“A Caricature” by Bola Opaleke

Ekphrastic Challenge, November 2019: Editor’s Choice


black and white photo of boy walking dog on a street

Image: “Dog Walking” by Alice Pettway. “A Caricature” was written by Bola Opaleke for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, November 2019, and selected as the Editor’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)


Bola Opaleke


Where I came from,
the street is another religion

& my feet know
all its worship songs
by heart. It effuses a silence that arouses

the slumbering houses;
make me watch their breasts as they rise

& fall. My moment
of peace & tranquility is
when I can look the most human

behind the chromatic harmony
of car honks. Am I not a common sight, marveled

at colors; yellow grass, green trees,
red flowers? I know whatever is not black
or white begs another name. & before I got pollinated

inside this religion, I developed a new body
which blinks only once a day like the streetlamp

of a graveyard. Surrounded
by shadows, I am not as lonely as people
think. I have a skeleton dog lost to the street as I.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
November 2019, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the editor, Timothy Green: “The power of this poem lives within the title that undercuts it. As I read, I get lost in this idea of the street as a religion. I’m lulled by the blinking streetlamp in a graveyard and forget that what I’m lulled by is only a caricature—and that was always the tension within the photograph: that interplay between the scene and our interpretation of it. This is a poem with several layers of meaning, about the scene, about ourselves as viewers, and about the power of narrative to cloud our thinking.”

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