Bullet Proof


Dry fast. 3 days

No soul, save I

Knows where the

Earth sleeps


Body smeared in dog's blood

And the ochre red of palm oil

I ascend by granite stones

To the top of the silk cotton tree


The priest. No teeth

Graying, yet ageless

Wizened eyes aglow

With secrets of the ancients

Greets my ascent


He rasps. Voice hoarse

From communion

With Djinns and spirits

He speaks. Voice broken

From an eternity of chants

And incantations


 He intones over my naked frame:

"On Land, the shell protects the turtle

At sea, the shell covers the turtle

Ogun. I beseech you

In the tongue of first beginnings

When your seed* finds Tunde

Let it fall harmlessly to earth

Like feathers off a turtle shell"


A snake becomes an amulet

That binds to my arm

The slain dog barks

Ogun has given assent

To the reasoned cry


I stand submerged

In a pond which though still

Teems with life

Head covered in watery essence

Yet I breathe

I am the Turtle

Dweller on Land and Sea


Tunde. I hear my name

Beneath still waters

And rise to meet Ogun's call

Spoken through a rifle's boom


Bullets fall off harmlessly

Like feathers on the turtle's coat

I am no longer Tunde

But the Turtle

On Land, I stand protected

At sea, I stand covered

I am the Turtle, I


Fabiyi won the Sentinel Poetry Bar Challenge with “Bullet Proof” on the theme of ‘A new twist to an old tale’


*Ogun is the Yoruba god of metal and of war. His seed refers to any implement of war made of metal.


In the early portions of 1994 I was a forced guest of Sani Abacha (for student activist/pro democratic actions) – the Nigerian dictator whose (mis)rule the nation was forced to endure. While "vacationing" in a detention center – I met Tunde, an armed robber awaiting trial. He regaled me with many tales – but none struck me as much as the story (or rather, the claim) of how he came to be "bullet proof". The claim was not new to me – I had heard rumors (myths – is probably a more appropriate word) of men who could not be harmed by anything made of metal – bullets inclusive! Tunde claimed to be one of such men. This poem attempts to capture what he told me – during that long month of my forced vacation. I have not heard from, or of him since. If he is dead – it would probably ironically be from Ogun's seed.


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Sentinel Poetry #32