& the voice is a lost bird embedded in a boy
like a word stranded between pages.

He said flee from the heat wrecking your body, and you ran to a place where water
running over pebbles is a whisper of wildness, where lost birds are boys hiding their
heads under wings as they touch their wetness in the dark & whisper hallelujah.

The radio said, a father shot his son for loving another man. Marvin Gaye lives in the
heart of a black drag queen & to be a song of pebbles & water is to run into a city of
freedom & surrender to your throat to a bird.


& this is how we kill love;
hunting it in the dark when it is soft
like a new born chick,
breaking its bones till it becomes a boy walking with ashes in his chest.

On the streets of Lagos a boy searches for himself in mirrors, he opens his heart and hears
the voice of his father breaking his bones into a prince waiting for a princess.


Rainfall teaches the ground how to breed:
a boy learns about the wetness of his thighs on a cold night. Posters of boys skinny
dipping in water holds him in a trance. A horse hears the coming of speed rising in his
blood; a horse responds to the call of wild hills as water tickles the sky.


Wet night. Wet dreams. A boy hears the whisper of another boy deep in his bones &
wonders about the origin of stars. His body is a lamp learning how to give light, which is
a boy learning how to lie inside another boy. Which is a dark sky opening his hands to
the coming of stars. Which is a boy opening his mouth, which is a body rising up from a
tomb. Which is resurrection.


& this is how to live in neon lights:
a resurrected boy hides in dark bars and stare at muscles of hard men.
He is called Joe, he is called John, he is called the wind & that is how to be unseen.

& there are other ways:
To touch a man walking on a walkway & hear a voice hiding in a dark place.
To walk on a dusty road with friends & hide your face with a shawl. To stand in light &
be invisible. To walk into a dark night & hide within a dark sky.


& this is real:
a man hides his voice in a throat
before bursting out into songs.

Verbs are boys learning how to kiss, like you turning your body into a blue sea; turning
your lips into pictures of love. Like you opening your body into a little island, opening
your skin into a beautiful world.

Verbs are boys learning how to love in a place where death lives in water.


One step at a time. A boy learns how to dance, his voice is a stream learning the music of
the ocean, he opens his mouth and birds fly into a blue sky. He opens his hands and
flowers spring out of cities hiding under his shirt.

One step at a time. A man kisses another & hears bullets hitting his windows. A man
kisses another and hears a mob running on his skin. A man lies on the edge of bliss &
hears the rape of boots on doors & still we rise with the sun & plant seeds of love in dark
places & still we love & hide & wait for rapture within a boy’s body as a voice flirts with
the birds in his throat and a man burning on a street in Lagos for singing too loud.


Satan Be Gone

The room smelled of sex
& drugs & the soft voice of Asa
under neon lights.

He said, blue birds are the children of the sea,
I smiled, my naked foot tapping a soft
rhythm to the beauty of Asa’s lyrics.

He whispers into my ear, satan be gone,
as he tries to find a way into my skin,
I try to tell him I’m the beauty
of roads & rivers,
I try to tell him I’m the feather of a bird
leading a man to drown under the sea.
his first bite is a whisper
in the mouth of a serpent
learning the secret of soft words,
his second bite is a trip wire
in the breast of a man
learning how sex is a room
full of drugs and little flowers.

He says, satan be gone,
as he folds his tongue into my mouth,
as his fist find the softest part
between my ribs,
as I become the angel Jacob fought with
as he tried to find home between two names.

He says, satan be gone,
as he cries in my mouth,
as he understands the beauty of the night,
as his fingers carve a memorial of my skin,
as my body becomes a womb
filled with blood and light
and a man finds the beginning of a journey
is also a door to fire.

He says, satan be gone,
as his fist hits me again and again
before his body crawls into a wounded animal
at sleep,
before I stagger into water
& pray that water & tears
wash the blood of shame
flowing down my mouth.



Post image by Bryce Edwards via Flickr

About the Author:

Portrait - OriogunRomeo Oriogun’s work has been featured or forthcoming on Kalahari Review, Phases of Poetry ( Sankofa), and EGC. His Chapbook ” Burnt Men ” is available for download on Praxis.

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I'm finishing up a phd at Duke University where I study African novels, which I believe are some of the loveliest things ever written. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

One Response to “Metamorphosis | by Romeo Oriogun | African Poetry” Subscribe

  1. Hannah 2016/06/20 at 5:38 pm #

    This is twenty shades of beautiful, although the second part kind of disturbed the flow for me.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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