i was born with a graveyard.
– Safia Elhillo.
i do know about the hate that sinks a name
& turns water into homes eating boys
& i cannot speak because my mouth is a grave
my father’s ghost roasted a boy found in the hands of another boy
& his ashes look like the sun dying on my skin
& every day nails are passed as praises as heroes
riding bodies into pain as Facebook posts
opening bodies into fields eaten by locusts
i was born to be darkness hiding under a cave
& i know the weight of exile in a body
the origin of bodies looking into faces
with gratitude leaving a part of them
in bistros to forget how they prayed
to the winds to ferry them over waves
the maestro said all art is full of departure
i was born to hold a boy on a bus station
shake him loose a house leaking memories
& tell him go run bleed
into a language that knows the meaning of freedom
tired of running of biting into oranges
i open my body into pain & bring out your words
faggot sin bones waiting for the tongue of fire
houses waiting for the lynching of rain
& i let them slice me burn me
i was born into a war my God’s duty is to hide
the honey dripping from my mouth
& i write the names of lovers leaving into sand
i let it grow on their tongues so they won’t forget
how they lived in the dark before finding Agadez
pathway to road across the sea
i worship the day because it survived the night
& i’m in a bus station
saying bye to boys searching for cities
where they can hold hands & walk on beaches
& i know what it means to live here
with words invented for hate with wounds asked to be silent
& when they leave i want to whisper into ears
filled with dunes of the desert
do not forget i still live here
I cannot make this up.
Sunlight sneak behind dark curtains
& you sit up, say the light is here again.
The streets hum with voices,
vehicles run into the rising sun,
my neighbor press her ear against the wall
to hear the voice of heaven
falling from a mouth made beautiful by sin.
I want to find home in the rooms of your veins,
allow you carry me as you flee into the day,
as you look back to stop your shadow from holding my hands.
In your room, your father smashes our bones against the wall,
our blood mingle, sing kumbaya as it streaks into the rug.
Tell me this is not love,
tell me this is not how couples run into sunsets,
Tell me this is not the universe saying love is eternal
to two bodies traveling through the sea as salt,
two bodies sitting on sands
in a map that doesn’t die.
He digs me out of your stomach.
He says, no son of mine is going to be a faggot.
I allow light preserve me, I allow it slash me into songs
traveling through the forest softly as dew.
Here’s my body, take it.
Here’s my song searching for space within your lips,
open, sing it.
When they came for me with knives and sticks,
I became songs falling through rain.
Do not be afraid, I will always be here.
Just step into the wet sky,
open your mouth, sing,
Saddest Night Alive
It always starts with your silence, your body running away,
even though you are here and the music is still playing
and all I want is to dance, just to dance baby
but you are really not here and the sea is always hungry
and everyone is watching how you will feed it.
We are in a movie, we are acting
but you keep saying this is not right,
I want to know who made love so wrong.
The director is screaming, his veins are bulging,
I’m shouting leave him alone, it was the words I shouted
when they lynched you in my dreams.
Can’t you see my buttons undone and waiting for your fingers?
Can’t you see the leaves are falling?
It’s the season for wearing new skin,
for pretending you don’t love the boy who rode across your mouth
last night and I understand you are afraid
because your friend’s father gave him up to the police
on his birthday and I know it’s a shitty way to celebrate a new year
but I do not want to beg for love,
I do not want to steal into your dreams.
The DJ is playing my favorite song,
bodies are moving like fireflies dancing by the riverside,
you are leaving, in my hand is a glass of gin and tonic,
I’m learning how to live with this fear of not finding love
in this city, how to watch my waves run back into the sea
like a dog cursed with the luck of finding dead lovers.
The director is shouting but you are already gone
and I’m leaving, drunk and in tears,
the music is still playing, still calling our hearts like clouds
waiting for the miracle of wings.
They will write this as the saddest night alive
but it won’t mean a thing to us, we’ve been hurting
before the earth put to birth.
About the Author:
Romeo Oriogun’s poems have appeared in Praxis, Afridiaspora, African Writer, Brittle Paper, and elsewhere. Shortlisted for the Brunel International African Poetry Prize, he’s the author of Burnt Men, an electronic chapbook published by Praxis.