DEFIANT/DEFINITE

A beautiful poem by Inua Ellams, honouring his father's defiance and ability to laugh in the face of death. Illustration by Richard Wilkinson.

They say
when death laughs at a man, all a man can do is laugh back
all he can do is stare into the definite, definite blackness
reach past the bellied butterflies, their scared wings tickling
bring something between a middle finger and a fist
of giggles into the air, let it hang
defiant, there

When he tried to walk again, he needed two nurses and I
to lift him off the hospital floor. He looked up through
his crashed glasses, stiff left face and drooping cheek
eyes glistening, I held his failed left hand whispering
It will be okay

We work by lamplight. Dad writes a letter, I research how
stroke victims are prone to second ones, when the lamp dies.
He reaches out into the definite, definite blackness, unscrews
the light bulb, delicate in his left hand, the thin glass between
his now nimble fingers, and laughs
defiant, there.



'Defiant/Definite' was published in our 3rd issue, The Liberate Issue, which is available to buy here.