Mercy, Mercy Me

by Olatunde Osinaike

Eponym of burnt offering. Sinner simple. And to no one’s surprise, I’m not a betting man.
Though I would take myself in a heartbeat. Edgy as a canned good in the pantry, I pry
open with obedience, this body I have. Yet like any good Wednesday, double

negatives take their time with me. And I elude. A domain of dominos and mustard seeds undone
on my tongue. As if out of a parable, I was once found in the south, studying the aviation of
snowflakes, how even in the darkness they can melt mid-flight. I was once told try me.

Then to speak it into existence. But I am clumsy. Whatever it was I do not recall. The funny
things flaws become: shambles, soliloquy, spiritual. It was the same way I learned how
to use might could in a sentence. And to this day I haven’t let go of how I could taunt

a scythe with nothing more than some dirt and my brave lips. Oh, I can be such a mess when
this world lets me. Gorgeous with sympathy. Nimble as an imperative. I submit because
I care, too. Because I can not trade away this audacity. Because so much can happen

in a week. A horse loses a race. A race loses its culture. A culture loses its place. A place
loses its mothers. Mothers lose their babies. Babies lose their wonder. If you ask me
how I shall stay fed until the next first of the month, I would tell you I already

have a full-time job. If you ask what will keep me sane, I would want you to know I take
vacation seriously like every good love story. Try me. In a game of charades where
making a snow angel is as heavenly as it sounds. I can’t even romanticize this part.

The thankless credential of raising a body from the dead. That it might could be yours,
sometimes. How I’ve filled this life with disbelief in between. Lord, I’m not
actually sure it’s fair for me to assume you know where all the time goes.   


by Olatunde Osinaike

I have done the scale five times since this morning.
My do-re-mi-fa solo oscillating between pitches as
the osmosis of cereal preparation once again

impresses me with its ergonomics. How the crisp prattle
of its audible sting is a type of tunnel vision I have
had before. Melvin would have been twenty-five today.

Such an important year as I have been told before.
A tincture of century untainted by hubris or any other
silly injunction. A bladed day to reminisce on how

stainless the gilded iron is that we bear. The day I knew
we were friends was a Thursday in 2005 following choir
rehearsal. Following a chamber full of black boys

belting kyrie eleison on a school night. He defended  
me after getting teased about my weight. My unassuming
self sharing in the buoyancy he delivered and on this

anniversary of his drowning, the news did not shock me—
a group of boys snuck away in the middle of the night
to paddle boat, him drowning after diving in to save them—

because he knew how to save, that we are born with
the ability to cherish and he, with his classic polyester-heavy
girbaud and air force ones, understood our choir director

when he said all good sound comes from the diaphragm.
How butterflies do not have lungs, but they are no doubt
infused with all of the oxygen this world has to give.

Olatunde Osinaike is a Nigerian-American poet originally from the West Side of Chicago. He is Black, still learning and eager nevertheless. An alumnus of Vanderbilt University, his most recent work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Hobart, ApogeeHEArt Online, AnomalyPuerto del SolGlass: A Journal of Poetry, and Columbia Poetry Review, among other publications. You can find him at