By Samuel A. Adeyemi

When they walked into the cathedral, God
watched them walk. When the bullets prepared
to leave the gun, they left the gun. The prayers

shielded nothing. The father against his son
shielded nothing. The bullet will always obey,
find a way through the body’s anxious defense.

I am tired of writing about my country. Every
week, the news finds a way to break my heart.
The music is unchanging. We keep dancing to

the same ritual of blood. But the poem demands
to be written. A nail to the back of our heads prods,
saying, Ẹ̀mí àwọn òkú wa ń bínú. Do you not hear?

The spirits of our dead are raging. From the gunshot
wounds, they call out to the living. But the poem
resurrects nothing. It cannot avenge them. Look

outside. A war is coming. We do not even have
the safety for love. Let us pluck out our hearts
and bury them in our backyards. If we survive,

we will return and dig them out from the dirt.
The war is coming. The war is coming. For now,
bury your heart. Pray for the spot. Holy Father,

do not let this place become a bomb crater.
Then pray for the prayer. For in my country of
guns and napalm, everything needs bulletproof.


They Will Forget You if You Make No Noise

Yet all I have these days is
silence. A tree with no branches, quiet

when the wind comes.

I get distant and distant.
I could touch

the end of my metallic shell.

It is not loneliness, because I have love.
I have found love at the edge

of my festering heart.

But asides from my beloved, I reveal myself
to no one. My time, secret as

the colour of my voice.

All of the things that interest me
have been whittled down, shrunken into a cube.

The world fails at inspiring
the dead.

I am alive, yet far from it.

I move through a cave
built from the darkness of my life.

The danger is in contentment. The sugar
of solitude makes it desirable.

I have become the ghost of my body.

There is nothing new
to be revealed to you.

Why, then, should I not go, folding
into my quietude?

Listen: outside, the many voices
of the curious world.

Yes, I see the snakes moving towards
my feet. They prod, wanting to question me.

I could hurl rocks at them, but I allow
their slither.

They will abandon me, assuming
my stillness for death. E

Samuel A. Adeyemi won the 2021 Nigerian Students Poetry Prize. His chapbook, Rose Ash, was selected by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani for the 2023 New-Generation African Poets chapbook box set.