“Proust Questionnaire”, “River Ethiope” & “Foster”

Proust Questionnaire

Alive again, I knew I wanted to begin with touch, my body’s torso, stroke without terror, as I walk towards his gramophone, to the wall hanging, Nina Simone singing at the background, of a place called “more”, and this time I didn’t have to swim. I have prayed for this, and whenever I hear the rolling tongues of children, walking through the only shell of their childhood, at the park. I want to shout as summer returns to us. Once, I watch my lover slice bush cherry, dragon fruit and hog plum. This is my first time of straying, and the moon stretches on our bed, like a blue dress. There is an orchard garden at the backyard, with almond trees. I fill my hands with sweet apples: every day the world closes its eyes, and the devil sleeps in my eyes. All along, I knew I wanted to begin with faith. Tonight, the stars sheathe their glinting sabers. And I linger in the fringes of another’s warmth, counting my last chances, like a child amaze at the first flakes of snow angels. Who will smuggle me back into a body full of living dreams? What’s the word for a woman who returns to a home cracked open carefully like an egg? It’s common belief we survive for a reason. I have never felt as adored as this; I say every day. Standing there, in his roadside kitchen, I watch the beam in his face, all so sure, all so soft, devouring my body. And, I welcome them back, the little hurts, split open on my dirty broken shoulders, and the bitter-sweet, aphid desire to whisper: please name me, name me, O soft and gentle wanderer in the long winter night of a cold cornfield.

River Ethiope

This is where all the roadside bush meats are,
grasscutters and dream-colored duikers. This is
where we lay down and later hunt: our fingers
tracing the veins of the leaves, we had plucked
off the African breadfruit tree. The sun is bright
this morning – and we filled our basket with
field mush rooms and udara beke, the color of
mango-steen. There are eyes sticking to us from
behind the wooden hedgerows, where the old
witch was buried. We hardly noticed until a
crow flutter through the palm trees, bleeding:
burning the other end of summer.


O Aisha – before any of this, I love just prosody, but now I cherish your curves most.
Everyone knows that I am hurting, in this abandoned Fulani grove, where wilds are
witnesses to desire – the hefty cattle beside me, nibbling on grasses, that once flanked the
old rugged bush path. Whatever happens, little dove, forgive me, it’s not too late to pick
up what’s left of this out-of-practice union and chose hope. Knowing that what we share
was full of passion and billows; carved photographs poring through my mind, as I run my
fingers over the hoop of your precious bracelet. In other news, this is more than an
emotional poem. Obviously, I write for those little things that would make you happy.
Smart little haiku, short envoi that might hold a photo of my face. Look at that face! The
face of a young Fulani boy. No makeup. There is a sonnet under my eyes. In truth, it

Sometimes, I’m afraid you will forget those evenings of tête-à-tête; how I wanted to make
you laugh. What else can be stolen if not joy? You stole my heart, my soul, my lips –
plucked it like cherry fruit from a swaying tree. Now, I am in my forties and I’ve always
had a dream that you were here, and we lived ecstatically, in a beach house beside the sea.
Aren’t cormorants fascinating? My God, I watch your sexy portrait over and over, this fair
maiden whom I walk backwards with, in impressive leaps of spills and joy. It is June and
I forget that I’m a tired nomad; to my right there is an unpaved dusty road, jute bags
pumped with wheat stalks, stomped by a dog with its paws. Home is where we must be
kind with affection, that for some people, is the smell of childhood, but I glance over my
shoulders and everything slowly goes pink, in small backrooms dishabille and elegant –
as the birds lay dreaming.

Ojo Taiye is a Nigerian artist, eco-activist and writer who uses poetry as a tool to hide his frustration with society. Taiye’s most recent work is largely concerned with the effects of climate change, homelessness, migration, drought and famine, as well as a range of transversal issues arising from racism, black identity and mental health. Taiye worked on the 2021 Sustrans Black History Month Art Project, 2021-22 Scene Stirling COP26 Climate Commission, 2021/22 switch art project, 2022 Green Transitions Conference, Norway; 2022 – CHCI/MELLON Global Humanities Institute, South Africa; We Hear You—A Climate Archive, 2023.