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Sonnet With Severed Limbs & Other Poems

Adedayo Agarau


there was aching in the minaret’s call that evening. we saw it in feet quickened

towards prayer, the hollowed throats, the panting for water, the sun sinking in the bowels of clouds,

the gentle wind sweeping the street as if cleansing the hands that took & took, the eyes

narrowed into the doorknob twisting the body of someone’s son into shadow, the flames

of memories or a silhouette of grief, the wildfire of silence touching everyone’s house, the prayer

points from the church down the street, the desperation in the hands of mothers rocking the

pictures of their lost sons. there were dreams in which the sons were no longer sons, in which

they were quickened steps, in which they were the cleric’s tesibiu counted backwards

in prayer, in which their sisters were calling their names & there were echoes calling back at the girls—

between loss & grief, the heavier is one whose body morphed into decibels of sorrow—that evening,

we searched the street, the uncompleted building where we found his school uniform, searched

the tiny paths that led to the river that flowed from the end of the city, searched the police station,

searched his mother’s room, under her bed, inside her purse, followed the steps

quickened towards prayer, the hollowed throat of his mother, the panting for her son.


Sonnet With Severed Limbs

yet, the willow tears through the window whose light leans into the room yet, the wind weaves ghostly the leaves—the widow's body glowing in the dim incandescent light—yet, as the wound festers, the cat pulls out another cat’s bone from under the bed—how many bones have dried in silence? how many children came here & never found the door—the window as high as sky—the widow as high as Spirit—the willow forever weaving through the spirit of loss—through the dust in harmattan—i carry my dream with me in the dream—bring fire out from the pouch—bless the river with spit

turn towards the road that is full of boys—naked & singing—knackered & stung

—bring from wounded years the smell of sore—cavity the memory—place it

inside a glass of water—watch it bloom in dim light—rippling as the boys

drown—rippling as i gag—i say my name before i remember God—i say

my name before i beg the knife turned into my limbs—yet the willow

tears— & the wind weaves ghostly the leaves—& the boys' bones sing, severed, severed…


Adedayo is a recipient of the 2022 Robert Hayden Scholarship, Stockton University, and a recipient of the Stanley Awards for International Research (2022), University of Iowa. He is studying for MFA at the Iowa Writers' Workshop'23. His manuscript, The Morning the Birds Died, was a finalist of the Sillerman Prize (2021). His chapbook, Origin of Name, was selected for New Generation African Poet—African Poetry Book Fund (2020). Vegetarian Alcoholic Press published his chapbook, The Arrival of Rain (January 2020). His poems are featured or forthcoming in World Literature Today, Anomaly, Frontier, Iowa Review, Boulevard, and elsewhere. Adedayo is the Editor-in-Chief at Agbowó: An African magazine of literature and art, and the editor of New International Voices Series at Icefloe-Press. Adedayo curated and edited Memento: An Anthology of Contemporary Nigerian Poetry (2020) through Animal Heart Press.



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