Three Poems


My father told me that his father
told him there were men who sheathed the sky

with their tongues, men
who paddled clouds in their canoes.

Men whose farmhouses were fireplaces,
whose mouths were thunderclaps

who fetched storms from their water pots,
made stars out of drums, danced into their graves

stunning history with songs, dazzling god
with the glossary of their feet.

Men who harnessed rain out of wind,
out of shadows, out of water breaking

the silence of newborns,
out of women who they loved in decibels.

we lift the gods from inside our bones

every god has its own song, its own dance, its own ritual:
a warlord swallows a pinch of fire, spits a volume of fury
we lift the gods from inside our bones, ache in the way
the clouds grumble in the way the trees shiver in the way
a room is never the same once a lamp walks into it in the way
that we dance this dance, we nurse each light falling out
of our bodies, as if to exist means to conquer, to become our
fathers wafting like smokes from their resting, to become
our daughters surrounding a fire, capering beneath moonlight, 
as ancestors become emissaries of their own songs, tingle 
our homes with blessings
our aged mothers will rise like moon over us, their mortal
spines the ache like our cracking mud-walls
while we sing of hunters, of fathers reincarnating as sons,
of mothers shifting bodies with their daughters 

[still photo of me as ikudaisi]

in this frozen image, i am a little child mining dreams from a starless sky.
imagine that my body is tender & ready to slip, also imagine that i fetch
my desires from this tree that speaks of children longing into oblivion, of mothers
throwing their children out of windows, chasing after shadows, casting names into air
here, i am also whirling to dirges, presenting the stars the tally of
scars called into my body
the kindness of death does not favor me in the room of daggers & flames in
a town burning down into ash, flames exiling into the nostrils of god;

in this photo, my mother’s head is collected by a machete & the man
licks her blood, he speaks of conquest, of a woman’s body withered into
and before my eyes, the war drives itself out of our home.


Photo by Todd Trapani on Unsplash

Adedayo Agarau

Adedayo, shortlisted for the 2022 Brunel International African Poetry Prize, is a 2022 Robert Hayden
Scholarship fellow of Stockton University and the recipient of the 2022 Stanley Awards for
International Research at the University of Iowa. He is studying for MFA at the Iowa Writers’
Workshop ’23. His manuscript, The Morning The Birds Died, was a finalist in the 2021 Sillerman
Prize. His chapbook, Origin of Names, was selected for New Generation African Poet (African Poetry
Book Fund), 2020, while Vegetarian Alcoholic Press published his chapbook, The Arrival of Rain in
January 2020. His poems are live or forthcoming in World Literature Today, Anomaly, Frontier, Iowa
Review, Boulevard, and elsewhere. Adedayo is the Editor-in-Chief at Agbowó: An African magazine
of literature and art. Adedayo edited Memento: An Anthology of Contemporary Nigerian Poetry. You
can find him on and @adedayo_agarau on twitter.