an offering on silence

i have seen the depths of despair

and what have i to show for it

but

this sprinting chest

and traitorous lungs

these hollowed eyes

and hungry hands.


the movement in my chest happens as stasis

a startstop rhythm

on the way to nowhere


what am i?

am i here?

was i here?

*


at the grave yard

to think

again, to speak

dead and waiting for them to die

i cannot remember which home this is


the movement in my chest

and the sinking of my stomach

mean nothing if there is no

body count

again, i am weak

but there are no bones left to

spend


i am dragged out to sea

and i


am sorry

that the ghouls have conjured our ghosts

*


were my wounds not open

were they not gaping

enough

and had i not ripped

the skin from my back


to speak

was I not loud enough

and cry and mess

too much blood

help me find the rag

i will clean up after myself

*


and again,

you are the only shard of

obsidian in the room.

you are drowning.

you are gasping.

Whose voice is sitting on your mind

and demanding your salvation?


she asks of your name

baptises you the trauma in her white tongue

you do not correct her

you never do

you fear

that she has noticed your black

growling back

in the way you speak;

without teeth

and the shadows which have seized your throat.

and you are afraid that she has seen you for all

she conjures in her mind

afraid that one day soon you too have seen


remind your body of the infinity between skin and bones.

*


And, i speak


i have

spines,

knuckling

down

my

tongue.

curl it bone straight.

And i speak

Again, they


snag against my teeth;

fight their way out of rot, it weeps

the whole thing is a messy affair

all blood and creak

caught between my teeth.

and under my nails

all wail and breathless

caught between my lungs

and choking.


my breath is restless

bones brittle with mudblood.

It feasts under skin,

finds crumbs in the pockets

between my joints

licks the ink from my fingers

and my tongue is knuckling

parting flesh and forming skin

It is wet and heavy.

carries me bone straight.

and curling into fist

and

folding

around

everything

which was once soft


but                                            I was once

everything

which was once soft


Again, it weeps –

What of me can be softening bloom

all winter’s opening wombs

Again, it weeps

these spines rattle against my teeth

fall into my mouth to speak

and moving through these restless lungs

Again, this mudblood tumbles out


a messy affair it surely is

all bones and teeth in the way

all chattering and tooth picking

all blood and weep

all stench and clinging to my fingers

Can’t get the smell out

Scrubbing this skin out

Again, it weeps

all wet and heavy

all

hanging

from these bones like spines from teeth

all screaming cheeks for quick release

all           lost           and           wandering

all out and wondering


my, these teeth make quick

guillotine

and always such troubling mess

and spilling on the sheets

always hollow and lip staining

always wailing slurred and stippling blush

always failing words and thunderous hush

Again, I speak.

but do not breathe)

Again, it weeps.

but do not breathe)


the movement in my chest

happens as

stasis

i can no longer see the ghosts in me

again, we are atoms

as we always were

again, we are haunted

by that deathly silence

and here again

that dreaded fog

the site of the wound

is wet and anointed

open and festering

and all this power

yet i am weak

again i speak


i have watched the bone collectors

rob graves many times before.

i have written this many times before

always too bloody and

mistaking the rattling bones for night terrors.

always speaking silent through the

spines in my teeth

silent as the bodies disappeared

until i was myself the ritual

Interring. Or, White boy, What Have You Done With My Father’s Bones?

Drapetomania: A mental illness which causes slaves to attempt escape.

 

For as long as I can remember,

my father has had more than one phone.

On days when we remember that we are looking for him, my mother

rattles off the numbers we think may still be in use

 

I heard once that two phones are a sign that you are running away.

 

No, This is not about seeking love in blue bedsheets;

not to the man who once asked me why I love like it will get me free

giggled me wade in these sheets –

 

no, this is why are black men ghost town and hero?

 

It is April and I have not spoken to my father in months

I imagine him aging slow, sick, sequestered like old drapes in smoky rooms

Paranoid that we will one day grow bored of the tired landscapes his fists could paint

Which is to say, remember, father your melanin is no special thing.

