3 Poems | Osieka Osinimu Alao


the language of descent

I remember when we used to fly
and how the sky carried us in its pouch
the wind caressing our wings
the sun begging to join our flock
and gravity yearning to understand
the physics that governed our motion

one day, we were in the skies
and all of a sudden, guns appeared
through the clouds, then a giant cage
and a grave voice commanded us to halt
and get into the cage; the air-clan was raided
those who did not yield were shot down
and for the first time I realised that
earth had enough space for falling angels
gravity relished the company of its new cohorts
it was our first encounter with a new language:
the language of descent

in this language, everything seems to be falling
and every word is wrought to remind you
of running your head into the earth
in this language, flight is a taboo
look at us now, those trying to avoid
this language are chirping in silence
pecking all the words we’ve ever known
into oblivion; those who’ve forgotten
what it means to fly are assimilating these
new words and are running their heads into the earth
those whose wings have been clipped
perceive the smell of burning feathers, every night
there’s a bonfire for every memory we’ve ever had
I try to fly but I realise that every attempt
digs me deeper into the earth.

a tap of dirges

our bodies are broken statues etched by travails
reposed by the arrowing motions of tragedy

our eyes are holes hijacked by the moon
and the night is a raven on our shoulders

candle-flames swaying and slumbering
incense hugging the throbbing air

our hearts are bottomless hollows
waiting for the stampede of stars

an old woman’s mouth is a tap of dirges
fermented by the passing of time
and when she opens it, you’ll know
that trauma doesn’t age well

the dirge is a snake
crawling on every skin
biting every tongue

voices eclipsed by sullenness
robed with the fervour of the dark-skies

the children’s blubbering are testaments
to the mercilessness of pain

the women’s choral crispness
makes tremors tear through our hearts

the baritones engrave the rhythm
of sorrow into the ice-laden breeze
brushing our blacks and soon after
silence seeps in and clips the air

the moon locked in our eyes
is witness to our dreams leaping off
the cliff-edges of mirage
here, motion is synonymous to dying
courted by our exilic existence
we stand still and let the night
peck our cross to dust

our bodies are broken statues
held together by funeral songs
and our home is the mouth
of an old woman.

mileage of becoming water-lore

loving you is asking a madman
for the road to sanity’s house
the curse, age-long ache, defiant
derision, stubborn stalk, hero
of the weed-clan. you’re what
diviners dread, doused with tubers
and tusks, what totems tremble
for, ancestral supplications to dust
you’re what mothers flee from, plead
against in mantras flung to the skies
and answers are thunderclaps for the
mileage of becoming water-lore
I’ll rip my heart before it bears
your seedlings, my body
is no bridge for your race

loving you is asking a tyrant
for the compass of peace, routes
buried naked as punctured perceptions
throats tatted with nails, acids are
better suited for some ailments, you
know what they say about death; dying
begets dying. don’t be the hosanna
of this apocalypse, let it unreel its agenda
on our spines. every journey springs
from heart-maps, don’t be fooled
by the grandiose of destinations, the
ship is a mere sand-box without the sailor
I’ll rip my heart before it bears
your rippling, my home
is no sea-booth for your face.

Osieka Osinimu Alao is a Nigerian academic and writer. He holds an MA in Creative Writing from Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. His scholarly articles have appeared in Dutsinma Journal of English and Literature (DUJEL), Gadau Journal of Arts and Humanities, and is forthcoming in European Journal of Literature, Language and Linguistics Studies. His poems have appeared in Requiem Magazine and The Web Poetry Corner and are forthcoming elsewhere. His short story was one of the 200 longlisted entries for the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. His social media handles are: twitter @osiekaosinimu; instagram @osiekaosinimu; facebook – Osieka Osinimu Alao.

Lake Adedamola is a poet, writer, and editor with Nantygreens, who's worked with several other literary blogs including Brittle Paper. He has, since 2018, served in various capacities on the Lagos International Poetry Festival, LIPFest, team.

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