Three love poems from one who’s neither a lover nor a poet

'Kúnlé Adébàjò
6 min readJun 30, 2024

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A small restaurant in my neighbourhood has its priorities in order: love and amala.

HOW TO SAY I LOVE YOU WITHOUT THE WORDS

You don’t want to say ‘I love you’ only two weeks into a talking stage
You would sound either cheaper than a plastic bag
Or crazier than a serial killer with good intentions

Instead, you find other means of serving your emotions
And hope they leave a good taste
If there’s a chance of you two hanging out, wear your best cologne
Maybe wear it a little bit too much; don’t stop until you start to choke
Beauty is pain, remember?
Wear your favourite underwear, too, just in case she asks to see your inner beauty
(In any case, it is a sign of respect and loyalty in places they cannot see)

You text them in the morning before the cock crows
And late in the night, after the crickets go to sleep
If they don’t suspect that your life depends on this ritual, you’re not doing it right
If you don’t see it as a ritual, like going to mass or observing salat, you’re not doing it right

When they text you, you fucking answer with the speed of light
It doesn’t matter if you’re in the middle of surgery, as a doctor or patient
You leave everything you’re doing and reply to the goofy meme they just shared
If it’s funny to them, it’s even funnier to you

You use the red heart emoji and nothing else
Even though, as a creative, your instinct is to play around with colours
Using blue on Twitter, green on Instagram, and orange on WhatsApp
Or even matching the heart colours with a person’s clothes
All that aesthetic doesn’t matter now
Changing colours is a sign of doubt
And your love is planted on the metamorphic rock of certainty

You use other emojis, too
The ones with puppy eyes and quivering lips that show undying attraction and unquestionable submission
The one with the fingers coming together to form a love portal
The blushing face covered in sprinkles of red, bright hearts
The blushing face cutely contorted into a pout
The blushing face hiding behind a right palm
The kiss, diluted with a less-threatening, less-desperate emoji
The kneeling emoji, just to prepare them
For when you finally stoop to ask the forever question

Stickers are fantastic
Use them when you confess to missing them, just so it doesn’t get too awkward
They’re your parachutes in case the plane conveying your veiny emotions starts to crash

Do not be caught saying things to other people that you should only share with them
Do not say things to other people that you should only share with them
You may be a Yorùbá demon, but your horn must only point in their direction

You do not call their mother your mother or their father your father
You call them mummy and daddy
You ask how they’re doing in a way that blushes gratitude

You make small talk
Show that you’re interested in the tiniest bits of their day
You don’t understand this urge yourself, but you can’t deny it
You want to swallow this person
You want to understand them as passionately as a physicist strives to understand the universe

Because they are your universe

Screenshot from a Netflix show I no longer remember.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Something about pronouns
How I identify as he/him/yours
How I hope to one day replace you with mine

Something about the heart
How mine does not have veins or arteries
But wires, linking to you like a string puppet
How it dances and slumps to your motions and emotions

Something about oxymorons
And how I am a breathing contradiction around you
Both at my best and at my worst
Both chilly cold and chilli warm

There would be no hyperbole
Because I could never exaggerate my feelings
Because my love is pure and boundless like raindrops
And all the words in all the world’s languages are but baskets
It is as endless and simple and terrifying as the horizon

A metaphor about nature
Saying how you are like the first torrent of rain
After a long spell of drought
Bringing with it the unveiling of flowers like princesses on a palace balcony
Bringing with it the joy of petrichor
Bringing with it the hope of harvest

Even more metaphors
Something about the cosmos
How the creator must’ve pictured her when he said let there be light
How she has turned this blackhole into a milky way
How she is the centre of your universe around which everything orbits
How Galileo would’ve committed greater blasphemies if he’d met her
How he would have burned for her even if it were at the stake

A line about her skin and how it is the best flavour of ice cream you’ve yet to have
A line about her smell and how it can resurrect dead, decaying organs like your heart
A line about her eyes
Because you must always talk about the eyes

Something about this poem
And how it is not finished because while you are sure of your love, you are unsure of yourself
So that when you read it with a shaky voice and the reply is a disapproving silence
You will say, just like yourself, it is only a first draft

You will beg for a chance to work on it and try again
You will beg for a chance to work on yourself

Screenshot from a TED-Ed video I no longer remember.

MY GIRLFRIEND HATES CATS

My girlfriend cannot sleep when it rains
She fears that the roof would come crashing down
And the water would have its way with her
The way of the water is not her way, you see

So I imagine myself staying awake with her whenever the sky unleashes its drummers
Building a fortress around her with my arms
Playing our favourite songs to distract her from the siege outside
Making hot chocolate just the way she likes it
She is not a fan of tea or coffee, you see

My girlfriend hates cats
In fact, all animals except horses and a few birds
I myself am fond of cats, you see
But that does not mean they’re allowed within five miles of her
‘Meow-ve away, you cute monsters!’
I shall protect her against all the felines of the world, starting with the winged sphinx if it ever resurrects
I shall declare a war upon the animal kingdom if I have to

My girlfriend has a scar at the side of their left knee, shaped like a tiny circle
I think someone stabbed her with a cigarette butt during her days as a prisoner of war in Kosovo
Or was it a bird that pecked vigorously at her as she tried to rescue it from the burning Amazon forest?
I will concentrate ninety per cent of my storytelling prowess on this tiny scar and weave imaginary events around it
I will devote myself to thoughts of her, thoughts of the worlds she could have lived, adventures she could be living
Because, instead, she has chosen to be here with me

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'Kúnlé Adébàjò

An arcless half-a-wise-guy who happens to write. All you need to know is at: www.kunleadebajo.com.