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For Love and for Country

—Anthony Okpunor

For Love and for Country

I pledge to the sea, to the confetti of my body.

I pledge to only one God, the maker of lovers who

Dance in the smoke.

I pledge to the war.

This is my allegiance, I pledge to love. To a string of my guitar.

I barricade a shadow with a wall; on the wall there are names.

I want to eat light from your hands,

Find a place between your teeth to feed a horse.

There is nothing like going for the wind too early.

Time flies, but in the direction of our dreams.

It takes memory to kneel in prayer,

Remember those who passed through a closed road.

You will argue it is untrue till you pledge your body only to

Find your son being fought as snow.

My tooth is loose, I’m sorry.

Love is not fear, I’m sorry.

There is where I’m from that is honey on desert.

Do not mock me, sometimes fleeing is butterfly's wings.

I have never belonged to myself,

Do not laugh at me, someone doctors our lives this way.

That is why you put your son in a boat & he is on the water,

The sea is unrestrained.

Kindness is bitter on land.

Have you been here, have you watched how

A man can bend a girl's body into his church?

Then they will say we do not pour enough sun inside our teacups

& they call us mad.

Everything that is sacrifice is first survival.

I leave you with a map,

Turn to your window & read this poem.

They will come.

They will ask why we ran.

Tell them we did it for our country.


ANTHONY OKPUNOR is a Nigerian poet, essayist, and artist. He was shortlisted for the 2019 Nigerian Student Poetry Prize. He was also shortlisted for the SEVHAGE/Angya Poetry Prize 2019. He emerged as winner of the 2019 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (poetry category). He was a finalist for the 2020 Palette Spotlight Poetry Award. He was also longlisted for Palette Poetry’s 2020 Emerging Poet Prize. He was a finalist for the 2021 Chestnut Review’s Stubborn Writer’s contest (poetry category). He was recognized as a semifinalist for Adroit Journal’s 2021 Award for Poetry and Prose. His works have appeared/forthcoming on online platforms including The Adroit Journal, The McNeese Review, Palette Poetry, Frontier Poetry, Rattle, Strange Horizons, Roadrunner Review, and elsewhere.

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