the pills are multi-coloured
like rainbows after a storm,
It bends me into a dog
licking a hand in the spirit of forgiveness.
This is how I beg my body
for using it like a slave,
for opening it to lonely nights in a brothel,
for making it jump across songs,
for giving it out like a cheap gift,
for cutting it first with memories
then erasing it with glasses of whiskey,
then burning it with fumes of marijuana,
for looking into the ground as water
filled it with drowned bodies.
Sometimes I get tired,
sometimes I stare at an old post office,
willing it to post me somewhere far,
no one cares if Prozac is God,
if every day we weigh our mood with colours.
No one sees me pullover as my feelings
become grey like a skin without blood,
as I become a body waiting
in a dark tomb for a voice to call me to light.
It is true I drank too much before cleansing
my body with water,
before searching for peace in silence.
Life is sometimes too lonely.
Where is the origin of darkness?
Repeat after me: shame is not
a body. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat
till your voice is a violin in the heart
of darkness, till it rise into songs
at the back of a throat;
till it punctures a hole through your
sadness; till the songs
flow out of your body like waterfalls.
They say we should hide our stories,
they say we should be ashamed
of flirting with death.
Look at me, I’m shameless like
the wounds of Christ.
No one thought we could bend dark
nights into black roses
and become rare and beautiful
like a unicorn.
Feel me, put your fingers on my scar
and trace the history of the earth.
I’m magic running through
the veins of God.
Watch me break open the skies
– after Ariana Brown’s Inhale
“Let no one be fooled by the fact that we may write in English,
for we intend to do unheard of things with it.” – Chinua Achebe
On my tongue there’s a hole,
that’s how I know language is a room
you fall into.
In the room filled with the bust
of your fathers, I read a poem
filled with doves searching for olives.
On a river way in Onitsha,
a boy knocks softly on the withered throat
of his father,
words are homes you crawl into
when bodies are no more,
when bodies are homes broken
into a woman on the tongue of the Caribbean;
a prayer never holy enough to enter into a compass
leading to a village on the coast of Africa,
or to be doors into songs inside the voice
of a child of canoes and journeys.
There’s so much rain falling into the mouth
of a man writing a letter home;
a letter filled with tears and questions
beginning in the veins of my mother
and ending in the knees of a boy
praying for a way into winds.
On how many tongues have I been called
stranger, bastard, foreign god in new skin,
songs of guns and gin?
Every night I steal into the field
to count the faces of my lineage
in the eyes of falling stars,
to hold my being in the stillness of the sky
as I begin the dance into rivers and tongues,
into the soft throat of my father’s father,
into a white man breaking me on the back of a gun,
which is how black men learn humility.
Which is the beginning of exile,
something you learn inside the womb of your mother,
as she grooms you into a strand of hair;
a wild song rising from her mouth
into yours, into every part of your body
as you begin your quest into the history
of your first father learning about the birth
of this land in the belly of a sea wide enough
to swallow the other name for God.
Gay Boy Blues
What they want is for me to say I’m sorry
but I’m beautiful like a museum,
that means I’m full of history,
that means I was here before the white men
came with God.
What if I tell you I was once broke
and starving and had to eat my shadow
Ask me about migration,
why I intend to shake my tail feather
before a man in order to have
my passport stamped;
people like me have been hiding in deserts,
willing the night to hide our songs in winds.
Besides, everyone needs freedom,
maybe I will stay if I can fill my throat
with wine and allow a man to suck it
under the moon, but I’m not stupid
and my body is not ripe for burning.
Do you really know why I want to walk
my body into a gay bar
and make my mouth dance into freedom?
I’m illegal and wild.
like an apple waiting to be plucked.
and my body is crying to be filled.
Do not ask me about the hunger
turning me into a wolf,
do not ask me about the name
I keep whispering.
Before the night is dead
I intend to tear your body into questions
and leave you with fire running through your hair.
About the Poet:
Romeo Oriogun’s poems have appeared in Brittle Paper, Expound, Kalahari Review, Afridiaspora, and others. Shortlisted for the Brunel International Poetry Prize 2017, he is the author of Burnt Men, an electronic chapbook published by Praxis Magazine. He lives and write in Udi, a small town in Eastern Nigeria.