Self-Portrait At Twenty

Samuel A. Adeyemi

By Samuel A. Adeyemi

Still skinny as ever.
My hair, shorter, receding more.
What I’ve learnt, though—

to love myself even in my
solitude, to treat the body

not as a temple, but as a
wound; cleansed, purified. Only
a fixed body will

be worshiped in, adored like
Protestants before stained glass.

Indeed I’ve learnt to be
enough. Yet have I done enough?
I could be so much,

so much more. The path to brilliance
beckons, calls for me with its eye.

If I die (which I never
truly will—scatterings of me will
always flux in the seas),

but if I do, in the mortality of the word,
what will the earth remember me for?

I have to be intentional
about my life. On some days, I waft
headless, not because

my body seeks to drift on air, but
because, well, the wind can carry me.

I must not be accidental,
a scatterling pulled by whatever can
pull it. I must outgrow

my wreck into desire, I must thirst for
light, like marigolds lifting to the sun.

Twice a decade,
& I want to be filled with
my own wonder.

I want to stand still & wait for
the goodness of the world to

find me, like a garden,
unmoving, yet spring reaches it.
But I know it never works

like that. The world is not capable
of such generosity. I must throw

myself, cast my body
into the reckless river of life. I am
both fisher & net.

I must seek for grace,
& if I find it, become the graceful.

Does it stun you,
this new-found vigour, this blood full
of wolves? Allow me,

faithful shadow. I have knelt in my
softness for too long. I have found

inside my heart—
another heart, sturdier, made almost
of gold. I pulled it out,

the new heart, & it
fell, covering the old.

Samuel A. Adeyemi is a Poetry Editor at Afro Literary Magazine. A Best of the Net Nominee and Pushcart Nominee, he is the winner of the Nigerian Students Poetry Prize 2021. His chapbook, To Erase the Wound, was selected by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani for the New-Generation African Poets chapbook box set, 2022. His works have appeared—or are forthcoming—in Palette Poetry, Frontier Poetry, 580 Split, Strange Horizons, Agbowo, Brittle Paper, Jalada, and elsewhere.
Twitter: @samuelpoetry
Instagram: @samuelpoetry