Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

BooksJune 7, 2024

The Friday Poem: ‘In With the Trees and Apples’ by Tunmise Adebowale

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

A new poem by Tunmise Adebowale.

In With the Trees and Apples

People are stained by the colours of their life.
The habits we cling to paint our bodies in distinct hues.

My Uncle is yellow, coloured by years of smoking.
Years of peeling oranges. Years of cooking warm akara.
Years of a failing liver.

He is yellow as black-eyed beans, yellow as sunrises,
and yellow as his heart is full of love.

When he smiles, it’s like there are petals of sunflowers
instead of his rotten teeth. He’d sit next to me when I was a child.

Even as a naive little girl, I could see how his skin was the
same paper-thin yellow as the pages of his Bible.

And some nights when the sky was heavy with blood,
my Uncle would sit under the apple tree, now bare of leaves.

All the fruit had already fallen to the ground, starting to rot.
The green apples looked golden in the hazy sunlight.

I would sit next to him in these moments and ask him,
“Sa, kilonshele?”—“Uncle, what happened?”

I called him Sa, instead of Sir because I wanted to hide the fact
my Yoruba is coloured by colonisation and assimilation;
so I always threw in Pidgin English to make up for it.

He would never answer my questions though.
So, I would just watch the sunset drift, sitting
on the damp ground next to him.


The Friday Poem is edited by Chris Tse. Submissions are currently closed.

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