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Poet Chiamaka Enyi-Amadi responds to IMMA Collection exhibition

‘digital // distraction’, ‘Stains II’ and ‘Fear’ are three new poems by Chiamaka Enyi-Amadi, commissioned by IMMA and written in response to the IMMA Collection exhibition ‘A Fiction Close to Reality’, 15 Feb-14 Oct 2019. Enyi-Amadi’s poems relate to three specific works from the exhibition by Mary Farl Powers, Nalini Malani and Bassam Al-Sabah. In February of this year, Enyi-Amadi performed as part of the IMMA After event ‘Spoken Realities’ in association with Poetry Ireland. The IMMA After collective invited poets Maighread Medbh, Chiamaka Enyi-Amadi, Padraig Regan and Temper-Mental Miss Elayneous into the gallery space to reflect on the themes within the IMMA Collection exhibition and to respond through spoken word performances.

Mary Farl Powers, Mask Head 1, 1973, Monochrome etching, 30.5 x 25 cm, Collection Irish Museum of Modern Art, Donation, Powers Family, 2009
Mary Farl Powers, Mask Head 1, 1973, Monochrome etching, 30.5 x 25 cm, Collection Irish Museum of Modern Art, Donation, Powers Family, 2009

digital // distraction

My hands are preoccupied
with the effort
of curating, straining my fingers to filter
reality into artifice
without making the requisite sacrifice

I loathe caution
turn a blind eye to the offer of confession,
my mouth sours
at the call to a private introspection session
to conspire against

my lingering sense of certainty, self-analysis is sore
when done alone,
a cruel act being honest with myself, forced to remove
my digital mask,
or risk forfeiting the raw dark skin beneath.

Nalini Malani, Stains, 2000, Video, Duration: 8 min, Collection Irish Museum of Modern Art, Donation, 2008
Nalini Malani, Stains, 2000, Video, Duration: 8 min, Collection Irish Museum of Modern Art, Donation, 2008

Stains II

I know that while we were sleeping soundly like sisters,
darkness lurking over us, silence cradling our newborns
in its arms, a pomegranate grew inside your throat.

I know it grew to thrice the size
of Adam’s apple, and the hard swell of it
bruised the tenderness of your narrow throat.

I know that while you were choking in your sleep,
coughing, thrashing around in our sheets, you forgot,
in your suffering, to wake and place your child aside.

I know you could not have foreseen your body
splayed atop his, your weight crushing his head,
his new lungs, his belly until he was cold and blue.

I know you must have felt the warmth of the life you gave him
only a day ago return to you, as a sudden gust of wind pushed
the pomegranate down your throat into the pit of your stomach.
I know the speed of the fruit shooting down your throat
must have shocked you out of slumber, made you spring up
to see your son embalmed in sweat-drenched sheets.

I know fear must have made your blood curdle
enough to take my son from my arms while I slept,
and put him by your breast to suckle, barely three days old:

How could he know his mother’s milk from yours?
You put your blue boy against my brown chest, and
when morning arrived to chase the darkness from our bed

I got up to nurse my son—I know the discomfort of growing
fresh fruit, of blood, flesh, and bones lashing out at me,
kneading the swollen tenderness of my womb.

I know time will put a strange honey in the bitterness;
we both share the memory, barely four days have passed
since a sudden urge to taste new fruit overcame me.

I know yesterday you too were crippled by your own need
to push hard and let the child rip you open, I midwifed;
reaching between your legs to pull your child out of the dark.

I know we share the memory of you resting; a cold cloth
cooling your fever while I soaked and scrubbed to get blood
and mucus out of the sheets, I heated water for your wound

I know the tremble in your voice when you say* “ No!
The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.”
Your mind, like milk left out in the sun, has lost its form.

I know my child, his lips sticky as raw honey melting in the sun,
each morning I press my face to his, kiss each cotton cheek
then each eye; a drop of dark blue ink in a bowl of fresh milk.

_______________________________________
Footnotes:
quote by Ben Okri (my own italics)
*Story inspired by “A Wise Ruling” 1 Kings 3:16-28 (NIV)

Bassam Al-Sabah, Wandering, Wandering With a Sun on my Back (still), 2018, HD CGI film, 16 min 19 sec
Bassam Al-Sabah, Wandering, Wandering With a Sun on my Back (still), 2018, HD CGI film, 16 min 19 sec

Fear

Once upon a time a young child
drifted off to sleep, curled up
on her father’s warm chest as was
the predictable end of their nightly
ritual of storytelling, she slept and
dreamt all night long of an animal
named Fear who caught and swallowed
her on her way back to her father’s
voice, clasping its coarse red claws
around her eyes, pouring a whisper
soft as smoke

Bassam Al-Sabah, Wandering, Wandering With a Sun on my Back (still), 2018, HD CGI film, 16 min 19 sec
Bassam Al-Sabah, Wandering, Wandering With a Sun on my Back (still), 2018, HD CGI film, 16 min 19 sec

into her ear, “you have lost your way
child, never to return
back to the world”, true enough
the road she had followed, illuminated
by the velvety glow of her night-light,
no longer lay before her wide eyes,
and without warning reality
vanished as a thin line drawn
in sand, swiftly carried away
by an inpatient wind.

Bassam Al-Sabah, Wandering, Wandering With a Sun on my Back (still), 2018, HD CGI film, 16 min 19 sec
Bassam Al-Sabah, Wandering, Wandering With a Sun on my Back (still), 2018, HD CGI film, 16 min 19 sec

 

About the author:

Chiamaka Enyi-Amadi is a Lagos-born, Galway-raised and Dublin-based writer, spoken-word artist, editor and arts facilitator. She recently graduated from UCD with an Honours BA in English and Philosophy, and is currently completing a Masters in Cultural Policy and Arts Management in UCD. Her work is published in both online and print journals – notably Poetry International, Poetry Ireland Review 129, RTÉ Poetry Programme, Smithereens Press, The Bohemyth, The Irish Times, and the forthcoming anthologies ‘The Art of the Glimpse: 100 Irish Short Stories’ (Head of Zeus 2020, edited by Sinéad Gleeson) and ‘Writing Home: The New Irish Poets’ (Dedalus Press 2019, co-edited by Pat Boran & Chiamaka Enyi-Amadi). Visit her blog : The Unimaginable Things and follow her on Instagram at Unimaginable_Me & Facebook @theunimaginablethings to connect with her and keep up with her work.

 

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