“Apocalypse is too Greek a word”
3 poems from the periphery by Nigerian poet Ojo Taiye
Soaring temperatures. Polluted waters. Abandoned villages. Dying forests. No birdsong. Moonscapes. And hope. Nigerian artist Ojo Taiye captures the destruction of the natural world in poetry
— Letters from the periphery
there is a fire at the edge of my heart—
in the still hour before a world is drawn
I write I read I write I breathe I god this body
I can’t write poems about beauty when the land
is so eerie, burned & blackened, deaden by flame
& ash. when I think of NSW, I think of moonscapes.
I think of the wallaby & her tiny joey who kept coming
to the backyard’s glut of dark pines, feeding, nuzzling
& watching over the valley. had they survived?
this world folds me in half— I stand alone amongst
these ruins. what does it take to pull an emergency break?
in college, we were told to prepare for the coming devastation.
apocalypse is too greek a word for the burning river to come.
its forty-seven degrees in December & the wool from my eyes
cake into landmines. I listened to the radio & watched blackened
leaves fall from the sky. its stunning how much life there has to be
before you can think of home as a map unfolding— the many years
of wonder stuffed with occasional handful of notes:
summer + drought + lightning + arson = fire season.
— Climate Damages
how horrible & possible it is here.
there is no poetry in drought—
here the earth will always be flame.
the trees nailed to the narrative
of a prolonged heatwave.
slow jet stream—hanging from the air
with the bluntest gum in its throat.
the fire season growing even wilder
on the forest floors down the coast.
do you see? dead storks and a flaming
debris raining down on the village.
it was reported that not even one firefighting
plane was sent. a howl at the pine cones
& the beehives that might at any point fall
on our heads. still under the red glow
of an orange sky and something that someone
mumbled nightmarish summer. in the dark times
of climate anxieties, will there also be garlic
cloves? in the dark times of climate anxieties,
will there also be singing?
— Disaster Film
there is no poetry in a flaming
world. there is no poetry in historic
nightmares. in the raging fire, there
is no poetry. welcome to the future.
here, there are no epiphanies—
only long nights and a hollow heat
wave that will never matter— I mean
poor countries waiting for a salvation
that will never come. what did we learn?
did home become better? in the substantive
ferocity of the devastation, we lost our
names—my mother’s green lungs and clear
streams. in the case of flash floods and
tearful survivors: watch out, all climate
refugees are black (as usual). the trunks
of mangled trees still smolders. there
is no spotter plane that tutelage us—
we are all abandoned like hive boxes
in an empty field. so much kindling on
the forest floors. well, the crises seem
tragic and in one unbroken chain. miles
away from home, I still see an opaque
wall of haze over the sea.
What’s so good about this?
Poetry can help us make sense of the world. As a conduit for self-expression, it helps us to explore and understand ourselves – and the world in which we live. Poetry affords us the opportunity to imagine the pains and pleasures of others. Its intimacy of tone can make us look slowly, and embody an experience. Plus, it equips us with metaphors to understand what we cannot articulate directly.
Meet the writer
Ojo Taiye is a young emerging artist who uses poetry as a handy tool to hide his frustration with society. He also makes use of collage and sample technique. He is the winner of many prestigious awards including the 2021 Hay Writer’s Circle Poetry Competition and 2021 Cathalbui Poetry Competition, Ireland.
You can support Ojo by reading and sharing his work.