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Tares Oburumu


All the days I spent with the ocean,                          thirsty,                       the endless surface says it is not enough

to keep the ships satisfied.               So I invented my own water                            and invented a shore.

even if the earth falls,

the sea goes on & on,     the boats, on it, become ellipses.          a man is drowning in saltwater,

his hands raised in question marks      like        sickles above water,               to cut the world open. It is the shape

of surrender.

Why do we surrender?

It is too late to be,              but i do tell my child this:            in the beginning, life was just so hollow

& beautiful but there was no one who could have walked back to the shape of water to find God.

there was no God, just water.                                                                               God could not have been shapeless


2022.        the sun breads soft, yellow glass on the boat. the yellow storm rises.

                   it paints the sea blue, & shows us why we still row, why we are not dead yet.

                   we are just seasick in the heart. if you are a lioness, would you choose what cub

                   to roar your tears for? i choose daryl. he is daisy & not daryl when he is dying in

                   my arms, my younger self, son of my mother. the yellow glass keeps breaking. the

                   daisy keeps bleeding its breath in green. does the sun forgive the hate we commit

                   by breathing under it? how often we make such glistening choices, only to be

                   wrong. only to hear the dark hymnals sing of the sweet chariots taking us home.

                   there is a year i have turned into a house. hanging on its southern wall is a

                   photograph of me, splattered with watercolor. somewhere in the room i buried

                   daisy. a painter is busy with his work. elsewhere, on pebble street, someone is

                   asking, do you believe in pictures? i say, i am infested with memory. i remember i

                   once told my mother that i did not believe in my second coming.


2009.     i spent half of the day drinking red wine in the basement which is the future. I have

                 practiced it long enough to know what the past wants from me: purifiers. confessions.

                 my obduracy. yet i keep an inventory of the days i have won: sundays, mostly. i go to 

                 church. large enough to let me in but not my hunger. keep that beast at home, 

                 we can barely feed two priests a day, said one of the presbyters. behind me, 

                 five thousand spirits squat on grass before five loaves of bread & two pieces of fish.

                 i stood in the depth of the verses. he listens, hiding them as i hid mine under the sun.

                 my brother is burning instead of a thief. who stole the bread, the body of Christ? 

                 will the Lord let him in? the gospel is out. & in that place where i was born, 

                 where they nailed him to the flames, a choir is singing.


2004.     daryl & i are one like God: the father, the son & the holy spirit.

                 somewhere in his dreams, a boat appears, heavy with saltwater made into words.

                 i taste it. it is pure. like years unnumbered. new. i celebrate it.

                 the angels, preening their feathers, keep the music holy. so many notes

                 for a hundred bodies in-between where i carry him across the streetfights

                in a wooden boat. we are going to the United States Of America.

Tares Oburumu is a poet and essayist. He's the winner of the Sillerman prize for African poets, 2022. You can find him on Twitter @oburumutares or on Facebook as Tares Oburumu. 

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