The 2020 Industry Prize, 3rd Place Winner: Bad Dream With My Grandmother’s Stroke by Adedayo Agarau

We’re all very excited to share with you the winners of the 2020 Frontier Industry Prize, selected by Daniel Slager, Peter LaBerge, and Carmen Giménez Smith. Today, we have “Bad Dream with My Grandmother’s Stroke” by Adedayo Agarau. Stay tuned for our second place poem by Chaun Ballard next Wednesday, and our winner Michelle Phương Ting’s poetry on the 3rd of December. Thank you to everyone who submitted this year!


Bad Dream With My Grandmother’s Stroke


Setting: Hot afternoon, mint green cubical room, a small speaker

playing Ayinla Omowura, a metal frame bed on which i sleep.



inhale. cut. cut. exhale.



as needle drills into your neck

we hide memories

beside the molly plant

keep our hands to ourselves

because you were never home enough to contain a miracle

little stars lost at the bank of your mouth                       see the trembling,

the thrones a dying body makes from inside a prayer room

the sky the night we gathered & called god an empty room

only echoes stayed, all magics drew thirst from our veins           i drifted

out of slumber, poured vinegar into a glass of water & smeared it over the kitchen slab

just because i want to feel useless         my grandma is dying & there is nothing i can do



it’s april & there were thunderstorms

a hungry plant lapping water till its too full to stand

my grandmother held against the hands in her bed, blinking her once memorable eyelids

tell me this is not your doing, to carve the night into a figurine & haunt a boy

by blowing out midnight candles           the wind wearing the curtain in this house

hear the trees speak of faceless ghosts  hear the ground digging its fingers into

someone’s back            i also dreamt that i walked into a moving car                  woke up

with a broken arm



when they came to drag me out of bed

they called my name thrice & poured salt over my face.

they phased us through the mint green wall.


in the other world, you were beading

my sister’s hair. & other girls were plucking

butterflies from cactus plants. i screamed.

from inside a fountain, a mermaid sold me roasted corn.



still, the sun dresses your open sore

the sugar ants gather at the foot of your bed.

my aunty tries to kill them with a broom.

everyone gather where there is enough light to turn a

night-city into a stadium. in the other world, birds

speak to me about freedom from illusions:

  • say to stone my father from inside my sleep
  • say to cry into my journal
  • say to apologize to myself


it’s not my fault that you tremble. the cigarette

smoke dances in the empty room. i say

take, take what my demon offers you today.




Adedayo Agarau

Adedayo Agarau’s chapbook, Origin of Names, was selected by Chris Abani and Kwame Dawes for New Generation African Poet (African Poetry Book Fund), 2020. He is a human nutritionist, documentary photographer, and author of two chapbooks, For Boys Who Went & The Arrival of Rain. Adedayo was the Runner up at the Sehvage Poetry Prize in 2019. He is an Editor at IceFloe, Assistant Editor at Animal Heart Press, a Contributing Editor for Poetry at Barren Magazine. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in Agbowo, Frontier Poetry, Glass Poetry, Mineral Lit, Ghost City, Temz, Linden Avenue, Headway Lit, The Shore, Giallo, and elsewhere. Adedayo was said to have curated and edited the biggest poetry anthology by Nigerian poets, Memento: An Anthology of Contemporary Nigerian Poetry. You can find him on Twitter @adedayo_agarau or

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