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The beginning of displacement
romeo oriogun

Before the bus sped towards the border,

we were tender, 

bodies gathered in a singular prayer of leaving.

The sky was beginning to walk into light, 

a man in rumpled suit walked into the park, 

kneeled on wet earth and recited the Lord’s prayer: 

Our father who art in heaven,

what we are leaving behind will never wait for us.

I remember a lady in a blue dress trembling, 

the weight of a country will always be too heavy 

to leave in a strange park.

There was music there; the silent tears of travelers,

the shifting of trauma through borders, 

the mingling of language

as if through the loudness of speech,

babel was dropped on every tongue.

This is what precedes every exiled soul.

This is the ritual of leaving, the fear, the sudden silence

as if in bated breath an old world is lost

and a new world is being created,

and in leaving a body is seeking for this paradise,

this unfurling of new wings, this naming of new cities

and as always, this gift of green rolling hills.

Romeo Oriogun was born in Lagos, Nigeria. He is the author of Sacrament of Bodies (University of Nebraska Press). His poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, Narrative Magazine, Bayou, and others. He currently is an MFA candidate for poetry at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he received the John Logan Prize for Poetry.

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