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Judas | Servio Gbadamosi

Judas | Servio Gbadamosi

A stretch-marked

body springs

from a broom-bunch,

forked, disparate.

Frayed as chewing-stick

thrice soaked

in mouth-vile then

spat, morphing

Into prying moulds,

shards of sin or hurried

prayers; a lighter grey

drawing the world to itself.

There is no end to this night

of mutterings, supplications—

knees built into the ground, bones

nailed to the doorpost of torment.

The house of prayer burns still,

incense fills the archangel’s

nostrils; his heart breaks, then

mends itself to break again.


We invented tragedy here

a Greek gift sold in ounces

until Roman histories in the Aeneid 

when folly held the reins—

Drowned the horse of power

where the Nile met the sea

and greed sat drooling, 

pleasuring itself to the moon.

Like kernels stripped of nuts

cackling in a blacksmith’s forge

faith stretches its fire to the black body—

a fictive past, an imagined future

Adversity breaks it into soft-steel

the steel resists, the softness breaks

the ore melts, flowing into a mould

that will equally be broken.

So then, a tapestry of brokenness 

is woven, the fabric life wears

through direful entrails of nights—

the edacity of predatory hope

We survive the night to die at dawn,

or sometimes the day to die at dusk

we limp, trip, fall, weep, but rise

so, when I say people are my clothes 

Imagine them broken, worn, torn—

an amalgam of all that life brings,

beautifully spread like the wings

of a giant butterfly, in the midday sun.


The heart is a sack of sin

its weight sinks the spirit

till its rising is botched

and the wrenched phoenix

Forgets the third day’s act

is that of triumphant

masquerades thronging

the cursed streets of memory

With sound-bending whips

and beatings that muffle time

the past is reborn

the future still-birthed

A cry is song without

memory, or poetry when

home and exile collide.

is it time we hold?

Or Èṣù who mounted the 

poet, rammed a Portuguese 

barrel into him so his soul 

could foresee healing?


Kiss me, Judas

my forehead waits

my torso wrapped

waits in the city’s nights

Without fright or fight

the message came

expunged from the sea by

the soutane-wearing prophet

His hair, locked in a

battle against itself,

breath soaked in Miss Paris,

lips ashen from nights of

Salt-watered invocations

bouts or warfare,

slashing the sea-wind with

a scriptural sword—

I had the sea in my hands and

all the world’s wind in my

mouth. The prophesy threw me 

aground, beating itself into me

Hyenas crashed into the pen 

as the shepherd slept; the herd

dispersed and the shepherd waking—

grabbed life by the skirt as she fled.

Striations wide as the market’s mouth

usher in the painful promise

of beauty and a phallic fall—

Judas carved his art on my face…


And Judas became one with 

the night, warming himself

by the hearth of our songs as

twigs after twigs spread their

Feet in the fire called freedom

the cries of our hearts rising 

as ashes with the winds to 

the seventh heaven.

Suddenly, the stars were naked

twigs and leaves morphed into

garments till the whirlwind 

spoke and shame made our 

Home its resting place. We 

fell for his eyes glistening like 

a suckling’s; heaven’s blessings 

are sometimes human, we thought.

We took him in—one bright

star for our sea of blackness

we were—man and wife

tending the devil’s begotten

We laughed as children 

of the moon to come. Hope 

was our ship till it became 

a pathway for Olokun’s wrath:

When a brother sinks a dagger in 

your soul, the heart your lover 

inherits is a deep-breasted wound 

thirsting for healing…

Servio Gbadamosi

Poet and publisher, Servio Gbadamosi, is a recipient of the 2016 Ebedi International Writers Residency fellowship where he co-wrote the chapbook, A Half-Formed Thing with fellow residents, Ehi’zogie Iyeoman and Ikechukwu Nwaogu. His poetry collection, A Tributary in Servitude, won the 2015 Association of Nigerian Authors’ Prize for Poetry, and was shortlisted runner-up for the 2018 Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa.

Gbadamosi’s works have appeared online as well as in journals, newspapers and anthologies such as Nigerian NewsDirect, ANA Review 2017, ANA Review 2018, ANA Review 2019, Crossroads: Anthology of Poems in Honour of Christopher Okigbo, Fela’s Re-arrangement: A Collage of the Poetic Biography of Nigeria’s Folkhero of Afrobeat Music and The Sky is Our Earth: Anthology of Fifty Young Nigerian Poets. He coedited the poetry collections; The Promise this Time was Not a Flood: A Sevhage Anthology of Flood Poems and Salt of the Heart: Anthology of Poems for Nigeria at 50

He currently heads Noirledge Publishing, an independent publishing house with a focus on mainstreaming a generation of new voices in contemporary Nigerian writing.

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Photo by Emilio Garcia on Unsplash

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