I grew up counting the names of God,
all of them—it was the one thing Father taught me to do.
Father, unlike Moses, did not find the Lord in bushfire,
he had found him in fleeing from burning.
And I joined him (we all did), running.
I ran so much my heart began to ache,
my body began to shift perspective,
I began to see things other than what my eyes have been
taught to see—that I am not salt and light,
that I am better called saltwater and darkness.
I began to see that what I wear is not grace,
it is grief turned inside out, sorrow light enough
to keep me going to the altar to lay down
the burdens I rise with every time dawn stretches its wings
and covers up the castles we build inside our eyes,
every time I go there to confess my sins—sins
of lusting after my own body,
of playing hide and stripping in the dark,
of teasing my forepart with fingers and
places now covered in a blanket of dusk.
I tease my body till the world rises to a crescendo,
till the earth blooms with flowers, summer sets
inside me, and fire burns to the place of water.
but I am still running (we all are), Father says
to stop is to never hear my heart beat.
in the background, the shèkèrè goes ti-ti-ti ti-ti-ti, and
the agogo goes ko-ko-ko ko-ko-ko,
hands slap a frenzied rhythm out of cowhide
stretched taut over round, hollow wooden bellies,
fierce palms marry to birth a pace for
shuffling feet and swaying waists, and
voices rise in screams that have no name and
babblings that have no roots.
they have left earth.
the dead in their silence tell me
men will find god in madness,
they will seek solace in unthreaded songs,
we will quench our thirsty souls by eating baked sweat,
and when we have built us a house crowded with fireflies
we will console ourselves by calling it the house of god, the place of stars.
but all things must die,
the fireflies will one day lose their light and will fall as testimonies of darkness
and this house built of unseen dreams and quicksand will not stand the sea-wave,
and like those who walked this path before us have done
we will again gather quicksand and collect fireflies
to lie to the truth that this cycle of death and resurrection teaches us
that god is too big for a body of bricks or collection of words,
god is how the dark widens inside you and marries light to birth
teardrops that look like crystals in the sun.
Ernest O. Ogunyemi is an eighteen-year old writer from Nigeria. His works have appeared in/on Literally Stories, Kalahari, Litro, Acumen, ANA Review, The Rising Phoenix, Erotic Africa: The Sex Anthology (published by Brittle Paper), and more. His YA short story, ‘Of little, beautiful and broken things’, was recently selected for the Goethe-Institute AfroYoungAdult Worksshop to take place in Lagos. @ErnestOgunyemi
Featured photo credit: Amanda Ollinik @Allunderonemoon