 

No, not to the woman who wondered if I would find him in the gutting of her; no.

Today is not about pain and the graveyards in which we seek salvation

Not to ask where he was when they were making a blackhole of me

Not to ask how I can be empty and yet so full of grief

And if I could, would it matter?

 

no, this is how do black fathers mistake home for shackle; and wade?

 

Have they not fed you well from the glut of these girls

Enough to fill that girl shaped hole in your home?

Isn’t it easier to throw all of that trauma into the grave with her

And where is the room for all your guilt?

 

All those goodbyes they have gutting your tongues

Make a loose chain of this home

That is to say, was it so easy to lose us?

 

How could you hear father if you could never stand on the alter?

That is to say, I know this world can make memories of black fathers,

them black men ain’t been disappearing themselves

 

Always been that pipeline

Always been some poison

Always been some passlaw

Always been some pig’s gun

 

Black men have always been sacrifice to their paperface gods

Stay hunting niggers down and want to ask us why our fathers are always running

Steady your noose and ask me why black men are ripping our families apart

 

I know now why he keeps falling in love with the only chains he can take off;

That is to say, they have made plantation of black family

 

Freedom has always been a sickness in black bodies,

Always been some kind of psychosis

Always been seeing some shit that just ain’t there

Always been catching those white hoods in his periphery.

Always been an itch in his feet that he just can’t scratch.

 

But;

who will teach me to love myself when my father is a village in ruins?

(love)speak

Eden has nestled her head amongst the swelling egos;

who will wake such soft sibilance from her slumber

and fall amongst the settled sheets

(That is to say, can she love me much longer)?

 

this is not about love,

but to render ourselves become

and find in this darkness softening eyes

(That is to say, I have never found such softness before)

 

she will find me in the firewood

render me a city of ash

teach me to map these scars to tenderness

(That is to say, I know now that not all gods find their tongues in gunpowder and shotgun barrel)

 

just as time is fleeting,

even we will soon forget ourselves

to gasp for what little air is to be found at the surface

The poet will make a habit of pain until she learns the face of healing

 

search for my eyes in this dark

you will find them lost in yours

entranced by tightening skin

and sharpening breath and

 

the assonance I found in you alone

 

must I paint you a muse

but everything I sought in the forage

 

show me the fountain

from where I might drink the last of this sorry pain into nothing

 

What else might our survival resemble

but the reflection in which we have realised dysmorphia

but histories cannot be written out of love

anymore than this redemption

 

and so, who will write our (love)story but me

who had found in you the will to be

(That is to say, even keloid scars can fade into insignificance)

 

and so where might we start a tale

whose beginning is stuttering

her fear of the end

(That is to say, we read what lines these palms had written for us)

For This Dark Skin (after mourning black sons)

I do not know what to say;

Where I do start,

There is poetry in the beginning and end of this

 

I am afraid I will forget you,

Dead in the street like dog,

Dead in street like mutt, like negro

Teach me the couplets lain between your lines and dark boy

That we can remember you

When you are the flicker in the poet’s cigarette butt

And the dregs in empty wine glasses

And dinner table chat as the people fix their white to debate your humanity

While they gorge on black pain

Devour the density in this skin

Decide on how we resist

 

I want to remember the taste of your god and click

And creases in cotton and construct

Remember what it was like before

Black was only pretty as it swelled

 

Dark skin cries oil slick

***

Black boy,

Too dark boy,

 

I know there is God in your obsidian

There can be no home for divinity but in the earth of your complexion

This skin gives life like our lives don’t get snatched from us

Teach us hide fear between our callouses, know well who’s out hunting.

 

Black Skin knows salt water well

Knows well the kiss of ocean beat against wood and tar

Knows well the cold of this water bites like bleach

Knows well rivers which try to swallow us whole and this dark skin could never swim

Knows well the tumble of mourning across

inhale

be calm

 

Child, go and find me your mother,

This boy’s gonna rot in the sun

Our boys, strange fruit, forever rot in this sun

You, white, stay lighting fires in this skin.

