Displaced: Poems by Oka Benard Osahon


Photo by Yamon Figurs on Unsplash remixed


I stand between space; between place.
My feet touch two parts divided by the Benin river.
I am a child of Olokun’s breasts but she knows me not.
I am turning in circles, lost in the confusion of what I am;
Am I the colour of my skin or the words of my tongue?
Am I the name I was given by my fathers or
The suckled breasts of my mothers?

My lips cannot whisper songs of my fathers without stutter
And my mothers swear that I am buried under my mother’s hips.
When the world tumbles and crumbles to dust, they say
I will be remembered; a root under a tree, wrested from
The Ethiope’s meandering grip but
I do not know what I am.

This world has birthed me with nothing;
My roots are soft tendrils that cannot grip the earth.
There are no ties to bind and gods to call my own.
I have borrowed gods from everywhere and yet
My sins are like a musty blanket that has never seen the sun.

My mothers say that I am a prince
But my princedom is nothing but air.
I am neither here nor there and no one will take me
Except I give up some of me to the grave;
Parts of me that will not conform, will not bend knee,
Will not pour libations to gods that I must accept.
They mean that I must be broken to become a-part;
They mean I must die to feel the embrace of the world.


Not the stars in the sky
But the twinkle in your eyes
That captures my gaze and makes me linger
In the night like a wandering wind.

Let me sink into your arms
Like I am a treasure that you sought and found.
This your skin is a journey to a new place.
Its soft warmth cradles my sins in light
And burnish me like silver and I shine; oh, I shine.

Not the fine flower petals
But the bow of your smile
That hungers my lips and tugs my loins
As my gaze wanders all over your face,
Gathering every wrinkle, every mole into pieces
That I will build the puzzle of you with.

Let me surge between you one more time,
Like a child seeking mother, seeking home.
Let me take your scent into me and
Let your heat slip into the cold reaches of my blood
And stoke that hearth to roaring.
Let me put a storm behind that twinkle,
Let’s rustle the clouds and hide the stars,
Let’s make it rain on this bed
So we can birth life to salvage what we have lost.
Let us try one more time, to forget grief
And find joy in the embrace of our hearts.


Riley! Riley!!
Come back to me… come back to me
Last words of a waking dream;
The memory fading with remembering.
A narrator’s deep voice echoing behind the pain,
In his bland monotone even as the screaming fades
Out into the stream of sleep-waking static
That becomes a TV screen shooting bullets
At dangerous foes without rhyme or reason.

Who is Riley?
Who is this voice filled with pain?
Who is this tale being told in a sombre voice,
Spinning drama from the sound of a heart breaking?
Why did I even hear this?
It woke me like hands around my throat,
Choking the cobwebs of sleep off my eyes
In slow squeezing pump until from REM
Eyes woke and the fading dream lodged;
A part of a life I never lived; an unsure memory.
I am not this tale. Why do I weep?

Poems © Oka Benard Osahon
Photo by Yamon Figurs on Unsplash remixed

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