The Anatomy of Silence & Other Poems

Dami Ajayi

The Anatomy of Silence

(For S.)

What do I accept from this silence,
this silence that lacerates peace,
this silence, anathema to bliss.

This silence, pensive, dramatic
amping tension, wrecking intention,
this silence, violent and vicarious,
this silence between two lovers &
two phones.

This silence seems to say something,
my bunny ears cocked at the angle of a
murderous gun,
I can’t hear you
I can’t hear
I can’t.

I listen for silence,
the rub of nappy hair on metal,
the rub of stringy beard on brass.
I listen beyond this silence
to the tragic music of indifference;
if victory invites ululation,
why must silence seek its own company?

I know comfy silence
plush like Persian rugs &
burgundy ottomans,
silence cut with the finesse of
affluence.
Silence that
accounts for itself.
Silence that touches itself.

I know post-coital silence
spent bodies in repose,
the plop of a weary heart
buried so far deep in a rack
of ribs.

I know the silence of old couples
sashaying in the wind,
cloth hems fluttering,
holding hands & each other’s lives
with a gentle grip calcified
by church blessings & offspring.

I know the silence of flailing love
Its complacency trudging with egg-shell caution
I know the silence of sibling rivalry,
knotted by mother’s love
& cord blood.

I know the silence that precedes sleep.
The dip into unconsciousness,
neurones decelerating,
activating slow waves & dreams

I have learnt the lofty lesson of silence &
its kinship with patience.

The gap between
two songs on a playlist is silence.
The lacuna between two rising voices is silence.
The response to unrequited love is silence.
A mother’s call of an errant child demands silence.
The gaps between prayers is silence.
The hallmark of a graveyard is silence.

Tell the tranquil waters about silence
Tell the aftermath of a reverberating echo
about silence.

Tell silence about silence and silence will be
its response. But where do I hold this silence?

A Poem for the Condemned Poet

(For T.M)

I

The poet is in the dock
hands in cuff.
See these manacles
as adornments for affection.

Like Orunmila,
Nothing good comes easy in Iwo.
Nothing good comes easy.
Nothing good comes

when the bailiff sends his vocal cords
on a shrilly mission,
when the obese judge’s seat squeaks
& the court is in session.

II

Do you know this man?
I do not know this poet.
Have you ever seen him?
No, not in this lifetime.
Does he mean anything to you?
Does he mean anything at all?

The witness is excused.
Lips taut,
hair swept behind a scarf,
lithe fingers, dainty gait,
like a flower in spring.
Feet shod in white sneakers
eyes accompany her out of the courtroom.

III

What allocutus shall the poet give
for his liberty in the Court of Inquiry
on Affection?

What words shall save him from the
despair of frivolous desire?

In this poem for the condemned,
nothing shall save the poet
from the gauntlet of justice.

Nothing shall be saved
not even the wreath of a smile.

Nothing is expendable.
The poet will drown &
the witness will be Pontius Pilate,
hands washing water.

Untitled

(For Chebet)

Grief is a slippery thing.
No loss perfects the act of losing a loved one.
Each loss is different, a new thing.
Dendrites crushed;
heart quivering, mourning forever
the fatality of mortal bodies.

The night before you left
fond thoughts of you poured into
my chalice & I smiled in remembrance
& said a soft prayer for you
without knowing that you were
doing the final round of appearances.

When the cortege returned to say
you had been irretrievably ripped
from us, I shattered in an open office
& held on to fond nocturnal memories
& a song.

It shouldn’t have been you
to creep away one spring morning.
I struggle, grappling for totems
to remember you by.

Grief is slippery but a deeply human thing
& I pray for the repose of your soul
& your return to share your beauty
once again with the world.

Bring alligator pepper this time
& the scar from the sting of youthful death
& the utopia of the Yoruba prayer
that days be distant from each other.

328 to World’s End

1.
you know nothing of the senbene
of a dying cigarette or friendship

loyalty lapsing,
theatrics of a deflating balloon

a macabre brownian darting
ends with a flutter & a fall,
the senbene of a dying friendship,

the discarding of a cigarette butt,
a slow cure to a perfect life.

In the 328 heading to World’s End and Chelsea,
the cold wafts in, for hugs and company,

for friendship that we cannot afford.
The seat next to me is vacant
so the cold sits
& kneads me.

2.
night
& the waiting starless sky,
the shrivelling cold too
that reminds an émigré of
home & unanswered prayers

outsourced waterproof warmth from a pullover
does not compare to that of the genial Jamaican lady
explaining her small actions like they matter to
an unlikely stranger.

night
& Fela’s horns deign to
pierce the night vicariously
through my ears.

night
& the night soil man
makes peace with his
serfdom.

Dami Ajayi’s most recent collection of poems is A Woman’s Body is a Country.
 
 
 
*Image by Henry & Co. on Unsplash