To read Abayomi's Interview with Aliki Barnstone in this issue

more poetry

Abayomi Animashaun

Abayomi Animashaun

History Lesson

On the wall is a map of places, the so—called explorers
— Mungo Park and the rest of them—
Discovered. But did they know
Of my longing to kiss you tonight?

Did those leaders who went to Berlin
In 1885, when they sought to open a 'dark continent',
Did they know of my lusty need to ravage your breasts
Holding you against the cold stove?

(This is taking too long!) Why not travel to my chest,
And I to yours on that bed
You know so well, and rewrite history
The way we know how?

My Son

The boy I never had
Goes to school
Every morning,
He packs his bag
And walks away
From the other
Boys and girls.

He skips school a lot,
Distracted on his way
By rats, lizards,
And spectator cats on window sills.
While chasing a stray,
He winds up at the school gates
And goes in grudgingly. . .

He sleeps during lectures,
Questioning the need
For adding or subtracting
Using such stupid tools
As numbers.
Nothing in school matters,

Save for the stories
Of occupations and conquests,
Rebellion and uprisings.
He sleeps during
And after recess.
Most times, he is asleep
When the final bell rings.

After school,
He returns
To the village of the unborn
To join the other children,
Everyday wondering
About the uselessness of school
And the fool that denies him life.

The Unseen

They come with the second flood —
At the hour when
We are high—wound in the dullness
Of our daily work —

Singing the tunes before the first words —
Before the separation,
Before the Creator got drunk on wine
And left the act to the hen.

They come carrying
Pots filled with no water,
And trays with no trinkets,
Walking among trees,
Their cold bodies gleaming dark
From the river with no water.


On the streets, we don't see
The long rounded shapes
Of their footprints, nor
Hear their murmurings.

Still, everyday and in the same hour
They sit beside us. Wash their infants
Beside us and conduct their festivals.

They send their children to their school
To learn their own alphabets and
Make their own music.


We await their dark arrival —
That gust of wind,

That last minute breath
Against the thatched leaves.

The fire catches.

The carpenter tightens his grip
Pounds in place that nail with the hammer.
The farmer pulls hard at the weeds.
The school teacher points his stick,
The third time, at the map of a people near-forgotten.
The student raises her head from a book.
The man locked-gentle with the other woman,
Feels the sudden need to be home.