“Untitled Medley.” A Poem by Olatunde Osinaike

“I think they like me / like that: with the black off.”

December 5, 2023  By Olatunde Osinaike

Oh, I think they like me
with a brain freeze,

my sneeze summered into
sensations: showmanship.

Oh, I think they like
me down with the power
moves and painkillers,

circa my shoddy stint
as somebody’s son.

Direct deposits with my name
cursed along their backs

and mine along a muted seat
I paid good money for.
Oh, I think they like me with my

towering spine, my uneven
hips, my enamel as dark as the sense

of humor on my mother’s side.
I’d rather the route of washing

a mouth out with black soap,
than my father’s
slapping the black off me,

and I think they like me
like that: with the black off.

Oh, I think they like me in
a fugitive color—

indigo lake, carmine, or
rose madder. It gets
to me how these

fighting words warm
me with their blue

bias, warn me of my
stingy gestures

grandfathered in.
Lightfast after I lift
a mirror to my eye

level and spot a taper
as timid as tough love.

Oh, I think they
like me for it: my M.O.,

who I am when I am
laid off, my stunt double
and inside voice

careening about.


tender headed

From Tender Headed by Olatunde Osinaike. Poem reprinted with the permission of Akashic Books; copyright retained by Olatunde Osinaike. All rights reserved.

Olatunde Osinaike
Olatunde Osinaike
Originally from the West Side of Chicago, Olatunde Osinaike is a Nigerian-American poet, essayist, and software developer. He is the author of Tender Headed (Akashic Books, 2023), selected by Camille Rankine as winner of the 2022 National Poetry Series. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Best New Poets, 20.35 Africa, New Poetry from the Midwest, Obsidian, Kweli, Wildness, and elsewhere. His work has received fellowships and support from Poets & Writers, Hurston/Wright Foundation, Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, and the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice at Rutgers University.

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