This poem is a first-prize winner in the Thinking Outside the Box challenge on Young Poets Network(YPN) in 2018.

The Name Behind the Jersey (Mikel John Obi)

by Lydia Wei

When your father gave you your name,
Nchekwube for hope and Obi for his heart,
he tucked away the dreams he had for you in words
that would call you to dinner, in words said over
staticky long-distance telephone calls, in words
breathed into the night air like the draw from
a cigarette. He spoke your name like watching
an old movie, every syllable pregnant with memory,
his cupped hands over your mother’s stomach
so that even the shadowy wombs had had faith
in your victories. All the while your name hung over
you like a talisman, like the harbinger of luck that
lottery players watch out for on the day of the numbers—
appearing on the back of your jerseys, in newspaper
headings, in television sportscasts. Your name where
yam roots bury themselves deep in velar consonants and
where ekwe drums throb against the walls of bilabial sounds,
and in its unbroken undulations the ball
comes toward you, hard path crushing over the grass
as the ricochet of your cleats against the leathery
skin passes and the football pivots into the goal,

—the crowd cheers your name, your father’s words
appearing almost corporeal in the shouts rising from their
taut throats, his dreams already slipping from
under his fingers and rising above the open bleachers
like the blooming shape of the cranes’ flight—

Nchekwube for hope and Obi for his heart,
the promise he had chosen for you so many
years ago.

The Poetry Society was founded in 1909 to promote “a more general recognition and appreciation of poetry”.  Since then, it has grown into one of Britain’s most dynamic arts organisations, representing British poetry both nationally and internationally.  Today it has more than 4000 members worldwide and publishes The Poetry Review.

With innovative education and commissioning programmes and a packed calendar of performances, readings and competitions, The Poetry Society champions poetry for all ages.

More about the Poetry Society…

Tweets @PoetrySociety

The #MakePoetryBoring hashtag is brightening up my evening no end. Retweeted by The Poetry Society

You are old, Father William, the young man said Do you need any help with anything? #MakePoetryBoring Retweeted by The Poetry Society

What is life, if full of care We have no time To wash our hair #MakePoetryBoring Retweeted by The Poetry Society

Do not go gentle into that good night Unless you have a jacket. You don't want to catch a chill. #MakePoetryBoring Retweeted by The Poetry Society

Oh, I wish I’d looked after me teeth, And spotted the dangers beneath All the toffees I chewed, And the sweet sticky food. Weren't a problem owing to regular brushing, flossing and dental check-ups every six months. #MakePoetryBoring Retweeted by The Poetry Society

I have measured out my life with decaffeinated coffee spoons #MakePoetryBoring Retweeted by The Poetry Society

#MakePoetryBoring The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are on Question Time every Thursday night Retweeted by The Poetry Society

This Friday! A poetic celebration in Nottingham to mark 70 years of the Windrush generation, featuring Kei Miller & 5 great supporting poets. Tickets and more info at… Retweeted by The Poetry Society