I Want All the Smoke

but so does the sky. Most don’t make it past the first line yet

                    here we are. Once I tell you what happens next,

          there’s no turning back. Across from me, Garfield Park

beholden to preteens on gravitating swing sets. At that age, you wake up

                    with no dilemmas and fall asleep expecting much less.

          Darkness can not get named after your despair

until you first experience your own laws of motion. Mine, self-serving,

                    after static stifled my legs to the degree

          that I could even start to consider what betrayal looks like.

That the backstabbers the O’Jays told us to watch out for may very well

                    pale in comparison to our own blood rushed.

          What does it say looking for a fight when it is already in you?

I fear I’ve misjudged my capacity to the degree that I am exempt.

                    Even after I infuse imperatives into

          my statements, they end up the least of my doing.

Lend me a flash of brilliance that isn’t a siren. Lend me an aurora

                    that isn’t a clearing. I need the cop

          to apprehend I’ve cried before without relapse

or the seduction of tear gas. I don’t need you to coax it out of me.

                    My ancestors have already lifted my voice through song.

          Just say the word and I can take a polygraph

whenever you’d like. The notes are no different than every day you have

                    written, than each sunrise which needed the night before.

          You know, I haven’t the slightest idea why you assume I want

what I won’t handle. It’s almost as if I open my mouth and you forget, then

                    remember how I’ve been denied the lands

          I’ve once watered, how once, once I was the glory.


Originally from the West Side of Chicago, Olatunde Osinaike is a Nigerian-American poet and software developer. He is the author of the chapbooks Speech Therapy, a winner in the Atlas Review’s 2019 Chapbook Series (forthcoming), and The New Knew (Thirty West). A Best of the Net, Bettering American Poetry, and Pushcart Prize nominee, his work has been selected as winner of the Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize, a winner of the Frontier Industry Prize, honorable mention for the Ploughshares Emerging Writer’s Award in Poetry, and as a finalist for the Southeast Review Gearhart Poetry Prize and RHINO Poetry Editor’s Prize. His most recent work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in publications such as Prelude, Puerto del Sol, Winter Tangerine, Cosmonauts Avenue, and the Columbia Poetry Review, as well as in the anthologies Best New Poets, 20.35 Africa, and New Poetry from the Midwest. He has previously served on poetry staff at The Adroit Journal and is currently a master’s candidate at Johns Hopkins University.