recipient.