Stranger than Fiction

Mark Owoola

My name is Mark Owoola (I use M3RK as my pen name), and I am a 22-year-old graduate student at the University of Missouri.

I started writing poetry in earnest during the nascent months of the pandemic. I viewed that time as my little Renaissance, as I began to tap into and appreciate the art of so many young creatives and began to create my own as a way to both occupy my time during the lockdown and also process the many different repressed emotions that I couldn’t ignore anymore. Through my poetry, I strive to paint my internal and external struggles for fullness into words, coloring in the themes of love, oppression, nature, emptiness, and liberation along the way.


Waterfalls are the amalgamation of our inner energies.

Each droplet being

A desire, a fear, a memory, a piece of us

Breaking free from the confines of hardened rock.

For still water stagnates and decays.

But a waterfall must also fill

And its source be replenished,

Unless it fancies the solitary plummet of the abyss

Or annihilation.

To be fulfilled is to fill and to be filled full.


“Liberation’s a Mosh Pit”

My heart’s torn like the rips in my black denim jeans

Jeans tight like the constrictions and pressures forced on me

But they say that pressure turns coal to diamonds.

They talkin’ bout the ten-dollar diamonds that used to dance on my ears?

The ones that almost got me disowned,

With accusations of queerness and criminality tossed left and right?

Yet I smile.

Drain out bad energy.

I chase my highs and drown out my lows and I smile my hardest.

I rage against all demons external and in,

Because liberation is a fucking mosh pit.


“Red Rascals”

We are the rascals who march to the drums of our own screeching

Music born from depletion

Lyrics of the abyss

Listen to our empty melodies and cry your heart’s content

For we aren’t done yet

Lounge in your putrid contempt

And watch the legion of red lesions

Grow colors of the cursed

Our music is born from depletion

Hoping to one day become full

And burst.



Whenever that gray light with the blue mood

Poured through my window,

We were never blue but only sometimes

Tucked up under each other like colorblind fools,

Sweet laughter on our lips came and went

Dancing up into the air currents

To be shredded to pieces by the blades of my ceiling fan.

We always tried picking up the pieces

With fingers buttered up like pastries

Leaving nothing but crumbs all over the floor.


“The Dancing Dead and Dead Again”

….I wake up (un)dead,

Joining the horde of bodies wandering aimlessly

To each’s destination unknown

Left right, right left

My body sways

Up down, down up

Dancing on my own grave

It’s not all bad though,

At least I don’t eat others

Only myself

Until there’s nothing left



“Khaya Skin”

Elusive secrets dance under your Khaya skin,

Bringing whoever seeks your knowledge deep into your roots,

Where our ancestors reside.

For its only the calm deep of your eternal shade

That provides true refuge from the raging of the Sun,

From which you turn its boundless, chaotic light

Into innumerable little five-petaled stars,

Whose effervescent glamour brings awe to all.


“Nail Polish”

If I could paint my dreams

Warm, ethereal colors would dance with blotches of black

An elegant duet across the marble floor of my fingernails

I’d show the world these vivid visions

Waiting to burst and splatter their eclectic entrails

But this same world tears my distress into my denim

And preys on my vulnerabilities, striking with its venom

So today I will write my dreams, and I will write them sincere

Hoping I can one day paint these words on my fingernails

And share my masterpiece without fear


“Juniper Ridge”

squinting through the condensation on my windshield

brought back memories of february hearts painted on school bus windows

with spindly fingertips, now callused from a guitar that played me

shitty riffs. I don’t remember when I grew so fond of black hearts that devoured me

and spit me out like radiation, but music always made me forget.

so I turned up the volume and let my foot cave under the pressure,

taking me off into the night sky

You can find M3RK on Instagram and Twitter.

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