Nailah Mathews


.chisaraokwu. (Chisara Asomugha)

The Wait


Nailah Mathews

She is a wheel of fire, a jovial dancing saint
to the seven spheres, the cauldron whirling below

earth’s parched lip – recycled, bone boiled, made clean

                                             begot of serpents, figs, sacraments of flesh,

                                                                                        purged with soot and saltwater now
naked across the           continental           shelf

                                 where the fathers of order
                                                                                                   have taken their robes to the laundry,
                                                                                                              and frenzied, themselves to the sea
flocking at the shore in exhilaratory hysteria,
                                                                                        or “a nostalgia for boyhood, and the womb”

The Wait

.chisaraokwu. (Chisara Asomugha)

Because I ask how much of me
you’ll swallow, I am drowning.
Trapped in the physics of doing the undoing.
A life carved in reef, womb empty.
The still life of warfare is a magi twirling.
You thought I could not hear your murder coming.
That the cauldron once brimming with boiled tongue
would make me question the water’s raw edge.
All water has a temper. & the earth does not spare
its wrath either. Replenishes itself – bone, gelatinous blood.
Call it hysteria: the sea congregating
at the shoreline, pretending to carry this life in its jaws
for your ceremony, opening its mouth instead
for what earth is ready to hurl.

Nailah Mathews is a Brooklyn-based nonbinary Black poet to whom books and Black lives matter. Their poetry has been featured in Hennepin Review, Lucky Jefferson, Passenger Journal, The Black Lesbian Literary Collective, and Outlook Springs among others. They are a 2022 Periplus Fellow and a 2023 Anaphora resident. When not writing, they can be found ankle deep in speculative fiction or wrangling Olive and Martini, their two very bad cats. They can be reached at for inquiries.

.chisaraokwu. is an inter- and trans-disciplinary artist, healthcare futurist and former physician. Her work has been published in Obsidian, Cider Press Review, ROOM, The Washington Post, The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet and other journals. Her current project is a lyrical, biomythography exploring the helical migration of trauma across space and time in the African Diaspora. She has been awarded fellowships from Cave Canem, MacDowell, Anaphora Arts and Brooklyn Poets.

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