Sentinel Champions Stories #3 – Akinlabi Peter

Akinlabi Peter

Akinlabi Peter won the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition with “Moving” in October 2009 judged by Bobby Parker. Since then, he has gone on to publish A Pagan Place, issued as part of the APBF Chapbook Box Set: Eight New-Generation African Poets in 2015 published by Akashic Books, and a collection of poems, Iconography, which was long-listed for the Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2017. He was also the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Monday Writer July 20, 2020.

Bobby wrote in his adjudication report: “I immediately chose Moving as a possible winner, before going over it again and again, and again, and coming to the conclusion that it ticked pretty much all the boxes for me. It had to be first. The opening lines took me by the hand and by the end of the poem I had been somewhere and come back better for it. There is a command of line and craft in Moving that doesn’t get in the way, that doesn’t drown out the sound of a heart beating.”

FIRST PRIZE WINNER – SENTINEL LITERARY QUARTERLY
POETRY COMPETITION (OCTOBER 2009)

MOVING
Kumasi, 1967
by AKINLABI PETER

1

i would not know you if not for the lights
riding forth through the retaining walls
of the ungovernable river…

we had forded water to the rail lines
reciting the lapidary psalms of the baptists
but arrived home to a startled flight of voices

a frightful moment later,
lights of devotion falling again
through the ashen pulse of the wind, i dog-eared
the intimation on the dark bulrushes of Kumasi

and that is how i was ferried home
incomplete, cultivating another time
while the dissonant meaning lets in
a daunting disbelief

a child again, i fold a geography of loss
into your eyes of secret, into the grieving fondness
of that district that women called Lagostown

2

so you will go through to Kumasi again
you will remember how the days passed
between the terraces and the grotto
you will recall the seduction of a quiet surrender

maybe you will remember too
a child’s unfettered heart; an atrocious gift
wrapped in the riddle of a sunset; arms outstretched
unto the sky of an abandoned house
ah, the sudden dampness of departure

now you perfect your gift of double faith-
hope it still retains its reins of cool closures-
admitting your weightless, interminable narrative
a bridge, you say, to a transmissible life

when you arrive in Kumasi,
you might cleanse the memory of sun dusts
searching the direction of clouds towards Ababu
or you might come undone
reading the signs of recent dawns on a tall building

the river will be unfamiliar- if you find it-
but the lights will still be the same
playing the meanings with things in memory
you can look for the fey swell of the bulrushes
and count the degrees of pain in the architecture of loss


Sentinel Champions Stories

#1 – Miles Salter  #2 – Mandy Pannett

Current Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition

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