Sunday, August 1, 2021

Two Poems, Bola Opaleke



Shhhhh! This is how she tamed a roaring lion.


Akanke let him get himself lost

in the forest of her shhhhh. Pull him

closer & closer until he disappears between


her thighs.


The weight of his face

concealed. Wherein the child mothers

the child, not even the blood moon


would dare


to stop the leaf that carries

the branch. He looks upward

to seek the face of mercy, licks shhhhh then


finds god


is no longer where

he used to live. Akanke could have

just tipped him over into his next life


but thought instead:


what use is a lion

reduced to limbless frog? If this planet

is any hint, beasts would still be


the gods


in the afterlife. She knows

he can only just whistle, not

roar. Tells him, the road from the forest


is forked


like the tongue of a snake.

Tells him, there is no coming back

from the shhhhh wherein he is fated to vanish. 



Guilt sometimes runs its fingers

down my spine the way a soldier runs his finger

down a map. I have lived inside a coffin


all my life. It suits the death my grief ignites.

I tried, but can no longer say, “Please, forgive me”


without first bending toward the ashen earth

to kiss the low clouds of helplessness. The soldiers,

they came in hundreds inside the yard where children play


boju-boju oloro nbo. They pulled off my clothes.

They vandalized the road on my body leading back home.


Tell me, how do you love a country laughing

at your pain? In the kitchen, undressed

on the wet floor, its shadow is the same as a man holding a gun.


Someday, a child will feel the guilt of leaving

his parents but not the shame of abandoning his home.


Dogs barking violently at naked women–

their hands tied to the back. They said, we’re wrong.

They have groomed them to always say, “it’s our fault”.


The dogs yelling at a little girl, “open it,

open the damn door”. Her tiny hand cannot


even reach the knob. She screams, hand clutching the air,

Baba, e gba mi, then her body gives. Night

begins to fall from her hair. Is this not how my country pounces


upon my soul? A girl crying & crying inside my head.

Her ghost not understanding that, me too, I’m living inside a coffin.






*Baba, e gba mi, translates to the English as: Father, save me

Bola is the author of Skeleton of a Ruined Song. Winner of 2020 Thomas Morton Prize in Poetry. A few of his poems have appeared or forthcoming in journals like Prairie Fire, Frontier Poetry, Rattle, CBC Books, The Nottingham Review, The Puritan, Literary Review of Canada, Sierra Nevada Review, The Indianapolis Review, Canadian Literature, and many more. He holds a degree in City Planning and lives in Winnipeg MB.  Bola is currently Arts Community Director with Winnipeg Arts Council Board of Directors.

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