Olatundji Akpo-Sani – The Many Faces of God

Olatundji LE P&W August 2023

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Special Australian Edition August 2023

The Many Faces of God, poems by Olatundji Akpo-Sani.

The Many Faces of God

When I dream
I wonder what you look like

Are you the whisper of compassion
or the strong hand of justice

Placations whisper
or laughter’s echo

Sometimes I hear you in a rainbow
your meaning like a pot of gold
a perception of vibration

When I was young
I dreamt of being your servant
I was naive

I stood at the altar
believed when they
quoted scripture like the devil

You were there too
having a bad day
Confessing your sins
flagellating desire
and humanity
Pontificating about
the somnambulance
of simplicity

I did not understand
the cannibalistic transmutation

If each little wafer
each drop of wine
is indeed divine

Why do we need alarms
or church bells

Prayer’s a conversation
between the unholy
messages written
in the skin tones of humanity

I used to dream
you were harp strings and piano wire
Muscles massaging wind
bent light and waves

You are stained
but beautiful glass

Justification is easy when
the many facets of justice
become a mirror

Love is simple
righteous and fearful
in your light

And now I see
we are all John Malkovitch
Lenny petting his mouse

A sacrifice for each other
creating thrones from language
adjusting definitions like soft cushions

While ignoring your face in the mirror of crowds
we manufacture tears and wails
create a cacophant jubilation

The sounds of winning frightens me
This madhouse orchestra
pretending at purpose
reels from babel’s curse


Signs stating the safe
physical distance capacity
of the train
loom large
as I board on my way to Sydney

The number’s long forgotten
so no one knows
how many is too many

The conductor is still obliged
to remind me that masks
are mandatory
even though
no one is wearing one

It feels insidiously rote
this pointless repetition
A reminder that
not too long ago
the frenzy
to punch in and
punch out
of every location
was a job

Keeping up with the hotspots
morning, noon, and night
Both hoping and not hoping
for the text message that read

“You were shopping between 10 AM and 3 PM and are deemed a close contact. Please
isolate to protect your community.”

It meant you either
had to spend a week alone
Or you might have
just killed yourself
and your entire family

The torture of fear
forced isolation still weighs heavily
and we all bear scars

Our PPE precautions and
used facts have
donned and doffed
science and truth
to fit one point of view
or another
so many times

We have birthed islands
of single use plastic and
sewn fields of distrust
just to keep the fragility of life
at arm’s reach
When we needed it most
a hug was painted
as a death sentence

A kiss could carry
the horror of dying
sedate with a tube down your throat

What a sad fate
to shun that which is fragile
in order to keep it safe

And before you call me crazy
because i think it’s weird
that so many countries
fell in line so quickly

or our financial systems
have become a game of
bait and switch

society an empty house of cards
just waiting to be blown down
by the hurricanes of our own hubris

Tell me
when will we be able
to talk about
the fear still hidden
just below the surface
of physical contact
or the collateral damage
of our mental health

Who gets to bring up
the injuries
so often overlooked or
the sticky subject of
knee jerk reactions
for the sake of profiteering

I want to touch my neighbors elbow
Gently tear their attention
away from glue tube
and instagasm
So I can ask these questions

But the conductor says
we are supposed
to remain socially distanced

And no one really knows
just how many people
will fit on this train
before it gets dangerous

© Olatundji Akpo-Sani

Olatundji Akpo-Sani is an internationally renowned poet and performer.  He grew up on the cultural fringes of both black and white America belonging to both but never quite fitting into either. His work investigates the spaces between seen and unseen, the myriad facets of love, and the voices that inhabit these monoliths.  He has been published in the Barcelona Review, Illiterate Magazine, and the Boulder Poetry Scene Zine amongst others. He is author of five books of poetry and his most recent book, Post Surrealistically Challenged, is available at BaobabTreeWriter.com and The Garden Lounge Creative Space in Newtown.

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