GOSPEL CHINEDU

The Recipe—Joy As An
Ingredient For Cooking Grief

This poem is another one of my numerous experimental works. You see, between my teeth, grief is something I find very hard to chew. Something I never liked sharing with other people. Say, because I don’t like that feeling of pity and sympathy. So, very early into the year, I thought of a way to soften grief, and funny enough the first thing that came to my mind was cooking it. I thought cooking grief would not only soften it but make it palatable. Ha ha. I thought I could share it with other people and ask how it tasted as I would normally do when I cook food. My penchant for cooking jollof rice also made writing this poem easier for me.

***

I.        measure the grains of joy with a tin of milk. 

II.       pour water into it & let the dirty particles come afloat. 

III.      sieve them out.

IV.       add salt & turn on the heat. 

V.        let it seethe & become tender. 

VI.      stir.

VII.     add rosewater & tomatoes.

VIII.    add cubes of sugar & one spoonful of honey.

IX.      grind calcium out of wet skeletons. 

X.       stir, again, until every grain is red. 

XI.      joy is ready, serve your countrymen & observe how they feel. 

***

In the kitchen, I measured our joy with a fifty grams tin of milk. Not because the country is small. But, one spoonful of this joy equals the weight of a cadaver on the shoulder. A burden. Beneath the running tap, dirty particles emerged on the surface of the water, dancing to the ebb. My eyes, dancing, running—too. When I sieved them out, I found tiny rocks from tombstones, bullets of a trigger-happy cop, debris from the bombings in the North, a cupful of bloodstains & etcetera. Because I want you to eat & be healthy, I wash again & again until the grains were white as a snowdrop. Then, I added salt & turned on the heat. Inside the pot, our joy seethed into something soft. Say, a baked flower. & when I stirred, the steams rose to my eyes & condensed into a clean spring. The grains now white &  impure, I added rosewater & tomatoes, for colour. Hoping to add to my joy, a red affection. But, I remember that three layers of skin & a fibrous sheath is how narrowly into the body, an arrow must travel to taste blood. The body, not proof enough. Brother, because I want your last supper to be mouthwatering, I added thirty-six cubes of sugar, each for a state in the country. & two spoonfuls of honey, each for a river. In a grinder, I crushed calcium out of wet skeletons. Because, brother, all I want is for you to eat & be strong. Bone enough to feast on the memories that pulleys us into the sky, where we walk on water searching for our brothers. Hoping to find them more flesh than dust. More blood than vapour. I stirred again, until every grain of joy was red & sweet—like strawberry. And then it was ready. & I served the country & listened. Spoons clattering against plates. One man, knowing how hard it was to swallow the joy, chewed & chewed & broke the complex emotional bonds into simpler bearable ones. Another man kept chewing until the j-o-y became a love song in his larynx. Another, knowing how hard it was to sing the songs alone, lured his little son to lay on his broad chest. & as the boy listened to the song of his heart, he planted the joy between his milk teeth. & together, they sang the ode. 

Gospel Chinedu is a Nigerian poet from the Igbo descent. He currently is an undergraduate at the College Of Health Sciences, Okofia where he studies Anatomy. He is a 2021 Starlit Award Winner, 1st Runner Up for the Blurred Genre Contest (Invisible City Lit) and Pacific Spirit Poetry Prize 2023, Honorable Mention in the Stephen A. Dibiase Poetry Prize, 2023 and also a finalist in the Dan Veach prize for younger poets, 2023. His works of poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in Worcester Review, Augur Magazine, Fantasy, Fiyah, The Deadlands, Channel, Apparition Lit, Mud Season Review, Tramp set, The Drift, Consequence Forum, The Rialto, BathMagg and other places. Gospel tweets @gonspoetry

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