top of page

I am Ogoni and A Child; Already I Have Been polarized & Other Poems

Taiye Ojo

In the Stench of What You Will Never Know

after CJ Evans

Something in the air killed my grand

mother. You wouldn’t know the wicked

things oil does to this city. One by one she

collects the periwinkles covered in the oily

mud. Fevered dreams and a burning mangrove.

I would be lying if I say I didn’t remember

her voice. I was seven years old in Bodo,

inside the creek, the first time. I learnt to

search for periwinkles. To paddle a canoe.

I learnt a thousand stories, a lake, nine

thousand aquatic produces, ten million

fishes and more.

There is nothing tender about hunger.

I don’t fault the boys for possessing what

they can. Whatever evil we’ve suffered cannot

be forgotten. Look. Dermatitis reddens

my forearms. The hum of gas explosions

swamping farmlands, peeling my childhood

from its core. Arrows of abandoned canoes

and boats. The land full of oil streaks. I watch

from a distance the ghost on my father’s pond.

All the women who were here with us

and now are not.


I am Ogoni and A Child; Already I Have Been polarized

or Ken Saro-Wiwa, 1995

Where do I begin again – I’ve spent my whole life

trying to write the same poem. My white Australian

friend wants to know why I keep calling home, a land

of excisions. I’ve tried to write what I think I know, but

oh, how history hurts. Let it be known, we were loud

in our resistance. What claims proprietary over me is

this truth. How treacherous people are. My father

became a gallows bird in a kangaroo court. From the

shoreline, all I can hear is run – this place is a dead zone

– violence erupting like a second civil war. Erasure

needs no translation. This is a junta thing and a

conquer thing and a carnage thing and an ethnic thing,

this is a minority thing and a thing about greed. A

thing about water, wine and blood in a country that

keeps squelching me, you and then fishes – the correct

fury of swamp dwellers. It is sad but our pains peddled

for donations. Let this never go shush, I was born here,

and I’ve return to the creek, again as I often do, by way

of the trauma enacted upon my mother’s body. And

when I touched the dead periwinkles covered in the

oily mud, I felt her pulse, and I hear it again, in the

undercurrent of the stream – my mother standing on

the pier at the water shore telling the sea I am a

cemetery for holes.


Ojo Taiye is a young Nigerian who uses poetry as a handy tool to hide his frustration with society.


bottom of page