Skip to main content

Meredith Nnoka ’14

Alumnae Poet

Meredith Nnoka

Meredith Nnoka ’14 is a Smith College graduate with a degree in Africana Studies and English. Originally from Maryland, she is currently a graduate student in African-American literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her work has appeared in The Massachusetts Review, HEArt Online, Mandala Journal, The Collapsar, and elsewhere. Her poem “Prelude to Your Leaving” was nominated for inclusion in the 2017 Best of the Net anthology. Her first chapbook, A Hunger Called Music: A Verse History of Black Music, won C&R Press’s Winter Soup Bowl Competition.

Select Poems

If death shows up as a man

in blue denim, say I want in a voice

just above a warble, takes

and takes you, fits your livelihood

in his shirt pocket

then reaches for his comb –

ain’t nothing but a shakedown,

a wolf at the door.

I ask you: What’s justice?

Is the cart by itself or the horse

that comes before?

No matter now. Another stone sinks

to the bottom of the river,

another white man

drinks me till I’m dry.

How long, this life.


After Craig Arnold

there was a sound & it was fire was

harmony & the rasp of a man tethered

to his own hunger there was hunger

& it was beautiful  there was anguish but

it was called music every night

there was a stage & on it there was dancing

& a chorus of magpies singing their wordless

& immaculate caw         there was a shuffle

then a measured kick five voices &

a crescendo    a man & his public         some-

times there was a bottle & it was called

passionsometimes there was anger

& it was gasoline  there was a thought

& in it was separation     still    sometimes

there was a man           he was burning


I’ve never made a thing more beautiful

than music, though sometimes I can

almost hear the trees unblooming. I have

a need for this to function as language

between us, because we are separating

and another way to make music

is by leaning into the water. I’ve learned

to believe that summer goes out like

an oil lamp and has a tenderness I can

measure and depend on: the exodus of birds,

for instance, or the two of us pulling

a boat to shore. One day I hope to have

something that will keep through winter,

but more than anything I want to be

in love with your leaving. I once heard

you speak of the night sky so now

I carry it everywhere as an overcoat.

Days I’ve been wearing loss like a thread

around my wrists and letting my hunger

run free. You and I are separating and

I want that to be something of yours I can

hold on to. From this side of the water,

I can almost only see smoke rising.

About Meredith

Poetry Center Reading Dates: April 2018