Chris Abani

Even Things With No Name


Again, say it, again

            Soft as plums, sweet




A calibration, the calculus of everything. Desire –

red flame on a windy night




Love is an intentional ruination, a hole in the mountain




Say you hate me, say it




There are bodies buried in the swamp of this marriage,

There are ghosts of bone and vapor, fog and anger; hunger




Say you had an ornate carved leather wallet with one splash of blue dye; water from a well a young woman is pulling a bucket from.


And say this wallet was given to you by a man not your husband, a man whose photo fills the plastic frame on the inside flap


And say your son wants that wallet, from that man your husband thinks is his father.


And say you finally give it to him, and say he loses it within a week. How do you mourn that flame for dark nights?




And so I say


Make it my fault

Make it my shame

Make it my sin

Make it my stain

My tarnish, my someone eat crow, my drag through the mud.


I will give any story to put an end to the silence -


Even your anger, even your fists, even your take me down a peg or two, your you make me do this to you, even those are silence.


Make it a thing with a name. Speak that I may speak back, say the name of the ghost, that we may banish it



Chris Abani is a novelist, poet, essayist, screenwriter and playwright. Born in Nigeria to an Igbo father and English mother, he grew up in Afikpo, Nigeria, received a BA in English from Imo State University, Nigeria, an MA in English, Gender and Culture from Birkbeck College, University of London and a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California. He has resided in the United States since 2001.

He is the recipient of the PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, the Prince Claus Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a California Book Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a PEN Beyond the Margins Award, the PEN Hemingway Book Prize and a Guggenheim Award.

His fiction includes The Secret History of Las Vegas (Penguin 2014), Song For Night *(Akashic, 2007), *The Virgin of Flames (Penguin, 2007), Becoming Abigail (Akashic, 2006), GraceLand (FSG, 2004), and Masters of the Board(Delta, 1985).

His poetry collections are Sanctificum (Copper Canyon Press, 2010), There Are No Names for Red (Red Hen Press, 2010), Feed Me The Sun - Collected Long Poems *(Peepal Tree Press, 2010) *Hands Washing Water (Copper Canyon, 2006), Dog Woman (Red Hen, 2004), Daphne’s Lot (Red Hen, 2003) and *Kalakuta Republic *(Saqi, 2001).

He is Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University.