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“…the smell of turpentine fills the air
as he paints the sea into a man.”


I hear it from afar,
the thought coming thread
by thread into a new city
and this time it is Benin,
a city of blood
cuddled with mother’s breath.
I know I should leave this city,
this life, this time,
undo this grief little by little
till it drowns in music
only time truly leaves,
so I stay in the thoughts of others.
I stay because the other road is dark
and I can’t see the face saying come.
I do not say I’m mad,
my other self answers:
Eight hours have gone by,
I don’t know what I did with it,
there’s a woman by my side,
empty bottles of wine,
used pipe for crack,
rumpled bedsheet,
packets of cigarette,
the smell of kisses on naked skin,
razor marks on my thigh.

I could travel through these things,
take them one road to the other
till I get to the mouth of the night,
till I journey into time,
sit on its mouth and live again.

The city stands,
I can hear its voice
in the limbs of a dead boy,
in the kiosk lit with fire,
in the snores of a wheel barrow pusher,
in the moneyed smell of a thick robber,
in the graveyard, winds running through tombstones
like the music of cherubs.

Every second someone dies,
I feel cheated.

Time runs;
I can map out its hands
as it touches places I’ve called home.
Of what use is memory
when it comes with flood?

I stand before winds,
tuning them into soft music,
bringing them to their knees
till I hear a little boy cry out.
It is always me, alone.

If you can see time running backwards,
you can see me,
standing by the river that cuts this city
into two; a dice rolls in my palm:
there are six outcomes,
one leads to death.

And he stands before an empty canvas,
drunk on his thought.
He moves slowly like first light,
afraid of what he must do,
slowly he opens a can of blue paint,
the smell of turpentine fills the air
as he paints the sea into a man,
gifting him the song of going away;
he turns and bids the world bye
as he carves a room inside the sea;
slowly he goes away,
until he becomes the whisper
of what dies when palm trees
fall into sand.




Post image by Walters Art Museum Illuminated Manuscripts via Flickr.

About the Author:

IMG-20161206-WA0002Romeo Oriogun’s poems have appeared on Expound, Afridiaspora, Kalahari Review, Brittle Paper, and others. He’s the author of Burnt Men, an electronic chapbook published by Praxis.

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One Response to “The Final Portrait of A Dead Artist | By Romeo Oriogun | Poetry” Subscribe

  1. Mercy-Williams 2017/02/27 at 02:04 #


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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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