Ode to my Grandfather’s Singing Owl


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I am standing over a newly dug open grave.
Under the beautiful blue sky, in Nigeria,
The sun threatened to burn everything down as
Green trees cast a dancing shadow on the scalding hot floor, the owl on its branch,
Carries the tune to the song “Come mister tally man, carry me banana.”
Flapping my pretend wings, I cawed and cawed excitedly jumping up and down,
Singing with the puzzled creature, my grandfather's favorite song.
The owl sings too, peering with his big brown eyes, silent to anyone else.
In just a few hours, my grandfather would be in my room,
Singing, cawing, and flapping his wings with me and my new friend

My parent's bubblegum pink Mazda’s headlights
Brightens my otherwise dark room,
The engine beatboxing to my heartbeat as
I run barefoot into the garage, nearly tripping over,
Plastering my eyeballs to the mirror of the car
They had returned with my grandfather from the airport,
Disappointed he did not get out fast enough, I began unlocking his door,
My mum pulled me back, stopping me—ordering me back into the house,
The engine sputtered in a husky tone before kick-starting again,
I watched as the red backlight of the car brightened the sky,
As the tires skid down back where they came from into the night
I drag my feet, taking one last look at the shriveled yellow being that replaced Baba
Whose voice echoed lines “Day me say day, me say day old.”
The song my owl friend loved to sing
His boyish smile when he showed us the treasure, he picked on his way home.
My mum returned the next morning alone, then my dad the day after alone,
My grandfather drew his last breath at the hospital,
He did not wait for a new kidney, he forgot his way home
The sun rose again the day I sat where he sat,
As we drove through the metal gates, littered with headstones on bare land,
The sky calm as ever, purple mountains afar off
Dancing trees winding back and forth, creating a warm musk

I am standing on an open grave,
When I saw my dad cry for the first time,
As the men lowered my grandfather's body
Wrapped in cotton sheets to the ground
My mum held the rock that was my father,
Now flowing out like the oceans stream,
I am laughing at the scene as though this was prime comedy hour.
When we got back to the house, which was no longer mine and his,
I slam the door to my room, with my back angled against the wall,
“Sing stupid bird,” I say to the owl who was now mute,
Peering in with his stupid brown eyes,
With tears rolling down for the first time,
I whisper the last line of our favorite song,
“Daylight come, and me wanna go home.”

I am standing on an open grave,
The last place, I saw the man who made birds sing.
65

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Image of Ben Sheffer
Ben Sheffer · ago
Very touching. Is this based on your personal experience?
Image of Kikelomomi Olayinka
Kikelomomi Olayinka · ago
Hi, thank you! Yes it is, that was my grandfather’s favorite and only song he sang haha, the last time I saw him was that night, same with how he died as well as buried. However, the singing owl is made up, I wish it wasn’t lol.
Image of Ben Sheffer
Ben Sheffer · ago
You really did a great job of honoring him in your poem. Thank you for sharing!
Image of Rebecca Philippe
Rebecca Philippe · ago
This poem instantly put me in a calm mood. So descriptive and has the feeling of innocence. Best of luck to you in the competition! :)
Image of Kikelomomi Olayinka
Kikelomomi Olayinka · ago
Thank you! I am glad you enjoyed reading it.
Image of Keith Simmonds
Keith Simmonds · ago
Moving and captivating! My support ! Please visit your message box for more details!