Four Poems by Ojo Taiye

Autumn Leaves

it’s early & i’ve found out that i can’t keep joy to myself. how else to start a new year? (i want to say how else to begin in a strange land). i am the hero of this poem. the one who leans into the night & chants how heavy the world weighs on my slouching shoulders.

smoking the last navy cut— when i think of my mother— a black thread twisted around my neck. how is it that i didn’t spend my whole life being happy? my grief eviscerates my body, breaking it into two: like rain, my stomach is full with the excesses of leaving & staying.

does it matter what we call a thing— the safety of shadows & how the ocean is a safe place to begin. home is a ripe avocado on my tongue: sometimes darkness offers you light.

i can’t afford to think like the moon— every bone & muscle has known us, thou ghost in the air. there are so many bullets in the air. think of the girls testing the sea with their skin as it swells blue in the morning, before burning their image into the sky like smoke, a tv switched off.

forgive me i can’t repair my beginning— a body agonized by light in a bevel world without a plot. a crying sibyl at the world’s end: i gather the tender branches of a tree into a slender black boy made of blood with the smell of love in a distant memory.

is it a burden to be so perfect? who am i to judge what a person needs? the warm tang of sweet croissant in my mouth. i watch the sky, gray as granite & i admit there is a surplus of living like the milkweed blooming by the roadside beyond the rumble of the overpass.

how to begin a new poem

nothing is so beautiful than living
nothing is truer than its hymns & cross
i am writing again with both hands full of laughter

everyone has an inheritance; everyone wants to stay
a while & kneel to joy. there are bright cardinals on
the power lines calling forth the sun. the wind is alive,

so is the coco plums too; it swings & shakes with ants
that nest in its outer bark. no one should pause long
before grief. i’ve been wrong about many things but

not hope— with it i have dug happiness from the serifs
of my own pain. & still as the day heaves forward, i’m
reminded of the scar i came from & the future i once

wanted. my mother passed a year before my sophomore
though i drank her absence like liquor— i always endeavor
to replace the shape of loss with music & it tasted just fine.

i think of gypsy children bubbling somewhere in the
distance. another home drawn to my body’s desire—
a lace-like appetite that seeks to wear winter’s last coat.

Ocean Metals

(in Tekno’s adult tenor ached with the glee
of permissible registers – love is a beautiful thing,
love is a strong thing)

forgive me i cannot teach you how to say love
i wear my mother’s shadow     and walk into
the loins of a city lost in ripples
and yes     my father is a man praying
for evening to become a woman
whom he can love      with open eyes
and not break      under dawn

forgive me   i cannot teach you how to make love
my father’s body is an     empty house
stashed with     cobwebs   a song falls
                              love is an open wound
reassure me you
                will come

forgive me if i tell you love is substitutions
numberings for numerals
             love is my mother dissolving my father
love is my father indicting my mother
                   love is my mother absolving my father
                              love is still not love

She Became Birds, Poems

Let’s talk about something else
said my sister who hangs a star,

underneath her tongue and writes
about love in French stories.

Tragedy is when the neurologist
tested you, and found a lump inside

your brain. Suddenly you were
no longer in the middle of earth–

a girl standing alone on a cliff,
wrapped by darkness.

Waiting for a warmed hand,
like memories opened

by the image of love on
a screen.     There are always

goodbyes– at sunset say goodbye

to hurt     to suffering     to the pain
you caused others and yourself.

And when the night came as a
lonely boat of stars,

you walked into dust.

Oyo Taiye @ojo_poems is a young Nigerian poet who uses poetry as a handy tool to hide his frustration with the society. He is the winner of many prestigious awards including the 2019 Kingdoms in the Wild Poetry Prize for his chapbook “All of Us Are Birds and Some of Us Have Broken Wings” and the 2019 Broken River Prize for his chapbook Cotton Silence, forthcoming, 2020. In 2019 he was shortlisted for the Brittle Paper Award for his poem “Surveillance Camera” which appeared in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, the winner of 2019 Hart Crane Poetry Prize, the Jack Grapes Poetry Prize, and others. Poems in or forthcoming from Rattle, Notre Dame Review, Vallum, Temz Review, Palette Poetry, Glass Journal, Frontier Poetry, Empty Mirror, and numerous others.

Banner Image by Robert Frede Kenter

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