Rumpus Original Poetry: Two Poems by Ojo Taiye





Last Rite

everything i write,  is  a  way  of  saying:  look,  there  is  a  myth  in  my  pocket & a  whole  sky
humming  loudly like  a deer  melody.  i am  trying  to tell  you: i  miss  my  mother.  i wonder if
nostalgia was invented when our bodies leaned towards loss. the way i put  a  waning  moon in a
poem & my mother becomes  a wet bone daubed  with memory & blood. this is about everything
after & what  can  be  done with  language. &  what did i learn? i learned that perhaps history is a
pigeon—wherever  he went, my grandfather carried her corpse across his back. i imagine the sky
above his head,  dismal  &  thick with  words  no one  writes  anymore. home  hems  me  in—my
mother  talks  in  her sleep through his mouth. even now, i make up a song whose only words are
Sweet Mother, but  when  the time  comes,  my  tongue  forgets how to say them. tell me i am not
miserable—i  remove  my  hands  & give them to a boy whose throat is a burning tire. or perhaps
my  mouth  sounds foolish when it  babbles  with  joy—does  the wind  remind your body how to
beg?  now it’s almost over, like a lover,  my life bends & kisses a hoarse hum of shells. beyond a
spider  web  resisting  the rain,  my grandfather’s chest  is  a  burning  homestead. &  amidst  this
chorus  of  desire—i whisper into my clasped hands enough to everything i love that will perhaps
be lost tomorrow.


It Is Time to Go Home

i’m  afraid  of  the history i come from  &  i’m  afraid of my failing tongue i misplace the rivers i
was  bathed  in as a child  my dreams the sky my gratitude i forgot about the cities the favelas the
plains  that  reminded me of another home where i was a lone survivor i was born backward with
each syllable  of  my mother tongue  mispronounced in ululation i’m twenty-six & i have no love
experience i  didn’t  love my country even though everyone  tells me to be grateful for what stays
formless  in  other languages  contains all  the verb to  make  my body a border milk  pooling my
missing names into a yellow morning where i claw for the two long burn scars stripped down my
mirrored  face  imagine  i  was  given a wound i feel at the edge of my tongue there are no rhyme
between  an ocean  and  a voice that translate as a single word for drowning in a song lyric for all
the water  in  my  mirror throat  i cannot sleep  i cannot rest  i  am drowning  as  those who could
afford  to  leave  all over the  world  oiled in the perfume of something burning home a sleeve for
silence  a river  to cross there will be nowhere  to walk if the natural prayer of a swimmer is hope
or  hunger  i’m certain  we  all  are  looking  for vision  in a world we have made with a dangling
string a hand bends & bends again seaward a distant sky it’s not my fault i’ve found my ancestors
at the bar their ghost at least


Photograph of Ojo Taiye by Downtown Studios.

Ojo Taiye is a young Nigerian poet who uses poetry as a handy tool to hide his frustration with society. He is the winner of many prestigious awards including the 2019 Kingdoms in the Wild Poetry Prize for his chapbook All of Us Are Birds and Some of Us Have Broken Wings and the 2019 Broken River Prize for his chapbook Cotton Silence, forthcoming in 2020. More from this author →