for oluwatoyin ‘toyin’ salau

if it was up to me
i would reach back through time
push away the hands that groped you
amplify your no into an earthquake
it would open the dirt
all would-be assailants crash and slip down
into a realm of heat and solitude and reflection
to sweat out their demons
as you sashayed to a safe home

if it was up to me
if i couldn’t stop the crime i’d pull you close
not asking you to ask what you need from me
cold cloth your forehead
thumb away those tears
place my palm over your trembling heart
remind you that miracles
are stronger than violations
and celebrate however you survived

if it was up to me
we would march side by side
me old, slow, and rolling along
you nineteen, and then twenty,
and then fifty and then eighty
those cheekbones high enough to hold ages
feeling the worship due for your labor
sacred child warrior, newly arrowed
you took so many unlived stories with you

if it was up to me
you would get what you deserved
black nights full of pleasure
heart swoons and heart aches
dancing in Toyin Park all Sunday
spirit child i hope you cannot even hear pain now
but if it was up to me, to we who needed you
this would never be the way
you got free

– for oluwatoyin ‘toyin’ salau