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Self-Portrait As A Ship Whirling Itself Into Saltwater

Ernest O. Ògúnyemí

Abeokuta, Ogun state, Nigeria

Baptist Boys’ High School


CAS for Database

my father said every man will sail the seas to find

the name tucked in the heart’s pouch, every man will

follow the stars to find love, & every man will grow 

sweet birds in their throats on finding it.        but father also said

there are no maps to guide us home.


without a coat, you found me somewhere in the rain,

in the dark, you found me homeless, without a song.


remember how you told me your body is an empty house, how

you spoke of your heart having enough space to home a broken

boy. remember how i told you my heart is a fragile thing,

that if i fall this one more time in the sea i could drown. remember

how you told me to try            it doesn’t hurt to try,  how

your mouth held songs and warmth and flowers.


remember i tried,

i tried to make you home, to forget about the holes

in my heart, i spent nights over nights counting the stars

in your eyes, worshipping the moonlight that fell upon your face

every time you pressed your lips to mine and

i tasted the earth and the seas, and

i let my heart slip out of my chest,

away from my body, to find its beat in your palm.


but now it hurts, trying, 

after you left with the stars and the moon

with the earth and the seas

with the songs and the warmth and the flowers,

after you left my heart in that puddle, shrunken,

a salted earthworm, a roasted spike,

not even i could say stop to what my body became:

a ship filled with bruised flowers and dusty memories

whirling itself into saltwater.


I love it all: the language, the visual formatting, the repetition. The author does an amazing job with crafting a story, and I am just so impressed with how the imagery weaves with literary language.


Ernest O. Ògúnyemí is a student of Baptist Boys’ High School in Abeokuta, Ogun state, Nigeria. An Adroit Summer Mentee and a 2019 CAC Fellow, his works have appeared/forthcoming in: Acumen Poetry Journal, Ricochet Review, Lucent Dreaming, the Nigerian Poetry Anthology, and elsewhere. He is a reader at Palette Poetry and is curating the first Young African Poets Anthology.

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