Adedayo Agarau

Adedayo is a Robert Hayden Scholarship fellow of Stockton University and a recipient of the Stanley Awards for International Research (2022), University of Iowa. He is studying for MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His manuscript, The Morning The Birds Died, was a finalist of the Sillerman Prize (2021). His chapbook, Origin of Names, was selected for New Generation African Poet—African Poetry Book Fund (2020). Vegetarian Alcoholic Press published his chapbook, The Arrival of Rain (January 2020). His poems are featured or forthcoming in World Literature Today, Anomaly, Frontier, Iowa Review, Boulevard, and elsewhere. Adedayo is the Editor-in-Chief at Agbowó: An African magazine of literature and art, and the editor of New International Voices Series at Icefloe-Press. Adedayo edited Memento: An Anthology of Contemporary Nigerian Poetry (2020).

Judges’ Comments

Here one encounters absolutely precise, even surrealist imagery, integrating Yoruba aphorisms into the text and sustaining an elegiac tone. Its nuance resonates in the clean cut of language, particularly in the ekphrastic engagement with photography and film. There is also clear intentionality in form.


to go gently into the night

at other ends of existence, i want the bones to be my witness.
//              the redness of fire, the blueness of silence. the ash of
mornings buried in the mournings lingering in the room
where photos wax the wall. a mother gathers her child:
// the remains of the body when the soul takes its leap
the rancor of blues brushing her breath before she expells
what the world recognizes as cries // i salt the fire once again
remember the bones of God, & the shadows of sun, the miracle
found in fallowed lands & the hunger that follows // i twist the
story towards the door of the house where there is an escaping
// twist the story towards the corridor. the child crawls out
of darkness, the light beckons but he does not turn, he babbles
the tongue of babel dabbles within the astonishment of nothing
// i twist the story outside, beneath the sun & towards the road
the empty empty road of months spent expecting this entrance
of a half-formed thing trapped inside a mockery of joyness // i
turn towards God for answers // towards hands that claim
the neck // the fire does not speak when it catches a body,
it crackles the bones, teach the skin to forget it once owned
a city. // smoke clouds the sky. the soul finds perpetual wander.


we begin gently,
go into the day like a prayer.
hands stretching to collect
also stretch to take, our friend
leaves school & does not reach home
we search the street, & field, empty.
we do not find his body.
months later, they build him a grave
at the oke-bola cemetery.
his brother wears a suit.
& his mother’s face shrinks in gloom.
my friends & i stare into silence
filling his coffin, the farewells that follow.
the fire in his daddy’s eyes
meets the pastor’s prayers
dropping empty into open palms.
the moon leans upon the small stream
the night we cover his grave.

The Dark

The bridegroom stands at the altar of waiting, his eyes
a longing the depth of woods, his hands a shivering caught from

the emergence from water. At first, I was not in that dream but you
were, walking the animal of desire through the aisle, seated on

the pews were people whose faces were birthmarks etched with
grief. I think I saw a man nodding to the brief catalog of wounds

your legs archived; an animal limping inside you, gunned by regrets
owed to a battered childhood where war claimed everything that had name.

The limping is with blood, the blood is my father, & in my father
is a child I cannot give name to, I am pulled out of a farm of maize

into a pocket of shrill. I want to be remembered by the hands, tattooed
in henna, dipped into the pocket searching for my arm. I want to be

gathered out of the storm fastening my memories to dreams where i am
alone in the museum of bones, the relics of home on the night the soldiers

stirred the river, the night the moon hid behind clouds, the night the stars
fell, one after the other, into the pool of fire; the ashing of bodies claimed

in their own houses. I want to be remembered in my own dream, by the grief
that filled my hands, once a bouquet of flowers turned towards altar in the dream

where a little boy staggers out of the stage into a backdrop of silence.
The dark eating him,  & outside, his father shouts, tell me how to save you.