Olaitan Junaid

Displacement & Other Poems

Olaitan Junaid

Olaitan Junaid

Olaitan Junaid is a Nigerian poet and content creator studying English Language. More than taking coffee, he enjoys having conversations about its smell. His works are in/coming on Glass, Palette, The Rising Phoenix Review, Perhappened Mag & elsewhere. He tweets @olaitan_junaid.

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Artwork By Saïdou Dicko

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Narrated by Olaitan Junaid


Displacement & Other Poems

Narrated by Olaitan Junaid

In Which I Try Writing an Essay on Necromancy While Ahmed Bukhatir's Last Breath Loops on ‘Oumi’s Stereo

nightly // sandwiched before a grave // everyone except me // parted with their last words // & after // a multitude of rituals // i want to laugh // act like it was never my fault // even when it was /// funny // all my life // i’ve been nothing more // say // a witness // & so as always // i watched // how the flames /// mad with thirst // sipped the ram's blood// & i, mere prattle // in the art of watching //  watched // the smoke assemble into a blurry blessing // the sky blue/// with expectation // it was the soul of an immaculate boy //  gone crazed with wine // tipped off god's ear // broke his neck on the island of lamu // & left to quench vultures // a century of hunger// 

haunted by the palpitation of a worm /// dipped in salt // i called light three times // & my grandmother exorcise // from the kitchen wall // receding into blindness // the clouds— // a silver god // moving in airtight burqa stitched with anger // once lost at crossroads // i retreated down the folds of my throats // & pull out a knife afoot nekyia // with it, dug a trench // & around it // poured libations for all my dead aunts // first with honey // followed by sweet wine // & then water // with cornmeal sprinkled over it // after // i watched them shapeshift into wounded animals // blood piping // into the earth we stood upon // till they became too weak // to claim their names //

at first light // my father's first son crowed // his way into a hole // & all his lovers in turn // stripped naked // burnt /// their wedding dresses to ash // & when gloam struck// diced onion bulbs under /// their beds to keep off ghosts // on his burial night // a headless cat walked into my sleep & scared my brother off a tree // seven days after // a calabash dropped un-spilling its songs // this way // the line grew short // & came his turn // somehow // we prayed ourselves onto a field // emptied the red sea snaking through our veins // offered a skinned sheep upon a pyre // to hold him still // & again // we waited // & waited


for the refugees in Hammam al-Alil, decamping on government's order

think of this poem as a body 

unfurling towards the threshold of nothingness,

a small village in Mosul 

squeezing itself into extinction;

think of escape as throwing knives 

missing the bulls-eye    

etched on a target board;

think of thousands 

fleeing bullet songs

                                    & birthplace;

think of three years away as a body 

retreating into itself 

                                        for safety;

think of ‘oumi speaking Arabic 

                             for the first time 

since we moved here;

think of here as a camp in Hammam al-Alil, 

fifteen miles south of home;

think of home as the earth beneath my feet, 

yet distant from my grip;

think of the fifty-year-old Umm Ahmed, 

disabled & widowed,

both sons, losing themselves to amnesia; 

think of the Iraqi woman from the province of Baji;

think of her: childless, helpless, soon-to-be homeless;

husband rotting somewhere under the godless sky;

think of sacrifice as boys wielding their father's names 

like swords in the face of brutal authority;

think of this camp as a story opening with promise,

but now closing with a hope, 

bleak as the ocean vast 

or a religion full of broken believers;

think of departure as my body 

opening into a fresh wound,

bones displacing someplace 

in search of home.