before a wound is born


i write “i pledge no allegiance’’ in my poems but the memories keep coming late in this summer that has no age. today no one is shooting & i am closest to home i’ve been in a long time. note: there has been some speculation about the state of our health— whether the verb through which grief has been translated from a past still visits us in our dreams. look, look again: a bite, a burn, an aperture. sun kissed each morning & i remember how a war is enough to change your god. like ash, the distinction between victim & executioner becomes blurred. once i live in a country whose mineral is the empire’s sin. which vein of memory is the most useful to slice into— so i can sob about the killing fields & how my chest heaves— the photograph of my lover’s head, a bowling ball that rolls on the floor. i have a father’s broken heart: i don’t know what i mean, but i mean it. my mouth is full of brown spiders— if i try hard enough, i can gather history, like nouns into my mouth: she lived happily as a peasant, i mean my grandmother, buried in a mass-graveyard, somewhere, in that waterlogged village. i have been taught a piano with flames can cure a snakebite, can stop the bleeding— so i wage love & a wild heliotrope. sometimes i worry i am not looking for joy, that i am looking for my only brother lost in the war. & for two years, i searched for his voice, & when i finally found it, it was a moon arcing at night, between the rough maps of the stars. i’m beginning to think childhood is the only memory we journey through until we learn to call it home. it happens. nothing dies here: only names & names & names returning as light, like a fruit held in my mouth.



*Note: This poem includes an adapted line borrowed for Devin Kelly.


Ojo Taiye is a young Nigerian poet who uses poetry as a handy tool to hide his frustration with the 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, 2020. In 2019 he was shortlisted for the Brittle Paper Award for his poem “Surveillance Camera” which appeared in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, the winner of 2019 Hart Crane Poetry Prize, the Jack Grapes Poetry Prize, and others. His works appears in or are forthcoming from Rattle, Notre Dame Review, Vallum, Temz Review, Palette Poetry, Glass Journal, Savant-Garde Journal, Glintmoon, Icefloe Press, Frontier Poetry, Strange Horizon, Cherry Tree, Willow Review, Cincinnati Review, Mary Journal, and others. You can reach out to him on twitter @ojo_poems.


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