 

***

They twinkle, colonise our sky

Steady themselves in our dark.

Grip our wounds for balance.

they are never done talking of Man,

yet murder men everywhere they find field burnt skin

 

***

That boy has the stench of black about him like coffinkiss soil

 

These shadows are growing but the Sun will not come.

He has forgotten our name in this darkness

And cares not where we will go.

 

***

There is a baptism in this blood

Tonight, we will wash the last of their gunpoint god from our tongues.

Tonight,  take Ogun with you as you travel this darklit road,

Carry this skin close to your chest until you can find the last of yourself in the fear of man.

Remember to call from the other side,

There are many here who love you like damp fingertips on glass panes.

 

***

Dark skin

the villainy in their hackneyed constellations will find their sleep

know never to shed your twilight

know well that these stars fall in mourning of you

know well how to breathe, the air is seeking out your lungs through these gunshots

know well this pound of flesh will not be in vain

know well you will never walk this night alone, the winnowed sky will forever be your own

know well the density in this skin, it will not crack under the weight of our grief

know well that you are loved, we still wait for you to come home

 

The Tear That Kissed The Window

I found myself writing these
words again
Two tales
cut, tessellate
I have seen this skin before
and touch

Heard this voice in different pitch
Discovered this curl and
blonde, or brown.
And held this back, close
Sought home in the crook of these elbows
glance, these palms and trace.

Cried for these men
and acquainted with cold bathroom floors.

I have worshipped at these temples
palms flat on headboard
gripped these hems
reclined in this cloth.

I have known you sexual and apart
and unravelling on beds
and pieces and disembody
and body and mind two islands
extricate and dismember
and legs in pairs but isolate.

I have discovered the parts of you
which secret and private
and stretch like limb from bark
and eyes and curve
and find
and find
and brown thatched home which crumble.

You know I and deep
still one but find
and lost and you
but clutch and hold
still dust and cinder

I have met these constellations
known sweet talk the sky

and sit on clouds
and grasping branches
and reach
skimming fingers through brewing storms –
still

Haikus on Idealism

o yẹ ki a dupe                         

o yẹ ki a dupe

o yẹ ki a dupe

o yẹ ki a dupe

ara son                                     

ategun fẹ                                 

iji jà ko gbé wa lọ                    

o yẹ ki a dupe

 

Your chatter is cluttering this landscape

I cannot see for this baptism of fire

And the sun that falls out of her safety in your mouth.

 

Place your palm over these lips,

That I can hold onto the mother that spill from this careless.

 

The relics that dance foreign between my teeth

Are forgetting who you are

 

ema fi mi sile                                  

mi o fẹ sọyin nu                    

 

Find me in folds and agbada         

Swimming between the space left by the teeth my father

Lost to cigarette butts

And his quickclench fists

                                                      And the first time I found myself and

The beautiful in

reimagining our world

as a place of hope

 

I am learning to love these scars as the braille

Which help them hear me in this dark

 

Lori oke meji, we wear our trauma like trinkets 

And caves are our homes

But a cave is no home

 

Look what you have done, it is all on the floor

This mother tongue and English cannot rhyme

It will snatch the shape from these stanzas

Like all the anthologies I found my mother in

 

Se o ti ri ọmọ-ale ri?                                        

My talkback spits back the sweat of my mother’s labour

And the fingers she peeks through as she cannot bear to

                                                      watch me swallow this sun whole with

The bravery in

knowing this world is our own

and all change is me

 

Some days I drool my homeland

Down the spines of my textbooks

And borrow for just a second

 

I remember the growl in your throat ma

 

The ends of softening dodo                               

Shrunk in my hands

Or did I grow around the whistling sound

 

The gate guarding utopia is now high enough to climb

And the space between you and your daughter on her 25th birthday

Can be traversed

 

Where is the safety in home?

