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’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 agarauadedayo.com