Two Poems by Blessing Omeiza Ojo

At the first sound

of bomb splitting limbs from the body, where the bearer
ignored how it came, from where it came, we hit the dirt.
I have never been close to the ground. Unlike other kids
in the neighbourhood, who learn sorcery, tattooing
their destinies with fingers on earth’s skin, asking what hope
there is for the night in the absence of stars, my mother
never allowed me to play with sand, before the war.
Once, I asked a boy living in the next street, whose culture
is dancing in the rain and beckoning birds nestling on the marula
his father gave the earth that swallowed him as a remembrance
that he was once here, if rain-dance was as sweet on the tongue
as honey. Do legs remember their make when they splash mud
on the body? At the sound of gunfire, there is a rebirth:
a bird’s song gains weight and morphs into a requiem.
In seasons of war, dead is the body searching for sacredness
in caves. On the day bandits came with heavy metals, I first
learnt that metal speaks fire and in the presence of turmoil,
speaking a new language, if it leads you to the next junction
where the song of birds is a tower, isn’t unfaithfulness to the tongue.
Mother flung herself to the ground, grovelling away from death.
She looked at a sheugh close to me and urged me to swim, saying:
“Son, this is war.” At this point we are all children playing hopscotch.
I explained this to a boy who doesn’t know the word: insurgency. War.
He says he is my mother’s cat whose back doesn’t touch the ground.
I won’t fall for my heart compelling me to ask God for Armageddon
on him. His ghost, I tell him, will walk away from his body at the sound
of rock cracking into gravel, into earth, for us to raise a home.

Poem about Human as Dust that Begins with my Mother being Hearsed

In every planting of a corpse done on earth, I am there, invisible like a ghost,
watching the earthing of a gem. On one occasion, after a failed attempt to sand
fill the waters from a mother’s eyes, a father melted into an ocean. And I asked:
God, is this how you entombed crude oil for us to grasp the etymology of
discovery? A bird once roosted on my roof top and refused to sing – a mild way
to mourn a loss – isn’t it? What humans call death, in a dilute language I called
feasting. Ever wondered, like me, if the earth would wrinkle into my ancestors
if bodies weren’t thrown into its mouth? As a boy in the island called grief,
I watched my mother lowered on earth’s tongue. On her gravestone, I stand.
No friendly caress, just the wind conducting thesis on my mother if she had
really morphed into what God said we are without breath. Dust– he called us.
At the graveyard, a child is armed to the tongue to glorify his mother:
I wiped the spot where her epitaph was written in clichés– it should be engraved
in metaphors – and dust grew into butterflies. The dust, although it reeks of decaying
trash, still wafts my mother’s perfume. In another image, she is here, begging
the wind to come to a hush, a plea orchestrated into the ears of the night, yet void.

Blessing Omeiza Ojo–Nigerian poet, teacher and author–is a Best of the Net Nominee. His works have appeared in Split Lip Magazine, Parousia, Olney, Cọ́n-scìò, Roughcut Press, ArtsLounge, Wax Poetry Journal, Lunaris Review, Last Girls Club, Artmosterrific, Trampoline, Praxis and elsewhere. His poem, “Everything Around Us Sings” was selected for publication at the Castello di Duino 2021 International Poetry and Theatre Competition. In 2020, Omeiza was named the Arts Lounge’s Literature Teacher of the Year. He was a shortlist of Eriata Oribhabor Poetry Prize 2020, semi-finalist for Jack Grapes Poetry Prize 2020, and the winner, 9th Korea-Nigeria Poetry Prize (Ambassador Special Prize). He teaches creative writing at Jewel Model Secondary School, Abuja, where he has mentored winners of national and international prizes. When he is not reading or writing, you may find him playing PES. Reach him on Instagram @ink_spiller_1. Say hello on Twitter @donfox001.

Banner Art: The Angelic Bird, a VISPO by Robert Frede Kenter (c) 2021. Twitter: @frede_kenter

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