Poetry Monday: “The New Religion” by Chris Abani

Chris Abani (born in 1966)  is a Nigerian writer who writes mostly poetry and fiction.  When Abani was 18, he published his first novel and was sent to prison by the Nigerian government, who believed his book was intended to be a blueprint for a coup.  Over the next six years he was imprisoned twice more because of his writing as his participation in a guerilla theater group.  He was sentenced to death, but released in 1991 and spent the rest of that decade living in London in exile.  He is now a professor in the United States, and he continues to write and publish poetry.

Abani is someone who has sacrificed for truth and art and beauty.   If you have some spare time, check out this amazing TED talk he gave a few years ago.  And enjoy this, one of my favorite of his poems:

 The New Religion

The body is a nation I have not known.
The pure joy of air: the moment between leaping
from a cliff into the wall of blue below. Like that.
Or to feel the rub of tired lungs against skin-
covered bone, like a hand against the rough of bark.
Like that. “The body is a savage,” I said.
For years I said that: the body is a savage.
As if this safety of the mind were virtue
not cowardice. For years I have snubbed
the dark rub of it, said, “I am better, Lord,
I am better,” but sometimes, in an unguarded
moment of sun, I remember the cowdung-scent
of my childhood skin thick with dirt and sweat
and the screaming grass.
But this distance I keep is not divine,
for what was Christ if not God’s desire
to smell his own armpit? And when I
see him, I know he will smile,
fingers glued to his nose, and say, “Next time
I will send you a down as a dog
to taste this pure hunger.”

One response to “Poetry Monday: “The New Religion” by Chris Abani

  1. Pingback: Ubuntu « creatingreciprocity

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