Violence Is My Country’s Boyfriend

Two poems about loss by Ojo Taiye

Violence Is My Country’s Boyfriend

the most tender i’ve felt toward grief

a bird screams out of my window & i end where i begin. what's ill-fitting has undertow. a fish of 
my own desires. i am doing an investigation on home. i am told by mother the days are slow to 
pass, so i chew the wind and soil my sleeves. in all of this, there are too many names to unhear. 
i am restless and that is the worst part. there is too much to say for this body built for sacrifice. my 
father's  guilt  wears  me  like  a  purse  as  unkempt  as  my  lover's  heart.  i  am  having  trouble 
remembering my sister's face. in my earliest memory, a boy loses grasp on a branch falling not too 
far from his mother's tired fat. i know regret better than anyone. every child singing winter with a 
red sweet tongue is my typecast. my body responds to touch, jiggles at the suggestion of loss. i 
study my grandmother's body. my grandmother who could not wait for me to grab the white edge 
of where she was going. i have been canceled & candled by solitude. the solitude of litanies without 
their  tensile  tenure.  somewhere  south  on  king's  avenue,  i  once  kissed  a  girl  &  she  flinched  & 
sobbed as though she had just lost something forever inside me. a woman i know is laid out today. 
her face so full of wonder & uncomplicated dreams.

translation book for a child between countries

instead of having to say i’m falling apart because grief is easier to rename, i spend my night awake 
& press my back to the dark damp wood of my bed. there’d been black birds flitting above the 
crosshatched grass & a howl here so strong it shakes the pawpaw tree. i’m filled with the need to 
stay & i choose to stay this time for once with all my deep sins. the world tells me, i am a tree. i 
live in a spot on a train’s track that leads to nowhere. i touch myself— & at the next stop, i meet a 
girl who wears a stain— the stain on rubble like scarves around her neck. living can be an act of 
loss. i don’t know how to define mercy. my mother is a map of holes dressed in hooded vestment. 
my father is questioned for marriage fraud. my uncle dies from self-harm in a detention centre. my 
sister is a false minor— she wears white & became a shadow. my brother is a bird we return to the 
sky as smoke. it’s funny being here & a memory of motion. i'm no one’s daughter— a child with 
a hole in her throat. how did i get here? & in my hands, a whisper— war. what every child knows 
but rarely discusses. violence is my country’s boyfriend. nothing else cuts the air quite like this movie 
of blood blinking lively like popcorns along its numb scar. what leaves you half dead? what strips 
the precluded fascination with flowers? what paints you in colors with the blunt edge of a practiced 
tongue until gray appears on your earlobes like stoned cattle? i’ve lost track of the times i have 
hoped for something so simple & sweet to sip: jawbreakers. i confess i am a double-ended wick & 
i carried it for justice & the wind.

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