my God says it’s not in my job description

to stay clean. hygiene is monetized
farce. a trick to keep soap & rehab
& the church & conscience
& your silence in business.
i scrub my own tongue hard to a
shiny silence.

a bad childhood stuttering cannot be blamed.
mother says the pen is a better
tongue: a tongue that can undo its self.
but mother’s memory is a compromised
darkroom. i cannot take words
there. forgive me. i cannot
be discovered by the scrubbing.
the shame is in discovery.

i stay clean by staying here
in the small containment of silence.
forgive me that i have flat foot for
a bad handwriting. that my skin is
often too black for a scrub.


colour manners

most days i stay out of my skin
& tether to the ground

when i think of misapplied qualifiers
black is the only word on the list:
the only excerpt on the lips of a
white suspicion

black tyres, black night, black swan,
blacklight, black devil, black death,

my mouth
a black hole

i wrap lots of English on my
tongue hoping for
this dark hole to glitter
like the first spark of creation

every fortnight in the village
school the pupils polish
the board to a matte black
cloud, ready it for
lightning—God’s signature
riding on a storm

everything looks good on me
save black grief. where did you dump
your colour manners,
black boy?



O-Jeremiah Agbaakin holds a law degree from the University of Ibadan. His works recently appeared on OBSIDIAN, Sierra Nevada Review, StepAway, Riddled with Arrows, and elsewhere. He has received a Pushcart Prize and a Best of the Net nominations.