Poem / Wayfinding

Strange Future

A Nigerian eco-activist and poet wonders what future lies ahead in the face of climate change impacts and resistance to large-scale emission reductions.
A crowd of adults and children wearing T-shirts, flip-flops, and denim shorts or sarongs looks at a water tap with the word “Italy” stamped on its side and a giant silver lock on it.

Drought, cyclones, and social exploitation and inequality impact residents of the Niger Delta in Nigeria.

Jacob Silberberg/Getty Images

“Strange Future” is part of the collection Poems of Witness and Possibility: Inside Zones of Conflict. Read the introduction to the collection here.

Strange Future - Listen
2:50

—after Hayden Carruth

Unlike hope, which tricks us with future expectations,
My daughter insists we can build the world around us

Again, if we choose—any tree can become a ladder
And my heart begins to dream again. Is it memory

If I stand by a riverside full of trash and plastic?
Once someone told me I inherited my mother’s heart.

When I love, I press every moment like a garlic clove.
I mean, my country is changing. How tricky this makes

The word drought. And yet, the earth feels hotter today.
When I say, I miss home, what I mean is I am filled with

Dread. I doubt if this cyclone can distinguish my mother’s
Poor shelter. Famine comes quietly, and I sieve through

The long silence for the songs my grandmother taught me
While attempting to describe the many days of low rainfall—

Here, the green pastures have become dust, carcasses
Of goats and sheep line the roadsides. All climate refugees

Are pastoralists, yet the reverse is false. There has to be
A way to save this tilting Earth without sacrificing myself

Or my lovelies to cholera. Nothing restores the sense of loss
Less ambiguously than the feelings in which something is

At stake. Do you think the Earth will ever achieve healing?
What about home? There is too much smog. I’m awake,

It’s murky outside; it must be a sandstorm. The terrible
Pangs that flow down from the names of our transgressions.

It reminds me of everything we failed to do and what I do
Know is we have no imaginary future if we continue to

Stand on the same stepladder every few years and swap
Around reduced emissions

Ojo Taiye is a Nigerian eco-activist, cultural worker, and artist who uses poetry as a tool to hide his frustration with society. His practice is collaborative, and his work often speaks to climate change, homelessness, migration, racism, Black identity, and mental health. His current project explores neocolonialism, institutionalized violence, and ecological trauma in the oil-rich, polluted Niger Delta. Taiye’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in the Evergreen Review, Mizna, Narrative Magazine, Mycelia, and The Spectacle, among others. He has worked on the following projects: 2022—CHCI/MELLON Global Humanities Institute, South Africa; We Hear You—A Climate Archive, 2023; and the 2023–Environmental Humanities Justice Network (Transformative Connections), Denmark. His debut mixed media installation was exhibited in Linz, Austria, as part of the Ars Electronica Festival 2023. He is at work on his second poetry pamphlet.

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