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2 poems

by Faith Arkorful

Faith Arkorful has had her work published by Hobart, Canthius, The Puritan, and the Hart House Review, among other places. Her poem "Vacation" was recently selected by Hoa Nguyen for inclusion in the Best Canadian Poetry in English 2018 anthology. She was born in Toronto, where she still resides.




The night I get a call that my cousin has been murdered

my mother and I are in the garden. My mother will try to blame his

death on our family's warm-bloodedness, on her own father's

perennial habit of disappearing and reappearing. She will

blame this all on my grandfather's voice, sticky and stupefying

like slow-wining on a hot evening with your favourite person.


The found objects of familial relations are not discoveries,

and more akin to unwanted gifts. As a child, my mother went

looking for her father and found shade under the leaves of

a fig tree. She found, amongst other things, a garden.

Cousin found a gun. I find, in the hollow of a lily, an

echo that sounds like: your cousin might have deserved to die.


I don't know where to put the memory of a person who

is wicked just as much as they are my kin. I have so

many relatives wreaking havoc in the shadows. This cousin's

memory, like the flowers my mother clips from this garden,

is freshly cut and heavily watered. But right now, if only

for the evening when all the flowers bloom, you can exist

beyond the life you lived and the life you took.


His heart was buried in a terracotta pot, even though his

marrow soaked right through. This family has never been

good at cheap disguises. And I could be a killer too,

with the way I've taught myself to reanimate the dead with

new voices and nicer past lives.


Sometimes I touch my mouth and taste blood.

After they have put my cousin back in the ground, we go into

the garden and find that a beast has eaten all the good plants.

My mother runs the cutlass through the earth, looking for

something to salvage.


In the mess, cousin, I see the ecology

of your body - limbs like tangerine flesh, bone like the

rind of an unripe lime. We are the children of a farmer.

When they found you, this the way you would have wanted

your body to have been. The way my body might have been,

had my mother not found salvation in the earth on her

quest for the unreachable.



The jaws of a molosser carry the myth

of permanence. For eleven years I stuck

my hand in the dog’s mouth waiting for

the rumour to  exist in real time. When a

child asks for a  dog they are asking for

an encyclopedia  on love. And I loved him.


Gave him a birthday so the world would be

forced to keep notes on the bewilderment

of his life. My mother was always suspicious.


When dad came home with the dog she looked

 into his giant glassy eyes and was convinced he was

 some angry dead relative that had crossed the water

 to torment her by chewing up her shoes.

In Bylands, she went barefoot par  Sundays, god’s day.


I could only forgive her forty years later, when her

head was heavy with wine and she had only enough

words to only acknowledge his wobble or the way

the hair on his neck stood permanently pointed.


The vet takes his body somewhere and my love grows only

in his absence. I learn resentment and forgiveness.

I find out the ways in which bereavement busies the body.

Brings about the most bizarre of hallucinations.


Did you know a ghost dog never stops

barking, even when you command

it otherwise? When I learn this, I learn

the secret to forgive her. All dogs

have to die, she says.


I repeat this in my head even though

it is the kind of thing you only realize when

spoken from a mouth not your own.

I repeat this and remember that where


my mother is from, dogs come and go like

sunshowers.  Like witches falling in love with one

 another, this dog’s life is full of an

untouchable magic and incredible viciousness.


I can forgive her and live freely in the truth that

 when  the house is silent I hear the dog

growling. Hear his nails dragging across the floor at night.

If the sounds of a haunted house eventually fade,

I know my adoration never will

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