& because songs are often hands that lead us
to places we have been before, I am here
walking into a valley of names. Every name I ever knew
that became a memory of garnet & bones in this place.
My mouth is full of all the strangeness around us,
none of which bears the taste of dawn.
Lately I’ve been making paper boats with my poems.
A very easy thing to do when a country holding you
like crested irises by the riverside only happens in your head.
The voices in your head telling you to take up your bed & run.
I once passed by a group of children & couldn’t stop
thinking for days about taut skins, houseflies & obese leaders.
I stare at a rainbow here & realize how badly I want it
to be my only poem. Last night I prayed
that this place will no longer be where God would be someone’s
alibi for sending others out of their bodies. I mean it sounds
just fine when I call you brother & nothing else matters.
One day my friend asked me what was the closest thing to heaven.
I told him to spell snug & never spell it backwards.
Don’t you think we’ve been saying survival the wrong way?
There is so much we could do with our hands
if they were locked in embrace. I imagine us standing
among the war graves here, the forked songs
on our tongues blooming into stars, the war graves reckoned
only as memories living in the light.
Ayokunle Samuel Betiku
Ayokunle Samuel Betiku writes from the city of Ondo, South West Nigeria. He is a Young Writers and Creatives’ Award Fellow. He won the Eriata Orihbabor Poetry Prize for 2020, the BKPW Writing Contest for February 2021, and the Wakaso Poetry Prize for March 2021. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in journals and anthologies, including Libretto, Kreative Diadem, Lunaris Review, Pandemic Publications, Rough Cut Press, The Offing, The Temz Review & elsewhere.