For Cynthia Barton and Michael Moore
When the earth broke into the realm of multitudes
in speech and gesture, the gods granted one grace:
That there be islands where the soul may heal
from maladies which meaning alone mends.
The waters have surrounded these havens
and fish and seals and prima-donna whales.
To set foot on them, humans must swim
and then claim them for the art of translation.
Translation Islanders are a special breed –
their words, like their hands, are tender
and their ears sift sense even from silence.
They can raise any dogs and cats together.
Translation Islanders are eternal coastguards
and lifeguards. They name lost streets.
After each salvage, they raise monuments to joy.
They dream delectably, and to dream of them delights.
Iowa Snow, 2019
December is laced with waist-beads of winter –
The wind is a wayward wanderer rolling down
Dubuque Street. Outdoors, the Arctic breath
Of earth trends into the reaches of side streets
as the river performs its slow slalom with pan fish.
The white flamboyance of the fields flirt
With crop and old machinery, what pigs there are
Are out of sight, out of hearing, like the native bison.
There is a rumour of a plague spreading its own chill
Throughout the news cycles, seeds of contagion slipping
Through cracks and membranes and country boundaries –
It’s a pensive end of year, the farmer’s almanac fails
To reckon with a virus from a different geography.
They do not know it yet but the Hawkeyes
Would also fail to fill the stadia for another year.
Tade Ipadeola was awarded the prestigious Nigeria Prize for Literature for his poetry collection, The Sahara Testaments.