In my native tongue, we spell death with three letters,
two syllables & an expulsion of breath.
My grandmother says the afterlife is endless—
a world in which we walk but never reach our destination
or maybe there is no destination. Maybe
life is part of the journey & dying is another step
on this road to nowhere. In my dreams, I re-magine heaven
not as a place, but a person. But heaven is not the destination—remember,
there is no destination—it is just another stop on this endless road.
A fortnight ago, a faceless elder told me tales of my ancestors;
of Kujore, who learned all the names of death & used them
to bind death so he would live forever. Of Bakure, who befriended death
& tricked him until he learned seven of his names & then used the names
to resurrect his dead wife. Of Kuti, who lost his life on a thousand battlefields
but always rose again—he had the names of death tattooed on his dark skin.
I looked at the faceless elder & said, Will you teach me your names? Death trembled,
scrambled to his feet, asked me how I knew. I said: Only three types of people are faceless—
the dead, those who know the names of death & Death himself. He was quiet for a moment
then he nodded and said; I am he. For a thousand nights & one day, Death taught me
all of his names & when we were done, he asked: what shall you do with
these names you have learnt? I looked up at him, smiled
& murmured a killing curse. Only one who knows the names of death
can kill death—for what is a name if not a way to be called back home?
Oluwatomiwa Ajeigbe (he/him) is a writer, poet and mathematician. He has works published or forthcoming from Dust Poetry Magazine, Eyes To The Telescope, Star*Line Magazine, FANTASY Magazine, Kalahari Review and elsewhere. He tweets @OluwaSigma and writes from Lagos, Nigeria.
photo by Jakub Gorajek (via unsplash)