Three Poems by Jumoke Verissimo

Voluntary Exile

You who ate the light of the sun at dusk

the age of your fears is in my head

I have seen the consent in your eyes

ditch thoughts have formed,

water makes a skin on your malar.

But your lover is not a goddess,

Yet she melts you into a wraith,

like the fabled water mermaid,

who fell in love with a village pauper,

she leaves food by your door at sunset

strange meals to be eaten like communal sacrifice,

to welcome bust dreams to again reinvent themselves.

I see you no longer smell suspicion

even when the dog eats your flesh,

you have become the dog in the flesh

do I hear you pray that morning should heal you,

as you are dead before death comes to take you.

I see the desks have become coffins too,

in the night of the land, fantasised lover

and leftovers of meals abandoned before flight

hurry into the ambitions you eyed before hegira.

I have entered into your ache. I can see embers

of the future cauterising your heart,

faster than the burning of a desert sun.

Tonight like every other night to come

as the wind drops down the trees,

and leaves hug and lean on fresh twigs

and branches gather strength against the wind

you embrace returnee memories in your arms,

under the shelter of tarpaulin housings

you stay awake with your biography.

The Refuge of the Refugee

In the trial of your cauldron heart

you may boil the stone

that burdens Africa into alcohol,

If I were to dream of meeting you on the waters,

I’ll turn you away from an ocean of trafficked debates

so even if ships are left without captains or you,

there would still be a future sailing into place

And as you stay at home like shells on a beach

couched in that language that’s spread on sands?

I’m inside your dream where you are awake,

though you’re eating the sounds of a lover’s snore

and retiring your ears from honks and street rustles

You can dream in your dream if you want to

the bed this night is not a place for sleep,

I will tell the world your tale.

I’ve entered your dream to meet solitude;

roll up your blanket and embrace some angst

F for Figs

You tell me certain foods are for gods,

a taste and my powers may abound too.

I have eaten no figs, but I have longed

though I always kept your thoughts in tethers,

tied to the root of the land I have loved

and like you I found figs are fruit for the gods

that in dreams men can get fed a kind

to awake at morning with insights of spirits

I will sleep this night and await the dream

Of remaining a patriot with a soul in flight

To arise each morning

and go through the day

for those other things

I have returned with the tired back of the street

to sleep

and again dream the dreams of the land

and talk of wadding the storms or clichés like it.

Jumoke Verissimo is the author of the award-winning collection of poems, I Am Memory. Her poems are in translation in French, Italian and Japanese. She is a recipient of the Chinua Achebe Centre Fellowship, and is currently a Graduate student at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. 



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