Four Poems: Dipe Jola


We all need sadness to survive.

the world swells like a  birdsong. your gothic
dress ruined. you feel upturned; an evacuated
garden of butterflies sits in your throat.

often sadness is a caged bird. one if not troubled
is a safehouse. the world in its glowworm character
with its teeth in a child’s half ruined laughter.

it just doesn’t make sense. the complexities of life;
a bird’s migration, a daughter’s birthday, a mother’s
body eaten by earth. what to do with the dead?

for every beauty catalogue, a jaw is missing. it goes:
war is the music. a county’s ranch. drenched
in red sweet berries. a slab of dug animal meat.

we all need what is needed to survive—plus a
tweak of sadness. the world swells like a bird’s
gullet into an elegy.  dresses ruined with wine.

a quiet earthquake waits you.


Intuitiveness  And My Grandmother’s Quietness 

Every poet I know writes about their grandmother. Every
Garden is carrying a grandmother’s silky, pale skin and a
Fattened cheekbone. Every grandmother is a gathering of light—
Little storms in the depth of a graveyard. My friend catches his
Grandmother’s face anytime he stares into the mirror. Is it true
That the dead sometimes wants to live lives like before?
Dead things / beings / countries / flowers / field / dreams / colors /
Sometimes wants to be un-dead? Should we unbury our mouths?
Should we unbury our dreams? Should we unbury our dead? Should
We unbury all of my family’s children? Should I unbury my grandmother’s
Flowery skin? Should we harvest our dead? My father says your eyes is the
Only thing left for remembrance. I don’t know you grandmother. Nor your
Eyes but will you take my garden as a gift of reincarnation? The men in my
Family praises your quietness and alertness, is this where this mystery glass
Is from? Is it from your bronze teeth or your blistered tongue?



“it is hard to fight a war when silence is
          the only weapon we have” — Som Adedayor


/ like snow balls falling from the sky,

our silence betrays the warzone / it falls

like nuclear weapons traumatizing patriots,

/ the nurses and the air we breathe.


/ when ashes fall from the sky, it’s another

eye of the bull trembling in a bull’s fight,

it’s another boy from a sinkhole shrinking

into another body—a carcass of bleeds.


/ silence can be harmed with words—why

your mother’s body is a revolver and you—

god of pirated bullets. / what is your

silence if a boy is kneeling on flowers to coffins

every dawn?


/ if a cannon of fire tats your sister’s belly?

/ if the wound in your heart is just another

form of hate set to hang ropes up the ceiling

or drive pills to the belly?


/ it is hard to fight a war where the opponents

churn out fire balls and the patriots sing a bon-

fire’s anthem. /it is even harder when you are

murmuring and your mother is on the other side

of the phone, weeping.



& the child lived, for orange years
multiplying his body tissues like the resonance
of guitar strings. he would die after the
first wave of measles. we tend to cover our
own with a bird’s eye. his mother would wail
in front of me while like a stolen car, I jerk back
into reality. on the eve of the burial, I will find his
father on his knees fancying earth. how many bodies
till earth is muddy brown? one time last year, I found
myself kneeling inside a poem pleading—memories,
faces have failed me. I have failed to carve you out of
candlelight because like the moon you are always here.
the night, at that certain time, you were a song I carried
on my lips the way a mother jets her child to alertness.


Dipe Jola is a poet from Lagos, Nigeria. A Best Of The Net Nominee. She contributed to Momento: an Anthology of Contemporary Nigerian Poetry (Animal Heart Press 2020) edited by Adedayo Agarau. The first runner up for the Eriata Oribhabor Poetry Prize, 2018. Some of her published works are on African Writer, FeralPoetry, Minerallit, Kalahari Review, Turnpike Magazine, and elsewhere. She can be reached via Twitter @jola_ng

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