Honorable Mention for the Laurence Goldstein Prize in Poetry
The ambulance came late.
Mother said she knew already
as sleeping dogs kept waking up
to bark after them. That was a myth,
but didn’t they say myths are hard
kernels of truths melting with time?
Grandfather still visited marabouts.
In the morning, one told him father
wasn’t coming back. But he came back.
The ambulance came back with a silent wail.
Father came back to his room on the shoulder
of a neighbor who laid him on the bed like a
sleeping baby. He wasn’t stiff. When I lifted them,
his hands answered, though the owner of his spirit
had taken it. To where? I didn’t know. I didn’t weep.
After the Janazah, I ran after my kite, mother regretting:
May death not take us when our child is too young to know
the worth of life. Grandfather saying: We won’t
be there when his days of inevitable tears fly in like kites.
As the season changed, the grass dancing on top
of the creek lost its drummer crooning from the bottom.
After my father’s death, my mother warned me:
You can no longer walk like a prince; a male-child’s
source of pride is his sense of his father’s protection.
Tonight, I remember the day we walked
to the sugarcane farm. I carrying a jerrycan of
water on my head and trailing behind.
My father telling me: We won’t wait for you,
because in the future life won’t wait for you.
My mother and father praying as we harvested the ripen sugarcane:
May we not be cut down when our life is sweetest.
Tonight too, I must hit the avalanched streets of this city
where trees now wear white leaves. And when I come back,
my mouth will crave the steaming finger food of my mother,
but I’ll feed it a burger. Tonight too, I will be the weepy psalmist’s character,
because when I remember home, those I left behind, it feels like my grandfather
was a marabout himself: We won’t be there when his days of inevitable tears
fly in like kites. And when people drive the way people drive in this city,
and when people speak English the way people speak English in this country,
it feels like my father was a seer: …in the future life won’t wait for you.
Bayo Aderoju is a writer from Nigeria. He has been published in Agbowó, Brittle Paper, Stellium, and Kalahari Review and interviewed in Africa in Dialogue. He was a finalist for Frontier Poetry’s 2023 Global Poetry Prize. He is currently getting an MFA at the University of Memphis, where he will be Poetry Lead Editor for The Pinch this Fall. He tweets @bayo_aderoju.