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AT THE GRAVESIDE (for Sister Lizzy)

By Ojo Olumide Emmanuel

PROMPT—No one noticed ...

today, the earth belched

its cutlery on your body

-i am a witness &

other witnesses, i didn't cry, some did, the women.

i cried after bathing & scrubbing

my body with a towel,

i thought about the day when my hands will pitiably not reach my back

when others shall bath my adult body

i thought about myself becoming an elegy.

at the graveside, before they ferried your corpse to where the earth fed on you;

i opened my phone to read a poem by martins deep---

he wrote them, seated with the death of his father.

i wanted to fall into his heart to witness what was breaking him, was his heart crying?

at your graveside, a woman began a song,

she is not from your tribe, you died in the land of another tribe. the dead has no tribe.

"when the roll is call up yonder, i will be there" & then another hymn on page 416.

"only remember..." & i couldn't sing;

my voice left my throat, i wasn't thinking about you or myself. i was blank. &

you were there, lifeless on the ground.

when they lowered you down like the tummy digesting a meal, i didn't draw near.

death is a parable, the preacher charged us to take life easy because death is our permanent destiny.

when the pastor poured earth on you

"in the name of the father, the son & the holyghost, you didn't protest.

when your grave diggers stood on your body after half was covered on you, you didn't protest.

are dead bodies gentle? you won't haunt them too? i can't tell. no, you won't.

may the earth be light on you, says a malian prayer for the dead.

we all return to our homes leaving you behind, we didn't tell you we will miss you,

even if we said so, would you answer?

we are all debtors to death &

we are dead bodies crying for another dead body. &

god is wise. he shall ask us of our deeds someday.

rest well. we remember you until we shall also be in remembrance.


Ojo Olumide Emmanuel is a Nigerian Poet and Book Editor. He is the Author of the Poetry Chapbook "Supplication For Years in Sands" (Polarsphere Books, 2021). His works have appeared and forthcoming at Feral, Quills, Poemify, Melbourne-Culture, TNR, and elsewhere. He currently curates the monthly Wakasoprize for Poetry and Abubakar Gimba Prize for Short Fiction. He is a fellow of SprinNG Writers Fellowship. Say, "Hi" to him on Twitter @OjoOlumideEmma2. Ojo writes from Minna, Nigeria.


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