Poetry: Why Do You Answer in Yoruba by Mayowa Oyewale

Mayowa Oyewale seeks out the roots, through language, of connection and disconnection. “Fine forgetfulness,” the poem calls it, the state of a tongue transformed, making room for new words to share its mouth.

Why Do You Answer in Yoruba


When I speak to you in English / the way the English do it / thick tongue turning towards / eloquence / Mother / I talk too much / yet a tribe short of myself / crossed beyond the country / learned a language so well / only to start to feel shame


In Twi / the word for welcome / is akwaaba / which sounds more like ẹkáàbọ̀ here / same sound & sense / And I start to wonder where both tongues met in history / if they warred internecinal / yet united in a word


How gently language leaves the body / is a mystery / I want to be received / in all my fine forgetfulness



Mayowa Oyewale

Mayowa Oyewale is a poet and photographer from Ile-Ife, Nigeria. Some of his works have appeared in the SAND Journal, POETRY, Gutter Magazine, The Cardiff Review, bath magg, etc.

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