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Abdulrazaq Salihu

African Diaspora Award, Third Prize Winner

EXIT WOUNDS, poetry collection

Abdulrazaq Salihu, from Niger State, Nigeria, is a member of the Hilltop Creative Arts Foundation and has won poetry contests like the Hilltop Creative Writing Award and Nigerian Prize for Teen Authors. Besides Kinsman Quarterly, Salihu's poetry has been recognized in magazines like the Jupiter Review, Angime, and Grub Street Mag. His powerful collection, "Exit Wounds," demonstrates sophisticated use of imagery, daring exploration of rhythm, and captivating emotional content.  

Self Portrait As Exit Wounds
by Abdulrazaq Salihu


Who called your name and put your body 

In this wrath of a game?


The day the world justified calling a spade 

A spade, did they also agree that your body

Was not worth the beauty?

I know a lot about wounds and scars.


I know how scars are the only certificates 

You get for surviving this war between 

Yourself and all the dark spots this 

Cleanser couldn’t rid off your skin.


I let what I know call me ignorant, then

I carry the wailing of ghosts in my chest.

I run these hallucinations into  my skin

Till they’re real, till I can hold their 

Hands and spell their bodies into stardust.

I cleanse my body of our sins and watch the nights

Put a “RIP” tag on all the people the universe has

Ripped out of our chests and 

Isn’t this the essence of Beauty

To never last forever?

To be a body of pollination today 

And collect your withering inside your 

Mouth like a butterfly bereft of essence.

Like a corpse, swelling to the rhythm

Of sadness—to be the threshold towards 

Light today and watch tomorrow’s darkness 

Spot your skin.

You call the ghosts and you’re your graveyard

You carry the scars and your wound;

Fresh; cut clean: You’re tenderness: 

A paper-prayer folded into your sick 

Mother’s front teeth; her aching forehead; 

The long dance of  slavery between her feet 

And the ground: the sad rowing 

Of all the  beautiful  boats you’ve grown

To know, into oblivion: Love; all the time: love.

I let go of the ghosts; the people in my head

My father, Like a river voyaging garlands,

I let them flow,

Unstoppable in their pursuit for 

Beauty and tenderness.


“I know what I’ve seen of blood & death—what the night forgets

to cover in its shadows; what part of paradise a bullet

undresses before the body‚ before stealing light from its eyes.”

—Abu Bkr Saddiq


The leaking of smoke started from my body.

Our home later succumbed to the music

Of the fire, this is how every tale ends—at the climax 

Of its beginning. In the quiet of the night, your face 


Crepuscular, the stars put a stop to the creaking of birds

Our destiny in the hands of a painter, we’re oil paints.

We’re dark skinned yet someone can still match our 

Existence to the precision in the shooting of a deer


By our long gone ancestors. The story goes, we’re 

In the middle of the second world war where the 

Land opens its aches to delft, the small stones 

Rub against each other the way strangers in the 


Subway do—arm rubs against another arm and 

Nothing human is felt, just urgency—to continue moving

Story goes, the nights unfurls its ruin, all its inflorescence

Making way for revelations and quiet all at once


Our breaths are not supposed to touch, our hands

Are in their own existence, there’s a glitch in time 

A folding of a heart into oblivion, into a pause, a coma

A whole different world of endless possibilities.


Dawn begins its own cracking, the first crow to 

Mark the beginning of day is shot mistakenly by a hunter.

Some say it’s a bad omen, others are too busy with movement.


I’m cleaning the stain my mothers stain remover couldn’t 

Rectify. I’m avoiding all the dark spots on my own skin

Trying to not remember the one thing my mother 

Got in a fist fight against the wind—a soft blow beneath the eye.

Call it a cloudage of storms—where my father is the wind.

My first encounter with the police—fear-black-skin against a

White wild social menace, the officer didn’t need to see

My complete credentials to tag me guilty, a criminal lost in

His pursuit for corruption. I got cuffed because I was at the


Wrong place at the wrong time. Recited psalms the best way

I knew how to—by starting with my late father’s name.

There’s what fear does to a man that I must forget.


Let it not be respect, let it not be humility, because 

All the things I’ve feared have never really left me.

All the wrongs I’ve done, I , master of my beautiful 

Sins, I wear them when I have to.


On December 5th of a certain year before I knew 

What I never knew of my body, I mistook the 

Scars for home, the spots on my skin for birthrights.

There’s certain news about a lost cyborg in the wind.


Nobody is humane or worried, a cyborg would always 

Be a cyborg. I watch how the news unplug my mother’s 

Ears from reality. I’m stuck with her today because I sought 

A reality TV show, not this seer of bad news; overseer of evil.


I only talk to the wind when men love men. In a strange part of 

The world I have started a thread for all the things I’d never forget.

After the war, my name is first on the list. Ya rabb, you have 

Given me the light and you have darkened the path.


My people are lost in their own mind games. i’m afraid 

Of starting a journey I know nothing about.

There’s a slight cut on my skin, there’s a smoke gathering.

I haven’t begot a thing of my own—only this gas of 


Transformation to call my own. I haven’t begot a thing

To call my name and I can’t help but burn what only

Is a part of me, because all the things I fear 

Are only growing deadlier now.

by Abdulrazaq Salihu 




by Abdulrazaq Salihu

All the people I love are the ghosts that hunt at night.

