• E.M. Ayovunefe


‘Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices, that if I then had waked after long sleep, will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming, the clouds methought would open, and show riches ready to drop upon me, that when I waked I cried to dream again.’

— William Shakespeare, The Tempest III.ii.142-3

‘Omnis autem magnitudo doloris modum excedentis necesse est dilectum verborum eripiat, cum saepe vocem quoque ipsam intercludat.’

— Lucius Annaeus Seneca, De consolatione ad Helviam

[Every great and overpowering grief must necessarily limit the capacity to choose words, for [grief] often stifles the very voice itself.]

‘He came to a river, whose water was viscous and didn’t seem to move. Near the river there was a borehole.’

Ben Okri, ‘What the Tapster Saw’ in Stars of the New Curfew 

Ours is a place beyond time, or perhaps beside it;

the last time I saw you there, at that gauzy in-between

waking and awoken, 

becoming and being,

the earth stood to an attention so still I had to fight

my way through the frozen squalls of wind to grasp at your hand. 

I wept when it flowed right through me and left

only the mark  of a life lived seemingly at once,

and then not at all.

(Mayflies live only for five minutes.

I sometimes wonder if, as imagines, they know anything of longing..

Perhaps Nature had the right of it with them:

eternity in an instant.

Would that I could drown on dry land,

and collapse my life at its folds.)


These days, I catch sight of you only in the minutes

the sky bleeds just before the break of dawn.

The land moans a solemn dirge for all her missing daughters

and your urgent call is carried to me across the shore — from beneath the bight rises

a siren song, chorused by scores of children called home,

crying out for those who cannot hear.

Meanwhile, I live in our dreams: those rare occasions

when I do not trespass upon my own mind and

the land does not clamour for my wine.

I could rest forever at those fringes

where time turns against itself.

I hear your honeyed song and know it cannot last;

I hear your honeyed song — and sail into the past.

Oxford — March 2020.

© E.M. Ayovunefe


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