a bird’s song is sin By Ernest O. Ogunyemi

a bird’s song is sin

for boys like me
who do not know
how to kill
the fire burning
in their bodies.

how many times will I come
here to the stream to wash all the filth away?

Father whips me every day, but
the devil has become part of me—my other half.

Mother brings home bottles of holy water
for me to drink, it is to cleanse my mouth of

all the impure loves I have tasted—
a girl’s lip hides between my gums

a boy’s name puffs my cheeks on the sides
the name of a boy you love cannot be hid

love is glaring. a bird’s song is broken
into bits. I pick it up for mending

and the song is crushed between my palms.
beneath my heart lies the thoughts of you

in my eyes a dream of you, little bird leaving
to leave—not live—is your only option

the other option is burning—breaking
it is the fire that keeps the ship at bay.

Father takes me to the font, calls God
his son, and spirit, and dips me in

the water. I have come here a million times
perhaps this time my eyes will not

fix itself so hard on a boy who looks like
Eden’s apple, tastes like heaven’s song

a boy soft like the feel of manna, melting
into flakes on my tongue. how he never

dies, how this love seems
eternal, yet trapped in now.

I touch my wetness
in the dark
and fire dies in my heart
in my heart—AMEN.

By Ernest O. Ogunyemi


Ernest O. Ogunyemi is an eighteen-year-old boy singing in words from the corner of his room in Nigeria—to the world. His works have appeared in Kalahari, Praxis Online, Literally Stories, Acumen UK, and elsewhere. He is learning to walk on water, not when it freezes.

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