why write poems about freedom in a twitter-banned country? and Other Poems


Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu

Art by Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson


why write poems about freedom in a twitter-banned country?

After Katie Farris

to remind myself that sometimes,
memory is the only means to sustain life.

& imagination is the most prized form of freedom.

all around the world,
children run out
headed for the skies
kites running behind, over them.
in a nearby street,
a man holds his newborn child for the first time
a sob finding its way out of his throat.

i am trying to say
in the same world where a tyrant wrings
the neck of the internet
pries it away from a people’s hands,
a girl somewhere is writing her first poem.

why write about freedom in a tyrant world?
to make space for the baby
who just took their first step.


dark clouds

the grey evening sky of that day
hung over us; a vast ash of foreboding.

we should have known.

there were the lines full of clothes
swinging gleefully in the hands of the wind.
the cows returning from their grazing
as though they were one with the road
and evening was only measured
by the fact of their existence

there were many things we were
to remember of that day.

the image that has persevered the most:
when the phone call came,
it found us staring wonder-eyed into
the face of the sky



when i enter the city again,
it still smells like a curse.
dust clinging to the air like soles of history.
later i will tell my mother, it felt haunted, mummy.

at the tollgates, i panic.
i am there. i am not.
the memories come to me in flashes:
i am five years removed from now. my face,
bright and true.

then i am two years removed from now.
my spirit conquered and left for dead, and my brother entrusted to me.

now, i am a year removed from now. failed
at sistering. the city dug its claws into him, you see.
he dissipated before my eyes.
except my eyes were shut the whole time.

when i enter the city again, today
it is to offer my sister.
i tarry before returning back home,
testing the city’s teeth,
as though i don’t know it by now.
as though a few months would have weakened its venom.
will it close its mouth over her too?
i want to hold everything that is mine safe:
my sister. her name.
now she looks to me and says,

this was the city that ruined our brother.


Fall / Winter 2023

Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu

Hauwa Shaffii Nuhu is a poet, essayist, reporter, and lawyer from Nigeria with by-lines in several international publications. She is currently Managing Editor at HumAngle Media. She is a 2018 writer-in-residence at Ebedi Writers Residency and a 2022 Storify Africa Fellow. Her work examines the human cost of terrorism and insurgencies, as they relate to transitional justice issues, migration, and displacement.

Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson

Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson (b. 1963, Reykjavik) holds a BFA and MFA from Kent State University, where she also studied architecture. Notable exhibitions include Tibor de Nagy, NY; Carl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati; Tang Museum, Skidmore College; Reykjavik Art Museum; Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University; MOCA Cleveland; and Turpentine Gallery, Reykjavik. She is the recipient of an award from the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, the Cleveland Arts Prize, and a grant from the Ohio Arts Council.

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