By Ojo Taiye
the moment the sparrow lifts & i am still watching the branch. experience is merely a name men give to their mistakes, i won’t name you. i trace your mouth counter clockwise but you do not answer. i look out the window & i don’t see a sunset. i see a child’s tongue razing the horizon & this time you wait for him before you leave. my body’s scars speak to the weights of hope & loss. once worn with pride— this rags reveal the strain of routine & labour. i am a pinch of red clay on days’ fat with sky & sun crushed fallow. & i can’t bear to look when twilight invites back all the smriti of yesteryear— i mean each day began with the search for a perfect one. i was told to say no when you curl into a swan. i mean it is holy to touch ourselves without the permission of the gods. i mean each artery of this ink is an unpainted atrium, only sinners dare enter. when i love it’s like i am dying. i mean i hear the arrow flay the opaque air & i feel each shard opening me as i walk toward you: to take you into me, soften your body with my sweat & inherit any pulse you might have left behind
these poems aren’t mine per se
they are my mother’s, my mother’s mother’s
they are the battles of the woman who’s been
told again and again, that her body is an empire
of pain & silence. they are the battles of the woman
who suffered at the hands of my father, whom she loved
& who’d somehow lost control of his right fist & his conscience
they are the battles of the woman— sister of the early rise,
sister of burnt dreams. i wish i wasn’t tired of her sadness
the grackles flaunt their rough consonants into my sleep—
synapses of pretty hallucinations. truth is i live too close to
the surface of my mother’s body: a ghost in a collared shirt.
to see all the names a body can carry— mother appears
in my dreams in a satin bomber jacket. she turns into a flood,
swallows my father & calls it freedom.
Across Lake Albert: A Fisherman’s Testament
(after the four Congo refugees who died when their overloaded canoe capsized in Lake Albert)
this land wages loud nightmares
country. i go to funerals to meet my sister. i go to mold the distance between her laughter &
my ear— elephant sadness. i wish it could unstick itself from my face.
to meet the end is to go back through every dwelling like the memoirs in my mother’s lyrics. to
recycle the& a lake opens a door to another
chronology of a clock, remove the bloodstains from this soil: once i
was natal in a washbasin.
& once, in Uturi the markets were full & loud music played from the small shops. i cannot help but
mourn the larks who didn’t sing for days here. place your palms on the grassland & feel the sidles of
fugitive rats who walk barefoot across the landmarks of caterpillars.
i remember small grief is less to forget & less to carry: monsters sprout from the panga cuts in my
uncle’s head. i cannot look past my mother who spits blood in her sleep. i know the contours of her
dreams by every muscle they hold: the water solid with bodies & mortared cartilage.
my birth rhymes with mass grave dreams: an appellation with every letter in it silent. i mean
the magnitude of bloodletting ran small. i mean what carnage gives back to us
is more of itself &this isn’t plagiarism—
this is history in loops
my father falling gossamer until his wreckage folds away into a bird crossing the celestial equator