Ojo Taiye

Mother, My Trip to A Foreign Land Has Failed Me, I Can’t Breathe
(after 39 dead bodies found in Essex Truck Container)


my eyes are veiled with garlic skin.
i make a list of things i mourn
before their arrival: sunlight, rain
& a thousand strokes of dawn refusing
to settle into sky. my words are impoverished
by the desire to stay & flee an invented storm.
how sad it is to have a hand that holds
no good season. my sister only took
that leave because a white man asked her to—
& when life tipped, all we found was a lady’s thumb
& a mouth with no words but regrets.
i know we don’t make cents here—
all she wanted—how she lived
& lived—some say greener pastures,
which is a word that taste strange,
like sunset’s blistering with daffodils.
i don’t know why grief is a vice that ends
with me but my mouth is full—
& full with whatever it means to
be a lesser prey. in Vietnam, every
departure is a wolf wail that turns
me to scratch at the tracks of birds
that forgot their tongue.


*This poem includes an adapted line belonging to Shukria Rezaei & Susan L. Leary




i’m  trying  to  live in a  world  that  draws burgundy  lines around my waist. i’m taking a risk when i
don’t know  the  dead.  their  ending—a confession  i don’t know how to break. what use is a fallen
passport  if  i  have  to  undress  before the  law?   i  lie  prostrate  on  the bedroom  floor.  my chest
contemplating what to make of this sadness. this missing. this bright longing. a father and his little
daughter  in  three  movements,  in  being nothing.   i age in reverse until i am as small as a flipped
coin.  i say this with my mother’s face in mind:  a bruise light charged with fault.  is it a privilege to
say  desire  without thinking about  smoke?  who wants simple things?  &  i guess that’s the crux of
love. the only evidence here, is an aerial photograph of a father stitching pillowcases from his own
skin. i don’t understand immigration but i know what it means to crave for shelter. i come from a
lineage  of  men  cradling  a  country’s  affliction  in  their  arms.  i know what it  means to be born
bleeding with your name stuck in your throat: an origin of slaved men is the story of how we were
mothered. i whisper all the names of the dead in the Rio Grande & i found i belong to a bloodline
of  sacrifice:   my body illegal in this one.   i say  this with the privilege of a body at war.   everyone
makes a religion of mirrors into a ceremony that doesn’t end in kindness. America meant nothing
to me once it turned into a blooming bed of ghosts.   everything still hanging here hunts me like a
language where borders will not always greet each other in collapse.


Ojo Taiye is a young Nigerian who uses poetry as a handy tool to hide his frustration with the society. His poems and works have appeared in journals like Rattle, Frontier Poetry, Palette, Stinging fly, Notre Dame Review, Vallum, Crannog, Argot, Brittle Paper, Glass Journal, Elsewhere, Eunoia Review, Lit Mag, Juke, Praxis Magazine and elsewhere.