Original illustration by Pedro Gomes

One morning, on a wet day during the week,
in which I had sharpened my cutlass from dark
till dawn, braving for the stubbornness of wet leaves,
for the wet branches of trees that grew across
the farm path, snatching at legs, saying in their quiet
voices, there is no where you can escape from life,
there is no where you can escape from the resurrection
of dead things.

Then, there was the wild that stood before me,
an old forest filled with the survivors of fallen trees,
where macabre monkeys called and responded,
called and responded to each other, and if one was lucky
a big bird, with red and white plumage like a cloth
wrapped around the bruised body of the dead,
would fly by, saying nothing like the dead moving
from one life to another, migratory like the wild boar
who woke himself out of a grave he dug last evening.

Everything was a prelude to wonder.
The roots of trees gossiped different farmers,
mocking those whose crops have withered.
I sung the ballad of the river, having crossed
the gully, I turned toward my farm; scarecrows
made out of my grandfather’s clothes welcomed
me to the earth, and I welcomed the many dead,
those who walked in my shadow.

There was no time to finish the half work of nature.
I sat on a rotten log and viewed row after row
of young pineapples, all of them blossoming
like little eyes, watching me back, and I thought
of all the eyes that were there; the trees, the birds,
the seeds ready to break from their past like men
running away from an old city, the deer watching
me behind the safety of leaves, and the earth
itself, all of us watching the sky, waiting for rain,
or for the silence to teach us a lesson — some lesson
about faith. After a while it was all over, I picked up
my cutlass, cutting down the first weed, cutting
down the world, as the trees stared at the duty of man,
which was the duty of hands.

Romeo Oriogun

Romeo Oriogun is the author of The Gathering of Bastards, forthcoming in 2023, and Sacrament of Bodies. An alumnus of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he lives in Ames, Iowa, where he is a postdoctoral research associate at Iowa State University.