Invisible Speaker and other poems
by Oluwaseun Olayiwola
[cw: some sexual imagery]
Invisible Speaker – Poppers
There are two kinds of torture: praise
For qualities you hate and praise
For what you can’t control, the way
They call you a good partner, you
Love a lot, loyal, a wild wounded
Animal in bed, supine and prone
As the dry flakes on your lips become
Unhealed stitch marks in the skin.
Two nostrils, two burnings like flags
Erect after decimation, headache, arched-
-back so curved where he ends and
You begin is right here ––: and now, next
To the light you can almost see the mess
He will make of you like a bride
Using her left hand to sign. A body
Can’t be shattered twice. How do I know?
I know because I wish I knew. I know
Physical change, like pain, can be permanent.
Invisible Speaker – Drone
I often kill desire in a stranger’s bed.
Always with my hands, though I’m the one
who lets out a child’s scream. Who bleeds white –
a suicide of sorts. Tough decision: do I want my life
or do I want my life to be a movie? The way I see it
you’re always either just after or right before
your next hookup. The Frankenstein of a man
about to go all-monster on you ––
he’s gonna show you what he’s made of
in time, how he lifts time like a drone:
this is called the cock abeyance, inside you. Every second
you wait on him, you are a doctor, you really love him
for who he will be
tomorrow: no-one, experiment––the one
stain on the shorts you’ll never wash again.
Powerlessness –– the want we hate our bodies with.
Endeavor –– all the steps I take leading up to his door.
When I knock, the reverberating drum of my skin,
I hear it again; my hearts are the sticks.
because in the bushes, we know desire
is wrongly, and often, named wind––even
the birds stay away from here, the ashy
skin of the train tracks, leading us
into one another like a storm approaching
the gut––three seconds, they say,
it takes to decide whether he is
an animal or my animal for the duration
of our reservation of touch
we share in the thicket of used condoms
consecrating our want – no – our need
to be empty as ghosts in dreams. We make
of another man’s body
a haunt, a place you step into once
and never again as someone wholly sentient,
twig there, adult-sized tree, a man
has fallen asleep, his hands cradling
his penis like treasure or something
recently found again, hard memory, the bouquet
of rubber rabbit brush, dirty and dry
baby wipes, sand and shit, and all these
climb the amber spread of my mind
then form a question: is this
or earth’s? one is dying
and the other, when I am made
a factor in it, makes me feel so Goddamn
Aubade in Overcast
–after Natalia Goncharova’s “Winter. Gathering Firewood”
How you grey––how your hands refuse defeat between
loads of firewood: scattered, then –– as if form
were a cure –– on our backs, leaning us homeward
like lovers being watched
in the snow––how it changes you. How it changes
me. ––Ice-flower, dark gaze, all the shades of brown
we become as this familiar squall patches
the night. How we are safest in its daunt – hold:
me now, promise-eyes focused over your shoulder
as if I could tell you all the secrets
I buried before the storm clipped its scythe
across my voice splitting it
into wants––the one
you hear, the one you don’t but that:
I wish you did.
Beige, vermillion, the cacophony of cloud – how else
to say I am freezing in this silence, this grayest cold
hunched-over like an old woman eyeing the truth––: has she
caught us or just seen us, which is a kind
of catching the way touch is a kind of falling–– baby,
can I call you that? or darling? freeze-light?
neck-snowflake? where my eye goes first? who
my body follows like a pledge to stay alive
forever? Or, maybe just, my man
who, when he is near me, could make this whole
damn snowfield go up in flames like tinder––
‘Touchless Times’ A Review of Olayiwola’s Poetry by Jeffery Gan features in our non-fiction section of issue one and can be found here.
Oluwaseun is currently a second-year Master of Fine Arts Choreography Student at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire in London. In 2018, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to the United Kingdom, where he began to write poetry. His poetry attempts to mine his deepest selves as a Nigerian-American, a queer man, as a dancer and a writer.