That evening, the prophet singled me out & asked the church to fervently pray for me that in a vision, he pulled me out of a room of cobwebs & that an old woman in my father's house hid my star in a black pot buried at the base of a baobab tree. Outside my grandmother's house is a baobab tree on which an owl hoots. I asked my grandmother why the owl hoots & she says the eye of an owl is as old as the root of the tree in one dream, a faceless woman serves me amala & feeds it to me morsel by morsel I take the feather back into the house where I wrote my first poem, which is now sea in my eyes; each letter, a pillar of salt The day I arrived irvington, my mother cleared cobwebs out of their front door, my eyes tear into a button & my body a compound of dust & as someone gathers me, i wake inside a church. ______________________________________________________________ new jersey the tree outside my parent’s apartment on essex street bled rubber syrup on the day that i arrived a person half my age dragged a bucketful of nicotine the sidestream reminded me that i crossed three seas to get here i carried you for 23 hours, within doha airport into chicago where the white officer seared my eyes looking for carcasses through countries that didn’t know i phased through their borders i am the first son of my father the second child from a bloodline that hangs a cross in everyone’s arteries i cannot name the graves i have said prayers over but i know i want to be here outside in the sun scalding my skin my mother hugged me when she saw me, she planted tears on my shoulder, wept bitter leaf i don’t know if it’s for the breakthroughs we have sought for in prayers / the loss we both have strung into our ribcage: the night she slept beside me in a church where the messenger wore me a white sultana, asking me to sleep inside the candle sanctuary where i dreamt of my grandmother laughing over me as i slept where i attempted to shout jesus but my voice was collected over a bowl of water my sisters emerged at the door collected my bags & we went inside ___________________________________________________________________ Springfield in the parking lot of 99-cents on springfield avenue, my father says, nobody charges you for parking at home we stand outside the mall, beside his black unnumbered wagon, talking about home; the cold hands it plunges deep toward the ossicles of dream in ibadan, there are no buses waiting for you, & you are not waiting by a lamppost in irvington at 5am when your throat is thick with fog you are not wearing three trousers and a winter coat, you are not heavy with desire, & you are not trapped here wrapped inside the fond hope you carried years before you walked before the consulate, before sliding the white paper beneath the glass barricade. i wanted to be here, in this country, to claim triumph over grief & not worry that there is a shrine in my father’s house where an old woman is calling my name into a calabash
Adedayo Agarau’s manuscript, The Morning The Birds Died, was a finalist in the 2020 Sillerman Prize. He was the third-place winner of the Frontier Industry Prize, 2020. His chapbook, Origin of Names, was selected for New Generation African Poet (African Poetry Book Fund), 2020. He is the author of The Arrival of Rain and For Boys Who Went chapbooks. His works have appeared in Agbowo, Frontier, Barren, Lolwe, Perhappenned, and elsewhere. Adedayo curated and edited Memento: An Anthology of Contemporary Nigerian Poetry. He is a co-editor for New International Voices Series at IceFloe and the Editor-in-Chief at Agbowó.