The drive to my people’s home, the silence of nights 

Quiets down as the horror fades away. On the roads

You do not meet the drunk, nor do you mistake the 

Roads paranormal bending into light—a symbol of 

Purity. It’s a thousand hours of walk, your body is 

Forced into a gun powder (and your insecurities 

Creak into the back of your ear like a broken omen—

Clay plates falling on Christmas Eve). Smoke 

Becomes fire. Your body is an explosion of wrath

On all the wrong planets, your mother's body is

The first place to hold unto the warmth on the atlas.

You have never known the music of lost so well.

You open your creased palm to cup your withering.

You have never known the value of your beauty 

So you let the air-gas-fist slide. You slit the bottom

Throat. Let the blood run into its suffering. Let the 

Body of lifelessness sleep—in heavenly peace, like

Silent nights, like holy nights, like all is calm.

You do not know and would not know

All backs that bow must also dance to the ache of 

Frustrations and anger and fear and despair and 

The air in the wind grinds your nostril into an

Ammonium confirmed compound of lost.

You do not choke and you do not falter.

A street with ghosts must only gather 

A confederation of darkness, your skin 

Kind is the first to assemble. Ghosts are whites.

So even in this holy ground, you’re discriminated.

You leave the one place that calls you son. Two

Roads diverge in a yellow wood. You take none.

You take all. You cling to the illusion of righteousness.

You put your hand again, today, against all the odds.

Yet, you cannot count yourself among your people 

And you cannot clasp and not shake in silence.

So all the night's music lay quietly before the soft

Lip of the broken town of ghosts and my kinsmen.

by Abdulrazaq Salihu

The first to be cut is the one

With the thinnest skin or the 

One with the slowest dodge skill.

I was cut                                                  like saw against the skin of wood

I saw my body on the map                               slipping into a river 

Danced the whole night with my crew, burying 

The remains of lost and forgotten night people 

While the boys compared the water that drowned 

And the one that quenched thirst—told them one

Was needed, while the other was needy.

I’m dying as the first man to be cut, skin

Wide open                                          like my country’s vulnerability.

Skin wide open                      like my mouth, aching for

Despair. The wound is fresh and the war continues.

I bit my teeth and struggled to cut one man 

Before I find my peace with the sands.

The earth says, "if a king falls, ten men must fall."

There’s a slight crack in the calabash,

There’s a slight chance that my cheek may bloom.

My memories would not separate from lost 

So the calabash forgets its duty to hold 

And pours its anger on us. The flooding 

Began. I’m the softness of my limb.

I’m angles with stop-lines. Spot the 

Fault lines, a click between their heads and 

Blood is the next big thing. Outside the edge

Of the town, at the slow waving music of the river

Mamii heads to swim and the people of anger 

Were there.                                                      Mamii did not swim. Mamii

Drowned. I was the first to tell. I was the first 

To be told. When there’s a cut, the first to feel

The pain is the one cut.                               I have been learning 

To cut my whole life.                         Give me this bloodbath—




by Abdulrazaq Salihi

on the day I pushed the sun, by its forelimbs away from my

skin to see how much work it has done to make me melanin god

a part of the night struggled away into oblivion; into the fights

us against our green carpets; us against greenhouse gases


the earth against our mistakes, call it the aftermath of raising what 

would not want to see you stand, call it ache, call it the encroaching of 

all the hair I’ve managed to watch grow unto my scalp. Say, I’m holding

unto a storm in my left palm to protect my country from this thing we have grown


to blame the sun for—doom. I will blame my sons, tomorrow

for not telling me a storm would always be a storm 

the way water would always create slow paths to drown what it hates—earth.

I plant a flower in all the portholes our wrong steps have put on the road. 


the roads have grown to home butterflies. My brother is the first to see. My brother 

is a body of liquids—sea. My brother is everything bent

the wrong way—C. My brother is a green covering of 

the earth—pea. I have learned to live with a plant in my 

right palm and a drought in my left palm. Call it adaptation, what must live [leave]


must learn to do it well—must survive [die]. In a small market in Sarkin Pawa 

there’s a long term shift in temperatures—and weather pattern. My people are too

backwards to seek a weather forecast. My people are too backwards to believe in rain

I have grown to know that nothing, ever beautiful, lasts forever 


my people would wake on some days, the sun atop them foreheads and watch 

the clouds fade, watch the nights pull us into darkness. There’s a part of the earth 

that is sinking, another is browning. I  watch every step I take towards green

pastures crack the earth and make way for skin breaks—like my mothers lips 


what remains of tenderness after the skin divides? My fourth grandfather

nurtured an oak tree, my sister wants a beach house, so we take down the tree

we forsake the rules and put pillars in every spot that should home a tree

the beach house stands erect in the absence of trees. One day the earth

would open and swallow its legs. Nothing would dance to the rhythm of the wind

the wind starts a dry song from Kayes, across Cape Town, through Nigeria 

across the cracking of India, beyond Togo. The wind takes a lonely path

through my skin, through my people’s homes, across all the quiet places

that used to bed roses, call them graveyards. Every tree the wind


passes, bows and withers its leaves. Isn’t this beauty?

Isn’t this tenderness? Isn’t this the time to gather the green we left behind

put them in my people’s palms, grow chad again, into a beautiful garden?

I sit beneath what used to be a tree—there’s an inferno of beautiful things


in my mouth, I spit them into all the wrong places, the furrow on my accent

is louder than the storm that buried my home. The night is becoming a hot

blanket atop my body, but I have learnt to be cold on hot days, by catching my 

breaths every time gases erupt. Like little prayers, in the sanctuary of God.

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