My wrists are itching,

I am forgetting the words to the songs you wrapped me in

Iro yin where I find sleep    

 

Adura yin niferan mi                                         

I am unearthing the prayer you gifted me

 

The word you have buried in me is rabid and strength

It barks to warn them,

 

                                                There is fight in the ticks in this wrist – searching for

 

The power I found

In believing resistance

Cannot be in vein

 

I am not here to dwell,

We have work to do.

Us three, orange rings glowing lazily in the dark.

 

 

 

The Hills, and Other Little Things

Somewhere, past the tin can church we held,

Lie the words we have shed

And those we still hold.

 

Come now, these clothes are weighing us down

Let us set down this burden,

Lay naked on the cliff face,

And traipse the mound ten thousand men had marched before us.

 

You seraphic eyes, blondebrown hair boy

             of old folk tales and love with open arms

                    and flatpain chest. There is no life save when these

                              palmsmeet. And these chests heave in haemophilic sunrise

 

There is Sun in these vessels

and the trestle in you.

 

He who loves between beigewhite knuckles

                    and the folds on page 21 or 32 or something

                                                       and floors of empty port glasses

 

He who I lost in the recesses of adorno

                     and the baring of these hands

                             and the falling in these sheets

 

You are falling apart around me,

pooling at my feet

staring up my skirt as I cry

 

Long lost friend who I had never found

let me find safe in the crook of your heart

you do not have to loveme tonight

Just hold

Do not let me go

 

We can reconcile

       these pieces;

                               put us all back together again, with what we have collected since

                                       us both, we have been broken

                                                  must we be fixed?

                                                can we not be found

                                                 amongst the rubble

                                          and in the curve of this slope;

 

Look, they have paved us a path through paradise

And destroyed it on the way

 

Can we see the hedges as friends

and not as boundaries

As shelter

and not backs

 

You of upturned cornered mouth and soft eyes

You of patterned speech and quick tongue

You of finding and search and unspeak my uneasy

 

Thank you for showing me this green again,

                        and showing me learn again

and uprooting the complacence in my lost

and unearthing the shrapnel in me I’d forgotten to love.

The Trouble With Poets. Or, Trying.

I. December 2nd

 

So tell me your darkest fear

Tell me how you fear yourself above all

Warn me not to care

But I will still be here

 

Tell me you will hurt me

I will show you my healing wrists

Tell me the world is cruel, dark and unforgiving

I will show you the chasms of skipping heartbeats

 

Hold me to you with palms flat against my chest

I will show you the beauty in resistance

Hold me to you as you crumble

I will catch the broken pieces on my tongue

 

We will fuck between palms, fingertips and broken hearts

Write poetry with death

Revive dreams long since forgotten

Swap our skeletons and hollow souls

 

We will quiver in pools of scarring tongues and self-destruction

Watch the darkness kiss sunlight with touching palms

Listen to shuttering breaths

You will close your eyes and shut me out

 

Talk to me about the war you are having inside

Collapse all foundations of fear

Tell me your darkest secret

Show me your ugliest mask

 

I will still be here.

Please, just never hate me more than you hate yourself.

 

II. Lessons on Loving the White Man (after Jeanann Verlee)

Or 10 things I would say to me on November 29th

Or Reasons why I am a Masochist

 

One

 

This will end how you have guessed

Do not fight the inevitable

It will be easy to find perfection in his privilege

And beauty in his broken

Ready your heart for the open

And bare

And lost in his voice

 

Two

 

You will meet him when you least expect it

Him, thick rimmed glasses, eyes full of secrets

Him, head down, entangled legs on dancefloor

Him, holding the skin between your black and shorts

You, holding on for sanity and leading him into your sanctuary

A sopping open book

He will look into your eyes and ask about you

Your dark eyes will grow to be a euphemism for your skin

You will speak in euphemism disguised as prose

 

Three

 

His black and patterned cowboy boots will find a home at the foot of your bed

Your bed will grow used to unravelling threads and facial hair

 

Four

 

You will swap poetry but your metaphor will not be rich enough

Your command of your mother tongue will not be as fluid as his French

Do not allow yourself to gravitate towards him

The first time he hurts you; read the signs

The next morning, regret everything you are

Wait on his apology, it may come

When he tells you not to care; ignore

He will forget the things you talk about.

