Carve Your Prayers & Other Poems

Damilola Omotoyinbo

Vignettes of Love


I hate our love for what it would not become. Perhaps we will learn this religion. Recite incantations and conjure the gods. But before then, let’s give pillows to sleeping dogs.


What is the colour of our love? Red? A rose budding where it is not wanted. Blue? A sea that swallows its voyagers. Slice yourself open and hide a creature your size in your chest.


Does that not unsettle you? That people don’t search for affection from a heart they can’t hold on bare palms. Give me your love and for it, I will find a perfect heart. 


One starved of affection. A mouth that will eat a sword and not flinch. A veteran of ache. When you said the universe orchestrated our meeting as if every stranger eventually morphs into a lover.


I smile and wonder how strangers have met just to become strangers again – while the universe watches with glee. Tell me, aren’t we but dice in this game? Give me your love and I will show you how delicately it is laced with lies. 


Clad with deceit. Veiled with falsity. Tell me how full this time can become. Can’t you see? The time is full and there are no answers here. There is a good way to sever the memory of you from my heart – from my being, it is with a poem – this one. Because a poem too can be a blade.

Carve your prayers

into the shape of your misery. Let God see and wonder what masterpiece you have made off this emptiness. Time unveils it and like an artefact, you carry the bruises of your earthly voyage.

Fragile thing skids through time. Hands shuffle the bag of memories. Ask the universe, how much darkness can a shadow absorb before it blends into night. 

What terror death holds that it wrings the breath of men. What emptiness is bestowed on earth that it feeds on the prey of death. And leaves men in the front pocket of anguish.

Spirits bouncing out of their abodes of flesh. Bones set ablaze by the fire flowing through them. When stars begin to fall as rain, hold them before your eyes, till they morph into a constellation.

Consider this familiar madness, to write an ode for demons holding hands with your shadow. Shedding layers upon layers till spirits find no space to dwell. 

And they levitate in search of home – an abode vaster than the body of flesh. A poet searches for self and marvels at this hollow the world has threaded into him.

make a list

of the things the world has stolen from you. if it sings the song
of emptiness like a preta, call it a liar. tell me all that has called
you by the names of sorrow, a heap of darkness.

broken mirror scatters the reflection of light. shadow follows the trail
of its owner. man returns from the fortune teller
and bears a name heavier than him. 

these arms are not small to give the paddle a firm
hold. but the wind beckons
the sea to feast. canoe wiggles its waist to the rhythm of the water. 

grenade blows up a home into nothingness  – a mother buries
the remains of her sickly son. as she washes blood
off her hand, she says to her gods, i am done holding together
what is meant to fall apart. 

don’t wish a dead thing back to life. don’t mend what is better
left broken. tap your feet, make merry – summon the gods
of happiness. tie on the tip of your apron a slice
of the moon.

if the world has watched you live many years,
you are not better off than the man who dined
with death before sprouting a strand of grey hair.
don’t drop a bundle of flowers on the tombstone of he who was
betrothed to death by his kinsmen, or you will grieve his spirit.

i do not tell you what to do with what has befallen you.
joy or sadness. but you can open your mouth wide,
encircle the luscious fruit
which is your life and suck till nothing is left of it.

take joy, a dessert and the milk of misery. take a plate of confusion
and a jug of laughter. eat, lap them up heartily –
a meal the world has set before you.

Damilola Omotoyinbo, Frontier XIX, is a Nigerian Creative Writer. A Fellow of the Ebedi International Writers’ Residency. She has work published or forthcoming in The Deadlands, Ake Review, New Feathers Anthology, Olongo Africa, Agbowó, Better Than Starbucks, Nigerian Tribune Newspaper and elsewhere. Damilola studied Biochemistry.


*Image by Steinar Engeland on Unsplash

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