TWO POEMS BY OJO TAIYE
by Ojo Taiye
i woke up this morning & realized that what gives us life was taking it back but in small drops of falling leaves & muted days. every day i open the door & i do it by looking at my mother: one of spring’s miscarriages. i was five when my mother had cancer—cervical cancer—a body soft with birdlike bones rotting like roadkill. i imagine the cancer preening her from her bones like a vulture: the body burning into itself. little me standing in my mother’s hut, heartbroken & crying in silence. the doctor said there is nothing we can do. the cancer—a million tiny jelly fish is spreading & spreading & spreading until she smelled of death sweat sharp as July rain on hot asphalt.
Self-Portrait as a Slaughterhouse
(Asaba pogrom, 1966)
by Ojo Taiye
there are words you don’t remember about things you don’t know. someone lied—memory is a map of life: it neither progresses nor diminishes. it keeps returning again & again until you only recognize it between your mother’s lips. who wants to avail themselves of the shrapnel of everything: what remains living of the last ethnic-cleansing in a small town on the west bank of the river Niger. the day your grandfather fled your homeland, a thousand crows blackened the sky like night. in this dream: you make light to see what he agreed to leave—the diameter of a bullet & a graveyard. in a large circle of a pain & time, the many fragile borders of your father’s body becomes a god who bleeds in shades of scarlet thick & warm like the soft yellow light of morning. this place breaks open like the voice of a refugee heading nowhere. do you hear the executioners sing joyfully—i’m the god—these cultivators of cadavers seeding plague across the city in a puddle of rain. often you call out to yourself just to hear the echo of slain flowers, to count the splinters in a child’s cheek who remembers that he will never be a child again. yet you took a chair outside & watched the setting sun—so much can hide in a street—the lucky ones are dead. you draw your brother’s blood to the surface of your skin & call it unripe accident.