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Shallow Graves: Poems by Sola Osofisan


Cemetery songs scrape the mind
stealing like spiritual worms past our fences
through our defenses
into the brain where they rape the space
The ghosts of every day haunt our gates
and the graveyard of unpaved pathways
creep up on the outside world
of all our freedom
death pits like hungry open mouths
secreted in grassy playgrounds
wait to swallow candy-coated children
The graveyard is on the prowl…

We’re in the bleeding season
The dark days of multiple miscarriages
The wailing flesh of history
hides the scar of our wounded star
The army is in the sun,
a sweat-soaked wall of steel
hugging guns
Listen hard and you will hear the staccatoed
death knell of
spontaneously aborted foetuses
The graveyard is on the prowl
The graveyard is in our hearts.



(For Hakeem Olatunbosun Shitta who did not hear it…)

And now a brief detour to nightmareland
where familiar freaks dialogue with unfamiliar feet,
Too far gone to hear the soliloquy of tyre-soled sandals
35mm beard the key to every closed door

Jealous guardian of our treasury of freedom
The tortured corridors of the National Theatre
still whisper the name etched in the tables at abe-igi
The Poet called him “The Click”

Paga! Sharpshooter,
The black and white greying in my broken album
My tie-dyed knickers remind me of you
Eager finger freeze-framed by memory spasming
in the cruel clutch of rebellious visions,

The indigo quarter of my wardrobe remind me of you
The streets, the Mama-Puts, the timeless corners
The unconstrained giggle of water at the Marina
My bulging bookshelves remind me of you

The Click clocked 42,
And the Earth set him free!
Hakeem Olatunbosun Shitta!
And his voice rises from the dye baths…
“Well, at least I’m not the shittest!”

Hakeem of the ever-ready retort
Tailor, sew me a smile
Hakeem of the talkback finger
Painter, paint me a poem
Hakeem of the trigger tongue
Who gave you permission to die?

(Hakeem Shitta was nicknamed “the Click” for his photographic dexterity by the poet Wale Obadeyi.)

© Sola Osofisan

Sola Osofisan
Sola Osofisan
Sola Osofisan is a writer, screenwriter, filmmaker, and founder/editor-in-chief of His movies include 'Unbreakable' (2018, Screenwriter, Co-Producer), 'Over Her Dead Body' (2022, Screenwriter, Producer, Director). His award-winning radio play, OLD LETTERS, was produced and broadcast by the BBC. A three-time winner of the Association of Nigerian Authors national awards (prose and poetry), he is the author of DarkVisions (Malthouse), Darksongs, The Living & the Dead (Heinemann), Blood Will Call and The Simple Joys of her Final Days.


  1. Graveyards are in our hearts? Sola, you have really scored on this.This is so classical thought properly channeled as a poem line.

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