By Bola Opaleke
The Skin Is An Island
You will find out too late
That words come before language.
You will fear the red sea even
Before knowing what the blue sea
Can do to your body.
They say: close your thighs
And open your heart.
I ask if the hand of one
Is not the leg of the other?
You will look at me spitefully,
If the devil has not his own virtues?
You will strangle death
And become his heir on the other side
Of vanity. I would ask
Again what earth is pounded
With your name? You will hide
Your tears and replies: one that claims
Allegiance to fire. I would remind you how
Water was the first belief your ancestors embraced,
Then braid your hair in that darkness; tells you
To not talk to me about your dreams of this island,
Because your mouth, it seems, would be
Too small to tell all of the nightmares I have had.
A Call To War
Is it a borrowed beauty
when the body is itself unhoused?
Is it a boring home
when the house is an island of ghosts?
As a boy lost in the unconsciousness
of his manhood, I watched my body unpeels
itself under someone else’s command.
I whispered quietly to my loneliness:
can I grow my body into a cactus
no one dare touches? Can I
oil all the parts not lubricated with brown lies?
A girl, walking up to me
in the middle of my he-menses,
asks: if I have ever tried sniffing blood
without first feeling a spider crawl up my spine?
She said, at thirteen,
leaving the door of her body open
to menstruation, the glory of which
makes her a glow-worm in a magician's night gown —
she said she lives between that wonder and shame.
But as I compare her curves to mine,
proud or jealous, I could not think
of what moon to say I was – in her
night gown. She walked away before
any myth on my tongue could touch her skin.
See, how beauty is the country that takes
your brains? See, how home is the fiery grave
that wants not your dead body? But,
isn't it amazing how bacon is fathered by pork?
Isn't it amazing how good children of bad people think
I'm a cat? Because, Jason — the boy next door — the one
who never lives on my island — he would not stop to call me a pussy.
Bola Opaleke is a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. His poems have appeared — or are forthcoming — in, among others, Frontier Poetry, Rising Phoenix Review, Writers Resist, Rattle, Cleaver, One, The Nottingham Review, The Puritan, The Literary Review of Canada, Sierra Nevada Review, Dissident Voice, Poetry Quarterly, The Indianapolis Review, Canadian Literature, Empty Mirror, Poetry Pacific, Drunk Monkeys, Temz Review, St. Peters College Anthology (University of Saskatchewan), Pastiche Magazine, and others. He holds a degree in City Planning and lives in Winnipeg MB. Further information about his life and work can be found here.