Lagos Is a Watershed Dream & Other Poems

Olajide Salawu

Lagos Is a Watershed Dream

The vein of this city is tiny.
There are no rooms to write
unholy things. All God’s
wants are biodegradable.

When it rains
I have no name for this city but dirt.
When it rains sharks come for us
in shapes of plastic.

This city does not say
you should not dream of water,
if your arms are lifejackets.
This city does not say
you should not dream of home,
if you can sleep in a matchbox house.

A Case for the Ocean 

I learn things early from my mother;
that when a river burns,
don’t ask about the ashes.

I return to this ocean
to learn the journey this body​​
can make without being broken.
Ghosts of orcas haunt me
out of my dream.

I have seen enough
to say a river does not become
a lake of fire when its bed is not
rigged and its veins piped away.

I slip into the depth of the gulf
to measure the length of my grief;
it was all oily. I return to this river bank
to rinse myself of my sins, but
with what water can I wash myself clean?

Ecology of Dead Things

My mouth is filled with the ecology of dead things: rivers of dark waters, the city strewn with footprints of children looking for their mothers in a field of thorns. My eyes are filled with the ecology of dead things: carcasses of birds and souls of trees hacked from the roots; blurs of ghosts looking for their home; vultures cleaning up after Emin Pasha. There is no room for mercy for those who bring God to our doorstep. Today is another day of exodus to remember the darkness of 1897 that holds the city by the gut, what is left in the archive, and how we disappear in our own story. This evening belongs to men whose blood litter the side of the walls, whose faces are scratched by irons while holding on to the last set of ivories. This night is another night to look at the tongue of colonial sun and its tenderness of violence. In the house of memory, all we find are wounded gods placed on auctions and spirits crying for their home.

Olajide Salawu is the author of Preface for Leaving Homeland, published under the African Poetry Book Fund. His work has appeared in Transition, Rattle, Agbowo, Salt Hill, The Offing, Oxford Review of Books, The Journal, and so on. He is a Vancouver Manuscript Intensive Fellow.


*Image by Dustan Woodhouse on Unsplash

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