Osieka Osinimu Alao

Deconstructing the Mementoes of Oceans Flowing Inwards

black boy, black death, burnt earth:
cyclone of ashes, an opening prayer
for rebirth, a congregation of pariahs;
the universe, a theatre of misfits, or maybe
that’s what the interplay makes us believe.
a black boy’s bone is the length of an ocean
roaring with tides of chains; whenever he
walks, every stride is a hymnal of clangs
and his ancestry is an archive of clinks,
the breadth of his sinking pericardium.
he excavates his bones for a vestige of home,
to unearth the lineage that pervades his dreams
in series of folksongs re-echoing into alienation 
and the deeper he goes, the greater the dissonance
of the birdsongs that deserted his forebears like 
tongues of shadows at the shores of the unknown.
he withers into the darkness gnawing his viscera, 
and everything he ever knows is a grayscale
of unbelonging. every morning, he sings bits and 
bits of the songs that refuse to stay like hallelujahs 
heralding a genealogy of brutality and bullets. 


Poetry Should be About a Thing

How many bullets must a body absorb
for it to be a celestial coliseum, erected
for the admiration of angels? How many
for a genealogy to be wiped clean like a slate
at the bottom of the sea: what happens when
metal is dropped into water? The trajectory
of my bloodline, coursing beneath rudders tonguing
surfaces of ruffled waters weary of archiving death.
Ships, shrines of strangled dreams, and birdsongs
adulterated by influxes. In the beginning, God
created the heavens and the earth, but my ancestry
was recreated with the finesse of a flying bullet.
Poetry should be about a thing: herein, a bullet;
herein, a base for dissection; herein, the dissolution
of the song because its projectile is perforated.
How many bullets must my body absorb
before I see God and kick him in the nuts
and ask him why he made my bones magnets
for corrosive metals? Or maybe ask him
to take me to the beginning, to show me 
the Venn diagram of my scars where
sea overlaps ship, ship overlaps bodies,
bodies overlap bullets and Eden is just
a fancy name for the apocalyptic greens.


Osieka Osinimu Alao is a Nigerian writer, poet, editor, and academic. He holds an MA in Creative Writing from Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. He was shortlisted for the ANA-OSUN-OAU Prize for Poetry 2015, longlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2019, longlisted for PIN’s PWPC 2022, shortlisted for the Albert Jungers Poetry Prize 2022, First Prize Winner BPPC Soro Soke Edition 2022, and a winner in the Creators of Justice Literary Award 2022. His works are featured in ANMLY, Ta Adesa, African Writer Magazine, Rigorous, International Human Rights Art Festival, Lumiere Review, Poetry Column NND, Synchronized Chaos, and elsewhere. He is @OOAlao_ on Twitter & Instagram.