The mouth is a casket.
There is no light in the head of a boy
getting ready to turn on the music.
Here is the dress,
Here is the toe dipped in wings,
Here is the soul lost in the hands of time.
Look how he dances like a butterfly trapped in a bottle,
His mouth is a slice of sunlight.
How rare and beautiful are endangered things,
How sweet is the cover of darkness
before dawn ushers in a book of lessons.
Nina Simone croons about freedom and dark skin
as he weaves across an empty room in a red dress,
his hands are ropes released to the winds.
what is it they say about freedom and Eden?
a fruit is also a naked skin
finding pleasure in the art of a finger
before a voice cuts life into death
and sends man to a voyage of sadness.
It is too early to talk about a gun
in the heart of burning city
but before the song comes to an end
he will learn that a father’s hand can be a gun
trailing a boy deep into a lonely forest,
He will learn how the heart can swim in sorrow,
He will learn how a mother can be a wound
in the side of a man,
Before darkness is shattered by fire
he will dance with a boy’s name on his skin
and give light to dark flowers,
He will call the gun a name from his childhood
and as he is led to the altar
he will look at the hand raised in thunder
and call a face on fire, father.
First published on Afridiaspora.
Romeo Oriogun’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming on Kalahari Review, African Writer, Brittle Paper, EGC Blog, amongst others. His Chapbook “Burnt Men” is available for download on Praxis. He lives and writes in Ikare-Akoko, a sleepy town in Western Nigeria.