Penance and Other Poems

There is a boy burying
your children in soft wood.
At the next full moon
you will writhe and bleed for his sin.
Nine months
the value of one long life
man is a ripple of dying impressions
he is never anywhere.
There is a girl drowning
in her reflection, thinking
it must be masturbation
to love one’s self.
For all that is sin
Religion is prescription
I swallowed death
now I am a casket of indifference.
Prayer is blood on my fist
White walls are hypocrites
I give you to them
Words as medicine
If you find me
in this closet
with my fist in my throat
do not save me
I am a boy trapped in the body of a girl consumed by the fear of dying alone

Mother tongue

You are a house
you want to be home to someone
the clock warns:
empty spaces left too long become oceans
they swallow.
Nightmares are lonely past lives
running ahead of you to the next
this body
a tourist delight
many visit,
none stay.
You heard a revolving door
warn a child
‘No matter how often you repeat beginnings
you only experience them once.’
You bring this lesson and the taste of your father’s name to every kiss to learn old masquerades
wear new faces.
Exclude ‘my…’
from ‘myself”
to understand being.
Do not add
‘I’ to ‘I am ….’
you must not be too much.
Deny the war in your spirit. Silence the nation of children in your head hold the flower of your palms offer their fragrance hide their thorns you must not be too much.
This exile of one from one’s self it is not suicide, no, it is the only way strong women
learn to be enough.


Leave the world, learn
you were never in it
die like a dream
wake up
if earth is hell
purgatory is to not know
the Heaven within you.
I break the piano
to find the music. Shatter mirrors to liberate my reflection.
I write because
holiness depends on books.
All order is built on disorder
paint the institution of sanity
we all become insane paint poverty.
Paint politics.
Paint love education rituals war ruins battered women broken men
there, you have the world
on the canvas of your bedroom
does it speak to you
or is it God?


At fifteen I found God’s face buried in the earth of my father quaking in a hospital bed breaking open to hold his soul out to a May sun.
I found
the burning bush is a bald boy with needles feeding a stream of poison beneath his skin. Sometimes killing yourself
is the only possibility of healing
I found
prayer is a woman teasing apart the clenched lips of a silent night wailing: ‘my god my god why have you forsaken me.’ When you are living a nightmare you only have sweet dreams.
At fifteen I found religion now worship is resurrecting my father with a pilgrims hands. Salvation is a family waiting to hold the earth of a man’s body and say, ‘welcome home papa.’

About the Poet:

Daisy Odey writes from Kaduna state in Nigeria. Her poems have been published in the Kalahari Review, Afridiaspora, Praxis, and other literary platforms. She also has two poems featured in the forthcoming International women’s day anthology.