Sentinel Poetry #49     December 2006    ISSN 1479-425X


Guest Editor: Nnorom Azuonye

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Tolu Ogunlesi




You look at one another with               

measured smiles, pursed lips

or Absolute Hesitations


and speak with your eyes

above the din of your skins

in conversations of many frequencies.


there's the disappointment

that comes when French falls

through the teeth of a kinsman


and you think –

another nigger down.

And there's the Enlightenment


of discovering

that not every black man is

from the country


you left behind.

you glance at one another

in rituals of Suspicion


wondering who's legal

and who smells

of impending deportation


Paris is the City

where you speak the slowest,

like a stammerer,


to avoid tangling your tongue.

the City where

you find your way


around the fastest

despite their speaking

in tongues.



Small English Towns


The first of them appears in the patch

Of grass between the bottle-bank and the

Paper-bank. (Both banks are stationed


Like armoured vehicles at the edge

Of the park – rubbish splayed around them

Like rows of beheaded corpses). In her arms


Is a bundle of clothes. Clothes, which is odd

Since there are no clothes-banks anywhere

Around town. Another emerges behind


Her. So now they are two, two beads

Of some invisible necklace. And then

The third bead. Male. Stoned like


The others. And just like when you string

Beads, they move closer still, a jamboree

Of joints in an English seaside paradise.


I am beadmaker, fingers apace

I am god, three floors above;

And poet, one vain insight ahead.



The Messenger

For those birds that loved marshlands more than runways…


Pick your way bravely through a cross

Word-puzzle of split-open luggage

And split-open bodies


And see how high your kites

Of fortitude will soar before crashing.

Death is a misleading mess


-enger. If I have stretched farther

Than life or logic, she sings,

It is because I stand


Atop the shoulders of eternity.

Even the dead dream of death

And leave the living to awaken


And confront the sequels.

The dead and the living have chosen

To mourn each other.


To make a strong perfume,

Mix the stench of Lissa

With the memories of her entombed,


And pressurize with the madness

Of grief. Spray it, simultaneously

From all one hundred


And seventeen corners of Nigeria, till

The ozone darkens into a permanent pall,

Till death immolates herself by asphyxiation.



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