“Exorcism” by Nnadi Samuel

Painting of lips and other colorful, geometric shapes


at the mention of my fiancé, the catechist vomits cherubim.
proof our forefathers fetched God to drench these vowels into harsh combustibles.
the burning bush of charred goatee, ringed in unforgetful flame.
cheeks, shrunken— like a leprous tongue of land chewed by vitiligo.
I pull my sandals to wear the heat costly as it were in the Bible
& arrived headfirst, unscathed.
spent my teenage year, rehearsing tricks to see past the catechist's waistline,
hoping he left the hem undone.
as a teen, my mother signed contracts to have the olive oil smashed on my pronouns,
hoping I'd learn something masculine.
yet, nothing stirs this androgynous gene.
I pull up the hurtful stunt, like any dying specie
& mother accosts me.
the catechist uncorks another bottle, tonguing heavily.
lips, engorged with the glossary of Greek morphemes: 
a rough slang loaned to religion, returning well-polished.
picture "Talitha cumi" slither through God's palate.
I swear, I grew English as teeth till I could crush the harsh consonants 
metallic on my  gum.
The Catechist left unpronounced, and mother stabilized my pagan breath.
I mouth my love affairs, & her crow-festered lung held worries.
held hush kit-upon-hush kit. held HailMary.
but the Lord wasn't with her, in ways that speak life.

at the mention of dating my heinous gender,
I miscarry a knock-out as blindness.
my father's palm, laced in the dazzling beam of a wrathful seraph 
scolding a teenage vagabond.
I rewind into light, into my father's lambent torture.
into the night he gloved this white miracle from God's throbbing hands.
"who hasn't stolen blindly from the Lord?"
but even the most heinous crime, if done for the right course, can be necessity.
at dusk, the bible worms into a tiny babble.
my father's palm worms into twilight, into astral lampshade.
he rummages for the hellish anthology that stokes my lucifer needs.
picture the devil slither through God's catalogue, 
to arrest the sound— Queer: by which I mean horrible or slightly unwell
as who costumed us with these paradox.
how they want so much from my tongue.
at dusk, we wear our bodies in complete reverse.
at dusk, gender bears stains.

Tags: , ,

Nnadi Samuel (he/him/his) holds a B.A in English & literature from the University of Benin. His works have been previously published/forthcoming in Suburban Review, Seventh Wave Magazine, NativeSkin lit Magazine, North Dakota Quarterly, Quarterly West, FIYAH, Fantasy Magazine, Uncanny Magazine, The Capilano Review, Contemporary Verse 2, Gutter Magazine, Carte Blanche, The Spectacle, Dgëku, Agbówo, Gordon Square Review, Trampset, Beestung Magazine, The Elephant Magazine & elsewhere. Winner of the Miracle Monocle Award for Ambitious Student Writers 2021(University of Louisville), Penrose Poetry Prize 2021, Lakefly Poetry Contest 2021 (Wisconsin), the International Human Right Arts Festival Award 2021, and Canadian Open Drawer contest 2020. He got an honorable mention for the 2021 Betty L. Yu and Jin C.Yu Creative Writing Prize (College Category). He is the author of “Reopening of Wounds.” He reads for U-Right Magazine. He tweets @Samuelsamba10.

“Exorcism” is excerpted from Subject Lessons, a finalist in Wax Nine’s 2021 Chapbook Contest sponsored by Koyama Provides.

Felicia Douglass is an artist and musician based in Brooklyn, NY. She produces her own solo project and plays in Gemma, Ava Luna, and Dirty Projectors. She has done visual work for artists such as Bartees Strange, Video Age, and Talib Kweli.  You can find her at www.feliciadouglass.com and on Instagram or Twitter @feldou.