Yomi Sode

Yomi is a Nigerian British writer, performer, and facilitator. He is a recipient of the Jerwood Compton Poetry fellowship 2019 and has read his poems internationally at various festivals, as well as performed his debut solo show (COAT) to sold-out audiences. Yomi has been published in Rialto Magazine, The Poetry Review, Bare lit and 10: Poets of the New Generation, as well as a contribution in SAFE: On Black British Men Reclaiming Space. Yomi is a member of  Malika’s Poetry Kitchen and a Complete Works alumni. His debut poetry collection, MANORISM will be published in spring 2022 by Penguin Press. 

A Sestina, for the ‘Curious’ Oyinbo

This lady, drunk or too familiar, decided tonight
was the moment to ask, do you want to be white?
My watch reads 2:30am. I am on a retreat trying to write.
Abruptly meeting behaviours that sneak out at dark.
I laugh in masking the riot. Are you being serious?
Her stare, a sniper dotting her target with intention.

Her back is slouched, gripping the table within this tension,
hammering what she said in my ara again as if to ignite
my restful ears. Reeling me into this ‘serious’
duel where I’m being asked if I want to be white.
The sly of her query as though I don’t feel my noir
in the room most mornings when sitting to write.

Fucking with white men’s forms, writing out their rites.
She probes my ghazal as though I’m a fluke, the notion
of writing a poem better than her. How fool of me in this dark
hour to think she would have quelled her envy overnight.
Can’t believe you asked me that.  Look, she says – I know I’m white.
Slavery ended years ago. It shouldn’t be my burden. Jesus!

My face, as if stood up on a date, springs a serious
yet measured response to this lady. I just want to write, 
not justify my existence to every ignorant oyinbo in sight.
My watch reads 2:47am, I am tired, this lady’s intention
has little to do with man’s poem & more in easing her plight.
I am her closet of ignorance, set free from the dark.

Her closest encounter to a living being as búráùn as bark.
Summoning her tears of denial. I watch her fall like Icarus.
She shouts to cushion her thud & while this is no fight,
I sense her discomfort in my choosing to just write.
You think it’s racist to ask? I have mixed children! My question
is not meant to offend. Now you’re making me feel shit for being white!

And there. I become a moth, steering this oyinbo to the light,
to clarity & fire. I know this dark feeling, this dudu,
a shadow she too would question if she could. An invitation
to bond, leaving me asking how did it get so serious?
My watch reads 3:25am. I’m pausing my rewrite
while this lady keeps sucking man’s blood, a parasite.

Firing projections, vicious,
in hopes that whiteness will emerge from the dark.
I say goodnight! I leave with all my body. My Black ara, infinite.

The Haunting of Damilola

The news broke about a Nigerian boy stabbed in the thigh and bleeding to death. Dumbfounded, the elders were not be able to explain their newfound confusion. A Nigerian child dying on foreign land. It felt as though a forcefield had lifted.

Panic was the resounding sermon preached in churches. Pastors blamed England of a haunting that had elders fasting between twenty to fifty days. A Nigerian boy had died, and they never saw it coming.

The mothers grieved for the mother whose son’s life was taken unexpectedly. Their anxiety sewed minute eyes in the back of their son’s heads while sleeping. The boys becoming burdens of their mothers migrant stories.

Beatings were often given if their backsides arrived late from school. Their body not taut enough at 15. Each lash from the belt throbbing through clothes. Each son holding back tears to prove their manliness, reminding their mothers

that they were not Damilola, who died, without realising a haunting held the belt. A fear of worried mothers wondering if they prayed hard enough, that the sting from their children’s scars would bring them home.

One evening, the police called my mother. Telling her a gang of boys attacked me outside of my workplace. Telling her the gang left me slumped on the floor, took all my possessions. My house keys, car keys, and wallet.

Later, they moved her out of the house for safety. Men she did not know entered our house and changed our locks while she was driven to the hospital, praying to a God that saw this haunting coming, to keep her only son alive.  

[Insert names] Mother: A Ghazal

Sing me something. A sun rising above a tower block, a song.
On mornings, watching him stretch before my eyes, a magical song.  

Day seven, my body now numb has turned its back on me. 
If this is mourning, I want his spirit here to sing us a farewell song.

Pastor, how does thou forgive? Each exhale stains this house,
I am sinning in my grief. Congregation bless me a song.

So much food untouched that will rot. Nothing is staying.
My boy on the news, smiling on his graduation day, we sang a song.

Earlier years, each step was like water crashing against rocks.
We watched him grow, two stepping the ghouls away in song    

Hold me. Stay as if it were summer where love was our biggest risk.
Lover, permit me a night to be willing. To arc my back in a song.

Policeman. Though I speak, I cannot hear myself. He was never in a
gang! Listen to me please, you stubborn song.

The fridge hums sadness, the light is faulty. Silence is unbearable.
House, perhaps there is a meaning hidden somewhere, a song.

No, he didn’t leave you because you finished the jam, no, listen. Baby boy,
lightning struck and up shot a beanstalk to the heavens! A distracting song.

The spirit never dies. And every day I search. I can’t feel him.
Can he hear me, Yomi? Crying, praying, singing a song.