A painting of an unclothed dark-skinned figure with their arms above their head against a bright orange background
Daniela Yohannes (UK/Guadeloupe), Subterranean (2019), acrylic on linen, 116 x 89 cm / Courtesy of Addis Fine Art

there are flowers you can’t touch outside someone’s house
at night, a mother
pounds the head of her newborn  at first, it was music  then the silence of crickets
    we gather dust sand murals wilt flowers worn-out sandals iron cast over dreams
we collect the firstfruits ones older women snatch from us in sacred rooms fried in sin

my aunt’s husband sacrifices her for riches the shade of shadows stand still in his courtyard we
   no longer go
to their house no longer eat their foods ones my cousins bring in baskets covered with towels

i kick a frog out of my slippers put saliva on my wound leave for school the morning i am kidnapped
    when they found me  was standing by a pole unconscious the window of grief that opened
in my family shut itself & opened in a house down the street then children began to die then
we could no longer go to the playfield at dusk to run & sing & dance & call someone ugly & watch them cry
     & sing them sakasakashushu
         everywhere a weed grows, there is a wild mouth eating children
     i dream that someone carves out my friend’s eye, & the next day he was gone, forever
what do i know about leaving that held the hands that snatched me?
 we gather dust for bodies that never made it home
  pray over their bodiless graves, wash our hands in the river down the road
  & lock ourselves in our parents’ house

     no one knew what took everyone.

Adedayo Agarau is an MFA candidate at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His manuscript, The Morning the Birds Died, was a finalist for the 2021 Sillerman Prize. His chapbook, Origin of Names, was selected for New-Generation African Poets 2020 (African Poetry Book Fund). His poems have appeared in Frontier, Lolwe, Perhappenned, Boulevard, and elsewhere.