I CAN’T BREATHE
(For George Floyd)
All night, fear
Drills my fragile eyes like an arrow’s head
Until my body unsettles: the inability to
Still its core from crashing;
A rabbit’s skin: squeaking under the cold paws of grief.
The coffins watching us from the pandemic
News stretch; replace all the lights in a room
Once alive with names — a gash splits open,
Acute silence and carcasses collected into a mass grave.
A name takes root on every country’s mouth: death.
I step outside for fresh air to fall into a more tragic footage,
Washing black stars dressed in reversed elegance,
Singing bones after bones into melodies of flesh from a
Broken reed —
My throat lifts up, collecting blisters and unshed tears;
I pull a man’s knee out of my breath. The air finally escapes
With a name: George Floyd.
THE INSTINCT EATING US
This house wasn’t naked
Until the trees were felled — our eyes, now heavy
With sleep and fear;
Each time I say the prayer of preservation,
I end up watching the names of monsters
Fall off my tongue.
In my search for safety, I have found nothing
Other than a red radio on a red morning —
In between heat and night, a thin silence
Escapes my breath; peeps at the full moon,
Wishing for milk.
And what do you say again about
The false promise of light: the trap of darkness?
(I am devastated by memory:
17- year old Tina shot
By a police in Lagos and Uwa raped and murdered
In a place of worship in Edo)
How fearful when those who protect us
Also kill us? When a place that fortresses
Becomes a death trap?
In my country, teeth and gnashing;
We pretend not torn —
The way we collect our
Smithereens into a bottle of cheap cologne, into
A shimmering whole and laughing face masks; you’ll
Mistake we’ve never known thorns. That we’ve been
Happy all our lives. Behind,
You’ll marvel at the festering complacency
In the face grave injustice, our appeal
Of suffering; how deep,
The river of tears meandering the back of our tongues.
Goodness Olanrewaju Ayoola is a Nigerian poet and English teacher who reaches out to poetry as escapism from the contentions within/around him. His poetry appeared in Glass, Pangolin Review, Mojave Heart, Ethel Zine and elsewhere. He is a Best of the Net Award Nominee and author of Meditations (WRR, 2016).