A leak in the ceiling II, Poem by Aremu Adams Adebisi

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A leak in the ceiling II

I stutter the letters when a bird
sculpts the air with its songs
& I find a little girl lifting her white
cotton dress for me to see,
head buried in its opening,
I draw in a heavy wind
& I shrink, shrink into bones.


You would rather weave a sick poem
call it your ILLiad, or dedicate one or two
for your limbs or your flailing arms,
say it is your limbericks if you like.
But in truth, how much do your words worth?

The silent night has me speaking a language
that goes beyond my words. I have walked
into a gathering of sorrow before solitude.
When it is dawn, a man says his prayers
& I wonder if it is me ready for sunset.

I trail the words out for you
but you do not budge a hearing
& I wonder why you ask again
when the evening tide is spread
& birds have sung deep into their tiny skulls.

You speak in blanched languages,
do you hear yourself?
The rain does not follow a routine
& no one mentions colours when it is dark.

Woman, I am here, the poet who goes
round knocking at creaking doors
without the consent of their men
till the building is separated & he holds
the exclusive right of the balcony.

There is a poet who walks into the depth
of a nursing mother. He sucks on the left breast
while the child grabs the right.

And she says you will come again,
mannerless client, when the wind of hunger
blows you before me. You will promise
your mother & swear upon your ancestor

Does it matter now?
The scavengers have lugged the carcass
into the waiting skies.

You came with flowers, and I thought
these are all roses and mistletoes.
and I, who have found your heart
so beautiful from within, called you Butterfly,
laid my precious self upon the fragrance.

I felt the atmosphere whirl into peace
until it turned into a bloody spring
when your flowers prickled my being
& I screamed above the thunder.
For what I had thought were roses &
mistletoes, were actually vines & thorns.

Your heart knows the origin of heartbreaks,
wrinkles in her depth, her dust-filled
eyes hold tales and memories of ruins
& abandon, of men who have eaten into her bliss
like the seawater at sand again & again.

Shipwrecked in the sea of your face,
I seek home beneath the seawaters.
My body held with the tip of my fingers,
length & breadth weighing existence
in slabs of iron flesh, dollop of gruels
& in bed of white roses matted in blood.

When you finally find a lady
who flaunts her imperfections,
hugs her flaws like a punctured ball,
do not let her go; there are only
a few of them in this world.

Because he is a boy expected to drain the furnace
and gather the sun in his palm,
no one is to tell him how fast the feet wrinkle
& how skins are leathery in the burns of time.

He rises from the past
in its perishing infinite,
his eyes struggle like a fluttering bird,
he loses all sense of colours to the sea.

The poems I wrote in the past
are nothing but lightning
without a thunder. The poems I will write
in the future shall soon mark my grave.

I put down the word ‘I’, its slimness
is a deceit. It is a boy standing upright
in his billowing shirt saying
no one draws fast enough
to capture the cut of mind.

I walk in the void of memories,
the path where light is clogged to its wheels,
and on it is a curious precious stone,
a silvery ray in a chalice of ashes.

You paint a tree without its red fruits,
you sit by the riverbank, you stare
at your painting, you distort the wind,
your mother is a cartographer,
but you are a lost road unmapped.

I could teach my little daughter how to sing,
but you see, she doesn’t have the voice;
so I taught my daughter how to knit instead.
One day she knitted wreaths for her mother
& a lion for me when my health failed.

I have made a list of what I need for the month:

1. Two big basins for washing clothes
2. One bucket for fetching rainwater
3. A kettle and a mat
4. More salt for toothpaste
5. New vehicular shoes to replace the worn-out
6. Rechargeable lamps
7. ‎And the grace of drought for my leaking roof.


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Aremu Adams Adebisi is a North-Central Nigerian writer, author of
works inspired by natural vastness, published/­forthcoming in Lucent
Dreaming, Thimblelitmag, Third Wednesday Magazine, The Account Magazine,
Cathexis Northwest Press, Terse Journal, and elsewhere. He curates
ARTmosterrific and serves as an Associate Editor for Elartinia Magazine.
He has appeared in Best ‘New’ African Poets Anthology and 20.35
Africa’s Anthology of Contemporary Poetry. He tweets @aremudamsbisi

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