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“Wake-Keep” by Romeo Oriogun

“Wake-Keep” by Romeo Oriogun

                   during colonialism

                    grown men became houseboys

                    to white men & their families

In every probability, masa has rendered us
into boys. In the open, under the pear tree, 
wearing my shorts of indenture, 
I play the ogene, music of the devil, 
banished to the servant’s quarters.

Tonight, the wild music of my father
stir under the moon. How do I call his animal
of my disgrace? How do I wear the masquerade
of belonging?

The moon is so low, the spirits are welcoming 
their own, what song we sing will be lost in wind, 
what cry we cried is lost to air, sit beside me 
in the pastoral time of waiting, sit in the story 
of the dead, in the unbelonging of a son.

O lord, the water wide, the water far,
the water come – how deep is the descent of a soul?

Romeo Oriogun was born in Lagos, Nigeria. He is the author of Sacrament of Bodies (University of Nebraska Press, 2020). His poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, McNeese Review, Bayou, Brittle Paper, and others. He currently is an MFA candidate for poetry at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he received the John Logan Prize for Poetry.

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