Two Poems by Ismail Bala


Night Rain

Close by, a rainstorm breaks. It ruffles our room.

You peer into the window so it wets a part

Of your cheek, your thin lips, your startled eyes.

You look at me and when I beckon you come

Closer and perch beside me, wanting me to hold

Your fingers in my hands as if it were

A fragile cup that the rain might break.

You want me to get between you and the savage storm.

Holding your fingers my deft hands twitch,

Throb on you and then, wondering how to proceed. Brave.

The rain rips through me as your grip tightens. 

The Span of Something

I have treasured you in my hands:

What you measure is my fate.

It is the weight which you bear.

Your life is in double spell:

The time to grow,

And the time to die.

But of all these—

Death abounds intimately.

Life sprouts out of the plow.

It is the sniggering wind:

We laugh towards it,

Because it is primeval.

It is the span of something

More intimate than lust.

The trifle soul in a trundle, twitching with sleep,

It is the present, and the past,

And the sporadic future.

It is eternity wrapped in a cot.

Ismail Bala writes in English and Hausa. His poetry and translations have appeared in the UK, the USA, Canada, India and South Africa, in journals such as Poetry Review, Ambit, New Coin, Ake Review, Lunaris, A Review of International English Literature and Aura Literary Arts Review, among many others. Born and educated to university level in Kano, he did his post-graduate studies at Oxford. Line of Sight (2020) is his first collection. He is a Fellow of the International Writing Programme of the University of Iowa.