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By Gbenga Adesina

                                  Girls walk by the side of the road,
                              a cluster of bright patterns—Teju Cole


North of the country, a road led to the desert.
Dust was the first sentence. The Sahara
was a white darkness in the distance,
and beyond it the glint of a Great Lake.
We drove past fields of ginger and wild purple onions.
There was a public garden and a ring of white egrets
around still water.
At a farm, we met farmers who knew the stiff silk
and red heart muscle of watermelons.
They held the fruits close to their ears and listened
to measure their own decay.
At an animal sanctuary, we met a donkey named Happiness.
She had rheumy black eyes and a silvery blaze on her forehead.
We drove past a little town that was named in a language
that was disappearing.
We arrived at a city called Paradise.
Its gate and city walls were burnt in the last
century and rebuilt only in a dream. Praise the emptiness.
We were offered water from wells dug by men of the desert tribe.
The wells, we were told, are older than the country.
The desert was once a lake.
Sorrow has such beautiful wings.
Women in black sarongs gathered around the wells.
The lake was in their voices, it rose and fell as they sang.
In a dream, their children vanished.
When they woke, the children remain vanished.
The girls, in a near forest, I imagine, huddle together,
as in the nightmare of children, afraid of the dark.
In the far distance, valleys of sorghum, minarets, and the sepulchers of kings.
Pray for mercy. Here, the desert will eat your child.




Listen as Gbenga Adesina reads PARADISE.

Added: Wednesday, April 24, 2024  /  Used with permission.
Gbenga Adesina
Photo by Ladan Osman.

Gbenga Adesina is a Nigerian poet and essayist. He received his MFA from New York University where he held the Goldwater Poetry Fellowship and was mentored by Yusef Komunyakaa. He has received support from Poets House, New York, Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, Colgate University’s Olive B. O’Connor Fellowship, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Harlem, and Harvard University’s historic Woodberry Poetry Room. His work has been published in The Paris Review, Harvard Review, Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day, Guernica, The Yale Review, New York Times Magazine, and elsewhere, and has been translated into multiple languages. He’s the inaugural Mellon Foundation Post-doctoral Fellow in Global Black and Diasporic Poetry at the Furious Flower Poetry Center, James Madison University. 

Image Description: Gbenga Adesina gazes forward in front of a white backdrop. He wears a grey knit turtle-neck sweater with buttons. 

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