Monday Oct 22

Tonade Poetry Teniola Tonade teaches Philosophy at the University of Lagos. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Word Riot, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Gargoyle, Vinyl, Cleaver Magazine, Elsewhere Lit Mag, and More Than a Number: Poems and Prose for Baga.


A brown bird whistled
its name from a pylon rung
opposite our house,
fluttered its wings
and landed on a pavement
in front of our door,
breathing without a strain.
A hundred yards away
within our large, communal compound,
my cousin drove a nail into the earth
in hope to keep the wonder
grounded there, then stood up
with a strain, his breathing heavy
like a drunkard’s snore.
That evening the bird flew away
with as much ease as it plummeted
and did a drop on my cousin’s head:
breaking his belief into unwholesome bits
like a bearded vulture does a bone.
My mother laughed and laughed
at my cousin’s faith. I laughed with my mother.

And she has prayed and prayed
about our poverty; sacrificing food
to such an extent that her fasting now should be
a feast. And yet we are still poor:
the bird of wealth still stays aloof, fluttering her wings
in an unreachable sky. My cousin’s laughter weighs
a pound of wounded flesh. My mother cannot laugh
in a normal way. She flashes gnashed teeth
in a manner that I cannot say. I cannot laugh with her.

            — After Whitman

There are no miracles but in the ordinary
processes of daily life. The ripening of apples

beneath the shade of leaves, and how
the leaves will not partake of the apples

they shield, is a miracle. The squeals of new-born
babies are a miracle, telling of sorrows and

insecurities our world did not cause. The silence
of a new-born day, the march of darkness

upon the secret-busting light, man woman girl
or boy seeking diurnal bread — are these not miracles?