Poetry from Joel Oyeleke

after Mubarak Sàid

I inhale the stench of isale eko - the dirt of mile three park.
How does the boy learn to speak seven languages that can hide the lingua franca of joy?
How does he rehearse the dictum of pain?
How does he master the syllables in grief?
How does he converse in sorrow?
How does he achieve fluency in anxiety?
He questions his existence like a man seeking reality in a tabula raza. 

He tells the tale of a girl caught in the peril of a nation that gives adulation to the antonym of goodness.
This girl sheds Antarctica into her dress;
It is how she fights wickedness.

How do I gather the casualties in my heart, delete the record and start again?
We are taught to understand that 
to die is to live
to revolt is to fault
to complain is to end in pain
to hope is to hang on a rope.

The skylarks fly quickly, I watch their steps, their posture; how trickily they become 
lords of the air.
How they deceive us to let them roam the sky, now see
them own it, see them seize the sky.
See them leave fragments of the sky for the grass,
For the grass who let their tongue get wet from political fore-play that is well played -
The grass that is gardened yet dies.

I remember that a poet should not fret
I give heed to the voices from the root -
They speak of
How the truth is a tongue that has lost its language to the colonization of deceit.
How my country is a testament of Golgotha with barrage of bodies torn apart into fleshy crumbs.
How is my land a metonym of distress?
We ask 'how' until we don't know how to define the complexity.
We ask how until our voices become an orchestra
screaming; 'eli eli lama sabachtani'

How not to define a country is to say the sun sets at noon -
To say wahala is a facade.
Look at him defining a country in metaphors when 
he is the metaphor for a wailing parrot
caged in a place
where good plays the role of evil.
He sees the country as
the synonym of hell


It is written in the book of abnormality; 
That the parrot will wail on the way to damnation & not find rest.
Yet in the dome of gods, there is peace for the wicked.

JOEL OYELEKE studies Literature in English at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun state. He is a published poet, literary enthusiast, God addict, poetry reader for Arting Arena Magazine and curator of Poetry Village, OAU. Author of THE THEM IN ME (Direwords, 2022). Co-author of LET ME GRIEVE (Arting Arena Magazine, 2023). Joel won the Arting Arena Poetry Prize in 2022.

Asides writing, he loves to teach, talk and play football.