“Ode to David’s Ennui // Or the Land of Babel II” by O-Jeremiah Agbaakin

O-Jeremiah Agbaakin


ekùn, økø òkè—tiger, the mountain’s groom
—from Yoruba

the boy with the crow skin comes from a long
line of tigers who moved mountains to please

their women—who paraphrased the serpent in
its own words—fang disguised in fur. our love

of height, not the longing for gods built a tower.
the men stopped crying as soon as they were

born; picked up their claws & spears to fight.
Akinrere crushed the earth & founded a giant

elephant standing above it. then stole a woman
from his own camp, climbing the palace roof to

feel the mountain’s breath he hiked in youth as he
       wrestled wild cats clicking their paws like a shearers’

knives. once, my father’s half-brother, drunk, tipped off
       their balcony, broke his ribs & blamed his wife for descent.

he took them all: women widowed by wars, took war
returnees. the fireplace in his bones was too much for him.

after slaughtering the cockerel, my clan commands
me to pluck all the feathers to prove allegiance

& attention to details. the slaughter smooth & neat.
i come from woodcarvers chiselling their bodies into

gods. i want to leave this land, still toothed with
enough mountains—that crave ghosts’ claws marks

and their clothes hanging loose from uprighted
skeletons like mannequins hanging their snake skin

shedding. yet the mothers still wound open their
love like first milk. the mane shed them like a skin.

from Rattle #65, Fall 2019
Tribute to African Poets


O-Jeremiah Agbaakin: “My identity as an African is largely influenced by the relics of colonial intrusion in the shape of religion, thought, and language. I try as much as possible to reflect and interrogate the tension in my art. While contemporary African poetry may have shifted considerably from colonialism and post-colonialism talks, we are subconsciously influenced by their many impacts. These poems, in a way, examine historical narratives (like the Nigerian Civil War) as well as personal histories on the fulcrum of borrowed language and its tension.” (web)

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