JK Anowe

An Outpatient’s Night at the Psyche Ward

First, a man burns faster than his country
& I mistake for a light bulb his reflection
transfixed on the windowpane. Body, they call
you parish; I call you parishioner who
encouraged to approach the priest, is
excommunicated for its confessions.
Let’s say I check in & for small talk
Anne Sexton, this time a night nurse, greets me
in all three languages I’m fluent in
silence being, let’s also say, what punctuates
each, wouldn’t silence then be to the hearing
not the one thing most spoken but spoken of?
I’m here because I want to die & have no better way
to mean it. My thirst drenched in a torn flag pooling
at my feet, like bathwater. An orderly waits
with a towel. Anne Sexton samples beforehand
my last supper for tastes of anything betrayal.
Body, you’re so thin I think you’re fleeing
yourself. I see from the room’s centre the rest
of the house looms, tightening into a fist
around you—curved foetal, as if hungering
for rebirth, for paradise, beside my cruciform.


JK Anowe, Igbo-born poet and recluse, is author of the poetry chapbooks The Ikemefuna Tributaries: a parable for paranoia (Praxis Magazine Online, 2016) and SKY RAINING FISTS (Madhouse Press, 2019). A recipient of the inaugural Brittle Paper Award for Poetry in 2017 and a finalist for the 2019 Gerard Kraak Award, he holds a BA from University of Benin, Nigeria. His poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Fresh Air Poetry, Agbowo, Palette Poetry, 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Brittle Paper, Elsewhere Lit, Expound, Enkare Review, Gnarled Oak, Poetry Life & Times, Praxis Magazine Online and elsewhere. He’s Editor: Poetry Chapbooks, at Praxis Magazine Online. He lives, teaches, and writes from somewhere in Nigeria.