Best of the Net 2019  


There's a place I was given,
A horse with its broken legs.
Lord, I tend to this brief thing called life like a man
Caring for a beast that eats what it loves.
I can't help this loneliness of people walking away from my eyes,
It is how a city knows its walls are fallen.
The plane breaks through the clouds & San Juan comes into view,
This city shall survive this water, I say.
Once I knew where my circle was in the world,
I could walk into forests with just a book & find my way
Back to my mother's chest.
I should tell you my mother's chest was a tree, beside it a flower
Blossomed & was called grace,
I should tell you I once saw the river drowned a bone
& sung it to sleep, maybe this is death,
Maybe this is a mother's body welcoming a son.
The driver says welcome & I know he means stranger,
I know he means what drives you into the world.
I have come here to find what I'd lost but it will spit me out,
A seed floating on water, a boat, a life
Without the luck of trees.
The city stretches into a fort, as if it is still ready for war,
As if a battle ship sits eternally before her eyes.
I have known this fear, it is called reaching into the future for the cut,
Meaning I still see the men who called me homo, meaning dirt,
Meaning sin, meaning their hands shall divide my body into a barren field.
I once woke up to the beast in my chest cage,
I held it tenderly before severing its neck.
My therapist called it a sacrifice, meaning I saw the blood even in the dark,
I smelt it & knew home drowned last night.
Father, here is what I was given, a goat, the beauty to walk back to the knife,
The man saying grace as if blood isn't pure enough
& this city. Here at night, I will walk into anything that calls me home
& it will hold me for a while. I've seen my mother's bed this way,
The burgundy color of the bedsheets, the walls with old photographs,
Her skin. Here my mother is alive, she's my city
& I hold her close. Mother, stay with me for a while,
Stay before the sea comes to wash us clean of our thirst.

- Romeo Oriogun (from The McNeese Review)