How to Love by Gbenga Adesina
This is how you love in war:
You put a bit of yourself in salt and water and
feed it to him. You make his hands write a map
that softens the night on your cheeks and then you
open a tiny follicle in his eyes and say Shabash, Shabash
Shasbah. Shabash being your name, so that when
the city slips out of your hand and becomes the fire
you and your son are running from: he to the South,
you towards the North; you pray your last, knowing
he will live with your name singing in his eyes.
Gbenga Adesina is a Nigerian-born poet and essayist. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the New York Times, Prairie Schooner, Brittle Paper, Vinyl, Ploughshares and elsewhere. His poetry manuscript, Holy Bodies was a finalist for the 2017 Sillerman First Book Prize.
Hieu Gray is a director, filmmaker, and poet from Los Angeles, California. Her video poems have screened in several American and International festivals. She holds an MFA from New York University. In a past life, Gray worked for over a decade at CNN as an award-winning senior producer.
Hieu Gray Film Process
I first met Gbenga when we were both Norman Mailer poetry fellows at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California in the summer of 2016. I remember hearing him read the poem “How to Love” for the first time during workshop and immediately knew this poem needed to live on film.
In my mind, I envisioned two star-crossed lovers destined to be ripped apart. During this time, I was exploring ways to merge my past life as a producer into my current life as a poet. Our advisor, the magnetic poetess Meena Alexander, suggested I try my hand at creating video poems since our fellowship was truly a time to focus on our poetry and creativity.
The actors, two fellow cohorts in the program, were luckily no strangers to being in front of the camera. Jessica was an accomplished dancer and Robert a charismatic showman with flair and soul in his eyes. It seemed like the world was conspiring with us to birth this poem into film.
I shot and directed the film during dusk at the university. Post-production began shortly after I returned home and I edited it myself. The graphics were created by a freelancer I worked with from my CNN days. The poem is truly brought alive by the wonderful actors. The California sun provided the ethereal golden tones that capture the feeling of rapture and doomed desire.