TUESDAY: Atonements


Copyright is held by the author.

Atonement 1
This is a note to be read when you’re of age
The story of your birth, and little deaths
Lining your father’s pocket and your mother’s devotion.
Walk into bookstores and ask
of books about love —
A father’s love heavy on his wife’s
placenta, while the prayer abides for the baby
Born some wish-lands away from home.
Daily he sings a lullaby to the mockingbird
But his note only touches the mocking
while the bird flies away, mock-ridden . . .
This poem is for you, dear girl
for love, wishes and dream toys
There are gardens, time-swings,
where I hope you read the exegesis of your birth
and the sincerity behind my shortcomings
Shortcomings which did not elude your mother . . .

Atonement 2
Child of my right hand
I am drumming every good music into you
My drum, a gift from my ancestors.
Each day, I dress you in songs
Unknown to tongues
With words, I drum to you
Echoes of roots from ancient drums.
Even home will be more homely
When I shall behold you
Even in the darkness of the world
Your soul of a newly born dove is a constellation
The firmament knows your starry skin
My goddess, my daughter, and mother
Of the origin of everything great.

Atonement 3
Grief, you’re a kin, bestriding the threshold
I know you, I know your story
— of a river holding a large whale
I know your story of a winter breeze
Scrubbing away light
You are a cloudy sky without rain
You are a shell without snail.
Go to the river, empty yourself . . .
Yesterday, a fish fell in my inside
from a sky-full of illusion, thinking home was
in me, water, uninhabitable to breath
not knowing fish does not survive in all water
the way home announces returning feet.
Where can be more home, than where
the heart already lives, without leaving?


Image of John Chinaka Onyeche, in a collarless light blue shirt, smiling, in front of signs in a mishmash of colours.

John Chinaka Onyeche is an author, poet, and teacher of History and African History. He is the author of Echoes Across The Atlantic,  A Night Tale At The Threshold Of Howl, We Returned To Kiss The Cross, The Broken Fort, A Good Day For Tomorrow’s Coming, Stateless, 25 Atonements, and the chapbook Chapters Of Broken Tales. He is a Best of Net Nominee. A husband, father and poet from Nigeria. John composes his work from the city of Port Harcourt Rivers State, Nigeria. He is currently a student of History and Diplomatic Studies at Ignatius Ajuru University of Education Port Harcourt Rivers State. When John is not writing, he loves reading.  John Chinaka can be reached through the following means:




  1. Hit my emotional buttons. Made me pause to connect the dots.

  2. Always touched by the sincerity of the words, the sincerity of fathering—from the moral and even social consciousness.

  3. I love all of John Onyeche’s poems: moving, educational, filled with metaphors, highest lexicon and always thoughtful.

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