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Shiftings & Other Poems

Tunji Olalere

Foraging in a Nightmare

Gloom is the filthy handkerchief

peeping from a rotting breast—

wrinkled youth weeping blood,

puckered by a crustacean’s grip.

It is the scent of talcum

as I send latex gloves flying

for the bin. The trajectory

of a dire diagnosis.

Her perfect teeth flash a weary smile

I am fine, thank you. My smile

in return is nothing. My mite

is my presence in this charade.

Life is a mangled joke

dangling by its gag line,

fractured in the places

teeth have dug in for laughter

Do not ask me for a lie.

His face is a veil, a shield

for the mischief of grief.

It does not insulate

it keeps things down.

Green leaves become brown carpet

beneath famished feet foraging

in a nightmare.



Let us baptise verbs in moonshine

scroll down timelines, fritter night away

click a bait about a looming doom

the neck cold with apprehension

Let the known past return into new light

heroes are de-haloed as paedophiles

little black books are found in hallowed closets

and history’s boulders yield to the sceptic’s prod

The steadfast now is assailed by tales

of human flood from ruptured universes

it drowns in the Aegean, overruns charged fences

then bobs up belly-wise in a German embrace

Trails of avid dread and forgetting flee Aleppo

of infant shoes and pacifiers crushed underfoot

orphaned cries cling to the charred shrubbery

and the bloated Mediterranean burps bodies

To keep faith? To keep keeping on,

on this tectonic present, revisiting each day

with tears, downgrading each dream

in the light of humanity’s bargain?

Shoot it if it roars from the rear

or leaps on you from the trees

if it slithers in the meadow

shoot it. Dead. They said.

But when you are by yourself

in the twilight where man gropes for fate

with each adviser paid or hanged,

you have to be your own man

I find myself in interstices

where light has yet to turn the bend

and the shapes of things to come

gather pseudopods from the promised gloom.


Tunji Olalere lives in Sheffield, UK.



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