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