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Jolademi: Poems by Lola Shoneyin


He creeps into my bedroom
when the night is most alive.
Unafraid, he feels for the walls
that will bring him to my door.
It has been four years since I spat him
from a lip in my womb.
Yet every night, he crawls back in.

The first light pries through the curtains.
He kisses sleep from my eyes
and pinches my lips to seize my first words;
he wants them for himself.
I breathe in the smell of milk
that has never left his forehead.
God, if I could birth this boy again,
I would.

I watch him at breakfast.
His face is crushed like an eggshell.
For him, food is slow, fist-under-chin torture.
Mother, let this plate pass over me, he pleads.
At once, he attacks the sweet jar.
He’s a boy soldier.
His face is ever smeared
with chocolate paint.

I watch him from my window.
Bent over like a rainbow,
he scours the garden for things
his fingers are drawn to.
He seeks me bearing gifts:
hollow beetles, strange stones, flattened cans.
I push them back into his metallic hands.

At night, he pulls me down
on my knees and moistens my lips
with kisses.
Good Night, Mum, he says
and walks away
from me.
My insides flap about like a wet loincloth.
Come morning, come soon.


Diviner’s Hand

Sometimes I wonder
how much longer I shall be here
to bite your hair
with my wooden toothcomb.

I am not afraid
of the freeze of frail fingers;
there is something
romantic about loss.

But I worry about the uneven rhythm
of the diviner’s hand,
the widening waist
that filters sand.

I worry that time
rests its hand on doorknob
and taps the floor
with its iron toe tip.

I must show you
the tricks my mother didn’t teach me;
tell you the tales that never reached me.

But if time will spurn
a mother’s wish
or turn its face away
from a daughter’s need,

remember this, little one:
a life lived well is a wave in flight;
discarded dreams
draw out painful night.


(For Toni Kan)

You had to do it, didn’t you?
The night! The creaking bed!

You had to get all that sex
off your stubborn chest.
Bark it out like a dog
baring pink stick!
Poetry in commotion

You had to lay out
your custom-made sex toys,
set them pulsing on every page like rabbits.
Latex and lyric, rubber and rhyme.

O Toni, what will you do?
What will you do when your tales
raise the sisters’ skirts at service?
and pastors want to anoint with other oils?

What will you do
when you’ve wet every teenage boy’s dream
and the girls dive beneath the covers for hoods?

You just had to put all that inside fuck out,
didn’t you?


(c) Lola Shoneyin

Lola Shoneyin
Lola Shoneyin
Lola Shoneyin's poetry has often been called "daring", "different". Author of "So All The Time I Was Sitting On An Egg" and "Song Of The Riverbird", Shoneyin is a graduate of Ogun State University and alumnus of the International Writers Programme at the University of Iowa.


  1. yeah she`s been called daring alright, but this poem for Toni kan does not get it from me, does not impress me at at all…..NIGHTS is splendidly crafted but i have a problem with all that sex sex in it …BUT MOST essentially that it is a book about hopelessness and portending the utter hopelessness of THE HUMAN CONDITION the ( i go completely with William Faulkner in his Nobel acceptance speech, (just Google it up ) about what writing and writers should do and portray. JOLADEMI however is a very successful poem and makes a very interesting reading…what is it about sex for Lola anyway? yes it is beautiful toying with words (as we do) but the boy ”pulls the mother down on her kneels and kisses her wet on the mouth…” the ambiguity in meaning is disturbing a picture i`d say. but hey! its quintessential Lola at her best? cheers n peace in the middle East!

  2. Your comments are incoherent, Omale, that I wonder about your state of mind. Even though you worry about someone else writing about sex, you have written it twice on one line 🙂 None of Shoneyin’s other poems on this site are about sex so I don’t understand your question, “What is it about sex with Lola?”

    No writer, in fact no individual can dictate what another writer should “do or protray”. Not even Faulkner!

    Lastly, as a mother, (and I think Lola Shoneyin is one) I can relate to a young child pulling a mother down to her knees to kiss her. I think the child in the poem is four and children’s lips are always wet. The only thing disturbing about the poem is your reading of it. Are you sure you are okay?

    There’s a poem in in one of Toni Kan’s poetry collections that is dedicated to Shoneyin. It’s called Life is a F*cking Joke. They must good friends and maybe this is a game they play. Who knows with these poets?

  3. Every true work of art reflects a bit of the writer’s persona. And of course, every writer’s got his style that runs thru’ eons. Lola has always had a peculiar style, very irreverent. And you’ve got to understand the artist in her before you can understand her art. Every poem on this page is worth reading. Funny, insightful and powerful. Lola, please keep ’em coming. KS

  4. well,
    i think Omale’s response has been given a good treatment.I agree to an extent with him about the Jolademi though.The poem made me smile and for a moment, i felt a flutter in my chest.And the ending…Ha! beautiful.Omale, i wouldnt want you to take Radi’s comments too personal.Everybody loves good poetry and Lola sure delivers some very good pieces too regularly to be considered a fluke.I have actually been tracking her poems , going from sites to sites.And i love the sharp images she evokes with her words;saying everything you wished to read but don’t have words to describe.The toni kan poem will best be understood by toni and lola alone.

  5. These are well crafted poems in different persona- one: as a mother, and two: as a lover. Poetry is not all about the theme but also the style and the creativity that makes a piece a poem. and to me lola has tremendous grip on her line of work. her work pass the mark. Pls give us more lola.

  6. Spontaneous overflow of intense emotions recollected in sound and fury signifying something (apologies to Wordsworth and Shakespeare)! I enjoyed the poems, particularly Jolademi. Of course every writer has a style and yours is not in doubt! I’m glad these are not ‘creaking’ poems. Senator Ihenyen is the author of Colourless Rainbow:Poetry of My Childhood (forthcoming, Coast2Coast).

  7. I am not yet a mother but I keep making mental notes of the things I’d teach my daugther when she’s born and making plans for the things we’d do together. Jolademi is very sweet but I think diviner’s hand is painfully so. There IS something romantic about loss or anything that is able to strain every drop of emotion from the heart. I love your analogies Lola. I’ll give not just my thumbs but all 10 fingers for diviner’s hand. And I think i’d also like to know what Toni would do when his work brings out the freak in nigerians.

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