Inua Ellams

Inua Ellams

Summit of Flight /

Mother means well / She is in the next room / but knows I’m crushing socks into balls / of
white cotton and shoving them down / the throat of my sneakers as she shouts / Are you off
to play that game again /

When I don’t answer but squeeze and roll / my old towel till it’s silent / forlorn as a dead
body I lift into a black bag / she wants to know / Why not football like everybody else /

Mother means well / but I wring the neck of my water bottle when she yells / Even rugby is
better than throwing a large onion into a basket like a girl in a market it’s a game for girls /
she says / as I twist two sweat bands like wrists into my back pocket / Sailing / cycling /
anything else / but you had to pick what no one cares
about what kind of kid does that /

Mother means well / as I shoulder the bag and stare down the summit of flight / of stairs
imagining the many routes out / of the house / each one a multitude of lines and circles /
perfect geometry / on which to forge my path / I stay low

Five strides and I’ve passed each creak and crevice / pivoted on the last step / edged the
sharp desk onto the carpet / nimbling towards the door / without a sound or uttered word
/ only the human breath pushed down /
the tangled line of tendon / muscle / bone and the human spirit’s strive to lift it all / all the
while spinning the ball / like a world

on a fingertip / a lone star / out on a limb / brighter for all the empty darkness around it /
drifting through the door / Before it slams / Mother asks why I play the game / I respond softly
/ You just won’t understand /

Born in Nigeria INUA ELLAMS is an award-winning poet, playwright & founder of the Midnight Run. His books are published by Flipped Eye, Akashic, Nine Arches & Oberon.