Toluwalope Gbenga Ogunlesi was born in Scotland to Nigerian parents but lived most of his life in Nigeria. He studied pharmacy at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He writes poetry and short fiction. His poetry has appeared in The Times Arts Review (Nigeria), The Guardian (Nigeria), and online. His first collection of poetry, Listen to the Geckos Singing from a Balcony, was released in 2003.

Poems by Toluwalope Gbenga Ogunlesi

Waiting, Waiting

Toluwalope Gbenga OgunlesiThe expectations of our Expectations
Like rain's unwanted tantrums

The Expectations themselves - present
Tense dust, dragging limp feet

Thro' Times Square
Like harmattan's caked answer

To the probing riddles
Of slaving tongues

All the while, the whistling din of dim-
Inishing hope; after waiting, waiting.......

where a breast should dangle
playing hide and seek with a toddler-
's toothless grip; instead; neat prints
of a child rebel's practised machete, pro-
claiming "i wuz ere! i wuz ere!

the other, offering miserable solace
to the starving multitude - where once
they struck fertile deposits of white Egoli
now, just a plundered grape's hollow protest

they lace you with exploding magun
they do "wham! bam! thank you m'am!"
they weave dark legends, claiming
inspiration from your album
and the shape of your children's heads

And Now,

Her hair
Is a graveyard
Each 'suku' -
An AIDS victim's tombstone

chorus (2ce)

Ghosts roam
Her soul, like teeth
In the forests
Of her unwashed mouth

chorus (2ce)

Her gluteus maxima
Are oversized (burial) mounds
In the harvest time
Of seasonal genocide

chorus (2ce)

Her face
Is a detailed map
Showing the nearest refugee camps
(Her ila point out the shortest route)

chorus (2ce)

Each flow of blood
A wasted rain, untrapped
Fish that'd have joined
Her banquet of urchins

chorus (2ce)

And her songs
Meaningless dirges
For irredeemable children;
Each with many Fathers, and
Ribs eloquent as prison bars.

chorus (2ce)

oh weep
lacrimal dams

weep with me
for a sick sister
let's minister might
to our kin".

oh run
travel plans

run from her
from a sick nigga
mind sinister as the "night
of her skin"

Angular Anatomy Of A Pee-ing Cop

A furtive glance
draped o'er a striped shoulder
like a murder victim's white sheet

A Closet Scene Investigator's professional
observation of where decency was murdered
"Witnesses-you have a duty to remain mute"

A bold line drawn
by a zip-pen
"Trespassers keep off?"

A search for the offending weapon
stinging as a superior's scolding
"Beware of fingerprints!"

An arc hurtling through space
like a premeditated stray bullet
"UNknown soldier?"

An innocent ant-victim dying
in a cold-blooded pool of foam
"Operation kill-and-go?"

A conductor's flagging fingers
waving a limp stick
"The truth, the WHOLE TRUTH and.....

Hey! Wetin you dey look?
Wetin you carry.
i charge you

for staring, loitering
and obstructing police duty
i charge you....twenty naira

You Is The One

the lion in the roar
practising a soft "whoah"

you is the one
rigged to my offshore...
sifting, sieving, seeking
eternal circles, precious
than pearled oil

the sky in the moon
breeding a silvery mood

i is the one
stamping prints
on your grumbling weather,
believing in the power of the sky
to clear a black throat

the ocean in the fish
carrying a preserved wish

we is the one
in us, bundle of bohemian
love, burning swallowed bridges
digging; nestling
on a fertile pillow of tempest

the man in the blood
dangling a trembling sword

Resting In Peace

In Africa we don’t speak
Evil of the Dead.
Even when their evil
Makes us Dead. They become
Gentle roots to be watered
With nourishing Emulation.

We flock

To bury them, like mourning
Deer at a hunter’s funeral.
We always attend everyone’s burial
So they too can attend ours.

The Tour

Look what civilization has done. Civilization
Is concrete n steel n the bombs
That bring them down.

I feel I’m in the wrong place. That’s where
I used to have my bath. Over there. That stump
Was once a tree whose roots gorged
On black soap and a week’s worth of grime.
But they lived. They were Immune.

No point searching for the holes
Where we played marble-golf and dreamed
Of how one day the tabloids would splash
Pictures of the humble fields where
Those champions honed their skills.
The holes are lost forever, lost
In this breath of bombs, awful
Like a newly woken mouth .

Look what civilization has done. Just look.
Don’t worry about my tears. Men too cry.
My libation to the ghosts of my birthplace.
One moment it’s a simple home to simple folks
Where the wind and walls help in spreading secrets.
Next moment the bulldozers are strutting around
Piling homes and paling all into insignificance.
“Low cost housing is good for you”
All we saw was a blanket of drab concrete smothering
Our precious green infants, and stretching blocks
Like the divisions of an ugly species of caterpillar.
So every evening instead of a hundred rhythms
Of pounding pestles banding in amateur jazz
All we now hear are concrete-propelled echoes
Ugly to the ear, hollering curses to civilization.

Then the war comes. A bombed out village
Is far better than a bombed out ‘suburb’
A bombed out village buries you beneath
A pile of hard mud and palm fronds, you
Smile and crawl out, looking for a new site
To rebuild. A bombed out suburb is a real grave
Where you rest in a concrete coffin, held together
By steel nails, lined with blankets of glass.
You smile and give up the ghost.



There they come again, with
Elephants of steel flashing dragon breaths
Flaunting the appetites of fasting tigers, and
Steel-boned hawks dropping fiery faces.

They run and overrun, soon
They’ll eat dust and retreat

Now they advance
We too
Into our fathers’ compounds
Sacred groves of ageless ancestors.

To the noises their parched throats make
Smelling blood, dripping slaver, wondering
Why the best wine comes last


They run and overrun, soon
They’ll eat dust and retreat

We whisper to the ancestors – Patience!
Patience! Hide your fangs for now
Contain your boiling excitement,
For soon you’ll sicken of blood-
Manna and crave a change of diet


They run and overrun, soon
They’ll eat dust and retreat

Wake the slabs of slaughter, dress them
Veil them like maidens waiting for grooms.
The grooms draw near, gowns of handsome
Blood, awakening lust in the minds
Of slabs, shrines and ancestors.


They run and overrun, soon
They’ll eat dust and retreat

Royal mats await the elephants
Catapults of mass destruction for the hawks
Jagged bones to adorn their throats
The ancestors await their libations
We, our liberation.


They run and overrun, soon
They’ll eat dust and retreat

Love, Lagos and Havana were the three ends
Of the rope that bound Lorenzo and Maria.

Of course

They weren’t always Lorenzo and Maria
Maybe Lamidi and Mojisola, growing somewhere
In Isale Eko, thinking of who to fall in love with
And when, and how many seed to spawn

Then War rose
Waves of war, stout as Wailing walls
Sweeping the conquered across the Great Sea
That entombed tall tales of adventurous pilgrims.
So they went, as we go

But mercy shined and loosed their bonds
Instead of an eternal flaming iron brand
Or a second-skin slithering steel necklace
They got a milder label: Emancipado

So the story goes. But Chains still had their part
In the Plot. Cupid comes-a-calling, hawking
Nooses – the kind a Texas cowboy will love
They haggle and fall for the deal

Then the denouement. Home calls, first
In tiny whispers, then in that din so peculiar
To Lagos. Bags and Memories are packed
Names too, and Offspring, for they were
Not ashamed to count themselves Strangers
In the land, seeking a True Homeland.

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