Gboyega Odubanjo



“You may not realize that when you focus on the science you
often look past the fire and us”
– An Open Letter to Extinction Rebellion, ​Wretched of the Earth

it was one day until the end of the world so i went to get a trim

i tried to get there in good time
the barbers would be overflowing
.    everyone would want to be looking faultless in the eyes of the end

the men selling mixtapes   the women selling curry goat would be eager
.    to get rid of all they had so that when it was time to leave they could leave

the journey to the barbers was fine
.    the trees were fine   the sky was fine

all the people selling in the market had left and left their things behind
no-one was handing out the evening newspaper because no-one was reading
no-one was reading because everyone had already let their families and their
.    friends and the people they call their cousins know and it was only those
.    we did not know and those who did not know who read but they didn’t live here

the buses and the trains and the taxis had stopped
.    because there was no-one driving them

there were three or four people in front of me in the queue but only one
.    of the barbers was working
the others sat in their chairs making phone calls or staring
.    out of the window
in the shop we spoke about life and living and sometimes
.    someone would say something about the world and we’d talk about that
on the news there was something about longer days and the sea and burning
.    this was funny
here    men spoke about how this time would compare to the others
they spoke about how they’d made arrangements and gathered their essentials
.    original documents
.    fire extinguisher
.    water
.    rubber boat
.    bucket for the water
.    a filter through which the outside world would mourn
.    a pistol and five bullets
.    heirlooms
.    .    spices
.    .    .    things for remembering

on the news there was something about   the near future and    before it’s too late
.    this was funny
everything that was   and is not     yet is to come     was funny
one by one men sat in the barber’s chair and stood up again laughing
.    their grins big as the sun still gleaming    itself laughing
the shop was a pre-recorded laugh track
the shop was a wailing and gnashing of teeth
the shop was tragedy plus time     and time again

and i sat in the chair   a white gown on me
.    and i was seen and shown to myself   i nodded
the barber
.    his hands something sulphur
.    .    turned me towards the window     said

.    .    now   come look
.    how it come
.    .    like say  it  a  thief
.    in the dark
.    .    but dark time gone
.    now    only sun
.    .    and waiting
.    for aunty when she come
.    .    clothed in sun
.    and pomp    when she come
.    .    in crown
.    on her black horse
.    .    singing
.    now   then
.    .    can we say we know end

and outside were gathered those who didn’t live here
those   about whom this ain’t   because they didn’t know
they came with their numbers their scripts and slogans
.    and they spoke their truths
.    and it was and is not and yet is

.    and they were here to save us so we listened
they spoke of famines pestilences earthquake
sea levels fire brimstone disaster death and dying
.    but they were too late because it had happened already
they said that there would be drought and thirsting
.    but we were thirsting already
they said we would go hungry
.    but we were starved already
the people we loved would go
.    but they had gone rounded up and taken    it had happened
the world would burn they said
.    but it had burnt already i seen it on their news
.    in their papers   the smoke   it had happened   i swear

we would all die they said
.    but what was death if not a prerequisite for resurrection

.    and were we not proof of glory were we not proof
.    of holy were we not proof of funny were we not

but   they said   this one would be different
everyone would feel this one   they didn’t know
it hadn’t happened to them so they didn’t
know they didn’t they ran around
with their charts and their tears they were
.    a weeping and gnashing of teeth
.    just wanting to save

but we couldn’t be saved because we did know
.    it had happened already

so we did what we always do when the world ends we found home we went there closed
the doors closed the curtains boarded the windows and we made food we ate with our
hands and mouths open we laughed we sang loud enough to drown it all out the
drowning burning weeping the wailing gnashing we waited sang we held each other

.    and the rains descended the flood came
.    and the rains descended the flood came


Gboyega Odubanjo is a British-Nigerian poet born and raised in East London. He has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia and his debut poetry pamphlet, While I Yet Live was published by Bad Betty Press in 2019. He is an alumnus of the Barbican Young Poets and a member of the Roundhouse collective. His work has been published by Ambit, Ink Sweat & Tears, Lunar Poetry and Tentacular.