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

our nature

                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.

Find him on twitter @itsamule and through his website