Monday Aug 08

Romeo Oriogun Poetry Romeo Oriogun’s poems have appeared or forthcoming in Brittle Paper, Expound, Lambda, Afridiaspora, African Writer, among others. He's the author of Burnt Men, an electronic chapbook published by Praxis Magazine Online and the 2017 winner of the Brunel International African Poetry Prize. He's also a fellow of Ebedi International Writers Residency.

How to Hate Your Body

The world has taught him not to see the nature of his skin,
carefully crafted body falling into sunset
not in dreams but in a lacquered box of magic,
in the soft call of birds going home
and he couldn't define the beauty of the river
flowing out of his mouth,
the scent of eucalyptus rising
from somewhere familiar.
Songs burst from the breast of birds
and he turns from this beautiful body,
turns into the dark because he knows
what happens to boys whose bodies
taste of wet earth and he is angry at the song
rising from somewhere deep in his belly.
He tears out his tongue and it unfurls
into a satin cloth, there's no word
left in his mouth to capture his magic,
only a hollow home, birds flew in with straws
and little sticks, with wings that have known
the caress of clouds and they made his mouth home
and they gave him back his song, he took it to river
but water gave it back in the throat of reeds
and he held his song like a dead child and buried it beside a tree,
there was no witness, only the moon speaking a thousand
languages and a desire resurrected from the ground
following him, showing him how certain longings
do not die while we who have accepted the magic of our bodies
stare with pity, hoping the song brings him home.

My body is no miracle

Before I discovered home
I sat on a beach to hear the water
in my body speak to the water going back
into places I've never been to.

I want to tell you about my voice
traveling between waves, getting lost
because I hid it from my father
who pretended to be asleep when
I called the boy who spoke Portuguese on phone.

And nothing gets better, not the boys setting fire to your doll's hair,
not your mother asking where you learnt that language from,
where you got the magic to make boys drop like dead leaves behind you.

You do know some hate do not die, do not forget
the boy who you thought understood will say at night I don't
want you touching me, no funny business here.
And you will grow smaller, dirtier, you will stay awake
because you don't want your body moving on his own,
morning won't bring smiles, your father's phone call
will be a bullet, the exact size that shatters bones.

There is no place where you will be accepted,
not under the soft rolls of your mother's skin,
not under the tongue of God
and is alright because you will search for castoffs
like you, queer souls filled with love in dark places,
souls who knew how home also is war,
you will raise a house together from darkness,
from love, from all the words that has thrown
you into the cold and there will be no gospel there,
just the boy who begged God to take away this thirst,
the boy whose mother burnt his five fingers,
the boy whose body couldn't believe light
is somewhere you lie down and sleep without
searching for blows, the boy whose body
knew nothing but darkness and you will sing
these beautiful bodies to sleep.

I do not know when I became saved,
when my body knew life exists without tiptoeing
around my father's house, praying he doesn't hear our giggles,
praying my love won't wake the anger resting in his fist.
I do not know when my body started saying things it felt like saying,
there was no miracle to my salvation. Just a boy walking on a lonely road,
walking into other boys who knew salvation lies in raising a home in the wild.

Eternal Love

During January with the air heavy with the smell
of rotten cashews, I walk into the city with my hand
around my lover's waist, his eyes so brown they taste of honey.
Do I offend you with my freedom?
Then you must close your eyes and not see my shoes,
wingtip brogue, magic of clouds trapped around my ankles,
my denim jeans tight, my body so lean
angels stare in envy. Do you see better now?
There were days I hated my body, scrubbed it till it became
smaller, a whittled prayer, a dog hiding behind a door
and you called me good because my voice
was lost and I didn't know good was a bad word
and I wanted to fit into the space you prepared for me,
which is a space full of darkness,
which is a boy hiding to know the taste of love.
How do you explain this? That my body is what refuses
to die, when you threw us into dark hall, locked the doors
so we couldn't be seen, did you see the way our body
dissolved into colors changing the sky at sunset?
We are so beautiful the rainbow was named after us,
because after storms filled with killings and lynches
and the hatred that fills up your room we still fill
the world with laughter. How do you kill beauty?
I see you coming after me, your hands balled into a fist,
my body receiving hatred, my lover lying over me,
our bodies ready to be pummeled into a massacre.
What's the symbol for death? In darkness, under the earth,
we will find our way each into other hands,
our song becoming the symbol for resurrection.
How do you stop a love that survives death?


I still wear my body from years back,
body heavy with wet dreams hiding in darkness,
heavy with the smell of marijuana lying idle
in brothels where a man goes to kill
the desire rising in his mouth.
I've walked for years with the weight of my dead body,
slept under the breast of God,
slept in the mouth of a woman I met in the rain,
liquor riding my veins until I met my body in a body of water,
body so full of light it knocked down trees and hills to create this water
full of brown wonder and my mouth keeps singing
a reggae song, knowing how the sun brings pain
into bodies heavy with darkness.
Before this water nothing was real, not joy or hope
except the boy who took in one dark night
and bathe me, gave me the grace of rotten seeds
sprouting into new trees and I couldn't touch him,
didn't know what to make of this new feeling
dragging my body through heavy clouds,
didn't know if his body would accept mine
heavy with the dust of roads.
I left before dawn because kindness is strange
to people full of sadness, because I didn't want to look
into his face and find all my fears waking up.
I left and walked alone for a long time
until my body could see its reflection in water
and didn't turn back.