3 Poems│Olaitan Junaid




the therapist says
father can only survive
by chewing cold breeze
from machines breathing inside walls.
yet i wonder why his face burns with flames
that shot so high they even burn the sun.
this flaming face is what you see
that makes fear a garment you wear
& still feel vulnerable like a chick.


fear is a demon
tended in my father’s house
& the inside of me is where they mount its shrine.
this demon in me feeds on layers of silence.
when i try `smithing it into words,
it blunts the blade of my tongue to quiet –
it swallows me into another long sullen silence,
usually followed by a fiesta of punches
that leave me undulating on frigid floors.
sometimes, it plucks off teeth,
leaving me with bleeding gums
to savor the sweetness of chili pepper.
sometimes, it strangles
& plunges me six-feet deep into darkness.


i rise in mother’s mouth
like an untamed fire
burning with secrets, with cries.
mother has learnt to wear a similar demon
with pride, with silence.
but how do i save my skin
when survival means sleeping on fire
& waking chained to the bottom of blue waters?

When a boy plays with a gun

Tell him to ask his mother the origin of war,
& His mother will tell him what they call water
The name of hands flapping against the wind in goodbyes
How the sea drinks bodies at the bank
Only to go ease itself of them ashore,
far away from home.
Isn’t it funny that a woman’s wrappers know the chemical content of tears,
The burning liquid & the silence that settles
Between the lushness of bodies that hug.
Your father left home at sundown for Burma.
A night before, the soup had tasted different –
Sweeter & thicker,
each morsel, wrapped in your mother’s tears –
the taste of sea and home-mud,
But you never know the language of departure.
They say whatever the blue sea swallows, she spits.
With every geography comes a new body
& a new name.
Your mother has learnt to find solace in letters
& The postal office becomes a cathedral
for the confession of things lost,
Like love,
A point where departed lovers meet in soul
& wet the body with tears of remembrance.
When a boy plays with gun,
Tell him to ask his mother the origin of war
& water & loss.


How do you hide from the night
When its cloaks are a shower of beaming light?
My inside is a night dazzling with darkness & terrors,
With secrets that confine me to the lines on your palm.
Whenever father snaps his teeth at glasses,
I’m the broken piece left for mother to sweep
Before the light of shame shines.
How do I tell father my body is a bunker
Shielding souls with skins thicker than mine?
That my mind is a maze blazing with fire
Haunted by shadows dancing the new songs?
Isn’t it ridiculous to see masquerades hide behind rags
& walk in daylight with strong accents?
My heart is made of stones. & when one crumbles,
Another takes its place
Mother’s tears come in shades
& its flow never freezes or fades away.
Have you ever wondered why stones
Consumed with fires don’t break?
Mother taught me not to throw stones at cripples,
To smile when I see fire burn. To be quiet, silent.
But how do I tell mother the sight of father
In skirt stole my silence away.

Olaitan Junaid is a reader, writer, & sometimes, an editor. He is a lover of good poetry. He studies English Language & Literature at the Obafemi Awolowo University. His works have appeared or are forthcoming on PIN Anthology, Ngiga Review, Perhappened Mag & elsewhere. He lives in the south-western Nigeria, where he writes from. You can reach him here: @olaitan_junaid on Twitter.

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