On the trip to the city of the living dead,
I busied myself, I gathered the seeds of anguish,
shards of deadened silences, cracked pupils,
pricks primed to plant beneath skin.
I made a potion from the visiting plague,
rising up, the pregnant smell of river.
Alone becoming the essence of sickness.
There was one medicine I needed hearing.
The one that assured we work like magic each
time. No space between us. Mere comfort. Affection.
Shielding me from collapse. But of course, I did.
Why me? Why me? Why me? Before remembering
I was nothing, one shepherd, only this small.
Managing a herd of violent specters.

Chekwube Danladi is the author of Semiotics (Georgia, 2020), winner of the 2019 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and a 2022 Independent Artist Award from the Maryland State Arts Council. She has received fellowships and support from Callaloo, Kimbilio Fiction, Hedgebrook, Jack Jones Literary Arts, the Lambda Literary Foundation, Vermont Studio Center, and the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. Her chapbook, Take Me Back, was included in the New Generation African Poets: Nne boxset. Her visual work has been commissioned by the Center for Afrofuturist Studies (a program of PS1), Already Felt: Poetry in Revolt and Bounty, Langer/Dickie, and the Black Poetry Review. She is the 2022-25 Writer-in-Residence at Occidental College and lives in Los Angeles.