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a warden brings joy
by Olafisoye-Oragbade Oluwatosin David

dust was always a tenant, we just didn’t know
until we teased the rug to let loose its prisoner.

furniture, electronics, books, utensils,
all were lined up like orderly soldiers.
a memory was forming
the taste of of my mom’s favorite dish.

we would be greeted by new neighbors,
new dogs trying to voice our names,
new walkways, new scenes to feed on
but nothing made me my eyes water more than when I saw his smile.

he flung his new gift over his shoulder like a hunter
returning home with game
this warden would set up camp and imprison dust in his house,
so he carried a smile that could fit the whole world,
and danced out with his new rug.

PHOTO: Woven Rug by Brian Wangenheim on Unsplash

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “a warden brings joy” is a poem about one of my favorite memories. Growing up in Edo State, Nigeria, my family of seven didn’t have so much, but we had just enough to get by. This poem speaks of when we were moving from one apartment to another. The previous apartment was not tiled so we had to get a rug that could cover the living room, but the new apartment, where we were moving, was tiled so this rug was no longer needed. A young man came to help us put our things together and pack up. I remember both himself and me rolling the rug together (at this time I didn’t know we would not need it) and, afterwards, my dad told him to go home with the rug. He was so excited, I still remember that joy till now. I couldn’t help it then, I cried, and when I told my dad why I was crying, guess what? He cried, too. I try to characterize the rug as a warden on these bases: 1) It traps dust, or imprisons dust, 2) It seemed to be responsible for setting free two different displays of emotion, that is the unfiltered joy in its new owner, and the tears in the writer’s eyes, my eyes.

Oluwatosin copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Olafisoye-Oragbade Oluwatosin David is a 4th-year medical student at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Kwara, Nigria. Known by the pseudonym “King Davey,” he is a poet and spoken-word artist who enjoys playing with words. David won the ILUMSA Malaria Day Poetry Contest in 2021 and was on the top 20 long list of the 2021 Nigeria Students’ Poetry Prize (NSPP). He was also awarded the Best Poetry Content at Poethon Season 4 and ranked 3rd at YWCA’s Spoken Words Artist of the Year 2021. His works are published or forthcoming on African Writer, CÓN-SCIO Magazine, Arts Lounge NYC, Shuzia, SprinNG, BPPC Anthology, and elsewhere. David is @thekingdavey on Instagram and @TosinOlafisoye on Twitter.


“The most sublime act is to set another before you.” WILLIAM BLAKE

Art: “Give More Than You Take” by Jim Hodges was designed as an Aspen, Colorado, ski lift ticket in conjunction with the Aspen Art Museum. Hodges wanted to give skiiers something to ponder while they rode up the hill. Read more about New York-based installation artist Jim Hodges here.