 

Five

 

Time will pull you into your respective worlds

 

Six

 

When he says I love you, check to see her name erased from the top of the message

Stay up all night thinking about it, convince yourself

That your dark and bitch are worthy of love

Do not question it in the morning; he will forget.

 

Seven

 

The night you bare your soul

Do not expect the courtesy of a response

Do not check your phone more than once

Do not text him again to remind him you exist

Do not expect him to love your damaged as

You love his dirty and hidden

Do not fall into the nine year old girl wishing she was white so the other kids would stop touching her hair, so their parents wouldn’t be so scared of you coming over

 

Eight

 

Remember it is all in your head

Remember he has never uttered your name in public

Remember he will never mention you to friends

Remember he has only ever noticed your black and thick

Remember he is not yours

He will find her again in a city of apple blossom and mangled consciousness

Sit in empty bathtub and console yourself with wine

 

Nine

 

Black is designed to absorb beauty, make white light forget to illuminate.

What made you think he could see the flicker beneath your heavy chest?

He loves your heavy chest

Do not let him appropriate your bones with this idolatry

Do not let him refashion your Ochun Aphrodite

You have spent far too long twisted and open as the legs of fertility dolls to surrender the story in your melanin to him

Do not let him use the word nigga until he understands why

Do not let him use you to affirm his identification with rap

Do not let him use you to cement his rebellion against his parents and privilege

Your love is not your oppression, not a misappropriation

Do not regret the missing silk in your hair

These kinks and coils were gifted to you by generations of women who bore children on their backs, grew phoenix from scalp as husbands raised open palms, your mangled afro is your strength

These coils will hold you together on the darkest night.

 

Do not let him force feed you his fix me

I’ve never been with a black girl is a warning

Black girls always get given white boys to fix before he

Realises he needs someone his parents would be more comfortable with having at the dinner table

Black girl typecast peripheral

 

Ten

 

Do not love him more than you love yourself

You will need to be able to fix your broken

On days when it feels like this melanin does not belong to you

When he realises that

Men like him

Are not made to love

Girls like you

 

Wait, when he looks you in the eye

Remember how it will end

 

The third begins with a poem by Him,

 

I will call it ’Again’

 

Last night you made me feel my body was mine

and whole and not a cut up montage for

a feast of men and women to devour

with hands and teeth and eyes while by the hour

the god inside retreated to his store

of worlds and threw them into the divine

wide universe as far away through time

as hand or arm or leg or thigh could swing

as heart or eye or ear or mind could see

when last night you reminded me of me

and how my skin and your skin could be a thing

of everything and how our thoughts could rhyme

if not commensurate while last night you

perhaps thought nothing of the things you do.

 

III. Revisiting Shattered Glass

Or, A Love Letter to Moving On and Loving You Still

 

There are fights I am not yet ready to raise fists

for and I am not yet ready to stop loving you

but these limbs had grown weary and these hands

are coming undone and these eyes are no metaphor

 

There are words which refuse to find themselves between us,

“I loved you.” “-

I am more afraid to say you hurt me than to keep thinking you

don’t or won’t care “-

 

And words abstract our being

All that we are is poetic license, retone and touch up until

Distance                                                                    is                                                      warmth

Melt me down to                                                                            concept,

 

you cannot love in the abstract,

cannot feel in the abstract

Still brand the inside of this mouth your

own and I will bear your contorted crescent moons

 

and watch dawn with me

 

but this silence is not poetic

just prose

 

and these limbs are not lithe

not smooth, cannot contort and this heart is no acrobat,

 

There is no beauty left in this space

But I see beauty in us, everywhere.