Timi Sanni


At the e-library for my dissertation, I read
an article titled “The Decollation of Saint John,
the Baptist or the Beheading of the Forerunner.”

In it, I come across a painting of the severed head
of Saint John on a silver platter held by Herod
Antipas. & I ask myself, what function of life

makes a man’s head into a prize? A woman
/ lust / a grand feast / a man calling people
to the dome of light / a burning madness / or

a king looking at himself in a mirror & seeing a god?
My mother has this ritual of clasping her head
with her thin, frail fingers every morning,

I think she is begging it to hold on tight to the neck.
Perhaps, she is afraid that one day she will wake up
headless in the body of a ghost on her threadbare bed,

because losing heads overnight is not a strange thing
in this country (men lose their heads to the roads everyday
in their search for life), because here, the size of the head

is a measure of headaches & we have the biggest ones
in my family. I ran home one day with my heart
between my teeth, my head as heavy as a lead pot

brimming with the playbacks of every death scene
I’ve ever watched on my town’s dusty road. There was a cop
after me, a burly man who promised to send a bullet

to sleep in my skull, because I challenged him
when he tried to extort money from an aged bus driver
on the highway. Now, I have a pounding headache.

I flip my tongue & say in Yoruba, orí n fọ́ mi
which literally means my head is breaking me
which is to say, my head is an antagonist

of this brittle body, which is to say, sometimes,
a man’s head is the origin of his death. In this country,
we are all running away from headaches bigger

than our heads, from a family of headaches,
all of them wearing the face of our mothers.
Sometimes, an headache pounds our tongues

into the shape of music, such that heavenly renditions
find home in our mouth as a plea. But this country
demands the blood in our neck as an offering

to this silence we dared to break. I am still looking
for this parable that says we can behead a man
for his headache, this story in the mouth of evil

where a nightingale’s song to the forest is heard
as a deafening noise, this tale claiming that the only worth
of a nightingale’s head is on a platter in a feast.