Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dreams of Dadaab

The air was hot and dry.  It smelt of hope. It reeked of dust levitated by the sweeping wind.  The brownish-yellow grasses were crisp and twisted. They ran lowly and sideways along the dusty brown roads till they touched the skyline. Dadaab was probably a few more miles away, a little less far from hell.
Aziza pulled the sleeves of her dark silk robes up to her elbows as she took one harrowing glare at me. She stooped and began to move her palms across her hand as though performing an ablution without water.
“Please let me say one more prayer” she said.
She stepped onto the cloth she had laid on the floor. It was a fabric of white cashmere turned light brown with streaks of dark red from her bloodied feet and the brown footpaths that led away from the city of Mogadishu.
Her gaze rested on Abdi who lay still, perfectly still in the warmth of the crimson earth. She knelt down to pray, her cracked, wrinkled lips barely moving. For a moment, I thought it was her eyelids that did the supplication. She bowed her head to the dust.
I had first set my eyes on her just a few months back while doing my routine inspection in the city of Mogadishu. Sounds of explosions and gunshots laced the airwaves. Glasses shatter, dust and madness twirling the deserted marketplace like the fury of an aggrieved tempest. This occurrence wasn’t unusual. It wasn’t the first I had experienced. It was probably the most pitiful. Confusion was out on the streets as buildings collapsed during grenade explosions.  Women clustered in tiny groups and took refuge behind the burnt, rusty skeletons of military trucks while they talked in hushed tones.
The air was filled with acrid smoke from burning rubber. Aziza had rushed into the compound with bloodshot eyes, her red pashmina scarf loosely wound around her head.  She had made her way past without noticing me. Once she was in the house, she had Kofar’s head on her laps. He had looked at her as if to assure her that the war was over. Her eyes were moist and she blinked back the tears that would have fallen. Kofar’s dark pupils had rested on her cheeks; they seemed to foretell that the rains that hadn’t poured in three seasons would eventually fall. She shut her eyelids and allowed her eyes to burn in the pool of hot tears that she had refused passage. His body had lost the warmth that she had felt for the ten years that they had been married. It was cold and still. She opened her eyes and allowed her blistering tears pour on his skin. If he had listened and stayed away from the battle front of the civil war, if only he had loved his life more than his hatred of finding refuge in Kenya, he wouldn’t have looked so lost in his frozen stare.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Meet me on the other side

Eventide rose and fell as did the chill of the night into the bonfire at the centre of the village square. Chisom pulled me to side and tugged at my wrapper.
“Listen Emeka. You must do it. You don’t have a choice”
The drums were loud, too loud that I could barely hear what he was saying. I only understood what he said by the deep furrows on his face that formed a scowl and how his lips moved as they did in the early afternoon on our way from the farm.
I stared at him deep in the face. “I’m scared. I don’t know yet. Brother I really don’t know”
I was revered by all the young men in the community probably because I was taller than all of them or my big belly and wide shoulders intimidated most of them. No one dared challenge me to duel. The old women will plead with me to pluck some oil palm fruits, for which our village was known whenever I passed by their compound. They would tease me and call me the husband to their unborn children even though they knew my Omalicha, my beautiful one. The King had promised my father that once I became of age and proven myself as a man, I would become the next in command to his chief guard; the second highest position in the Igwe’s palace. My father had long prayed for this day.
“Make me proud my son” He said as he looked into my tear-filled eyes.
I wept for my father had suffered much. He made misery his bed and sorrow his meal ever since he lost his wife to the palms of death.
“Remember papa’s condition”. Chisom’s voice cut through my thoughts.
His eyes were now wearing the hues of the azure moon. He had a slightly diminutive stature but he was my elder brother; the firstborn of the family. I didn’t respect him enough to advise me about how my life should be run. After all, he showed back into our lives few months ago after his two-year marriage with Ify fell apart. He narrated how she had packed her belongings and followed an oyinbo man, for whom she worked as a nanny, to Lagos. If he was man enough, he would have fought to keep her. If he wasn’t a lazy man, he would have known that money exerted more power than muscles.
I joined my peers in the revelry of the night. I could feel the ground move under my feet. Maybe the earth was inebriated by the ogogoro spills from the benevolent fiesta. Maybe it was the joyful stampede of the young men who danced vigorously in anticipation of their individual moments that sent tremors. Maybe it was my fears that were pushing hard on my chest and asking for a wrestling contest.
The pace of the drumbeats changed. My turn had come. Nnenna and I had asked for the Atilogu drumbeat. Time had sped past like a man under lustful chase by a naked madman. Nnenna’s dark eyes glistened red in the blaze of the fire. Her shoulders dropped as she let out a deep breath. I could feel her veins pulsate faster as I led her by hand to the slaughter house.

Monday, November 7, 2011

This Rain

This rain is a downpour.
It drops cats and dogs.
The mice scurry to the pig’s sty.
The gander ogles at the rooster’s droppings.

This rain is an exodus.
Curses dart across the sky,
And immortalize those gluttonous politicians
One tribe makes the bow, another makes the arrows.

This rain is noisy.
The noise is lethal.
Riotous rounds of ammunition are dispersed.
The bushman finds solace in the Eskimo’s igloo.

The Famished Plain (A Poem)

The sculpted frames crawl, crawl
Into thickets of twine and thistle
The sky’s orange eye peers, pries
On the Iroko’s listless shade
Fallen west
The gorillas’ percussions buried
Beneath the Omele and Gangan’s enchantment
Rhythms splash against the gourd’s back
Shielding the palm wine-drunk ground
Belches savouring the seasoned bones of the Impala
As shadows lost under feet, all
The dial points home; eastwards


I kept silent. I wasn’t weary of repeating the same things, yet I was tired. I gazed into the air like someone without an ambition, but I had so much hope in things that were hard to explain. The harder I tried to explain, the more misunderstood I was.

The sun’s rays looked like rain, as it leaked through the mango canopy that sheltered me.
I looked on and a young boy walked by. He didn’t greet. I launched forward angrily.
“The gods will punish you”.
He was hurried away by a young woman. “Don’t look back” She said “He’s a mad man”. She looked back at me with disgust and threw her hands over her head. I hurled stones after them but they had disappeared too soon.

I returned to my seat. I was angry. I hated them all. They were hypocrites, them – the men. They had snakes knotted over their collars. That was their new identity. I had my tattered Ankara wrapped around my chest in the usual manner. I had retained my uniqueness. I rubbed my backside back-and-forth against the trunk of the tree with half-closed eyes. I enjoyed my tradition. I was loyal to myself and to my community and I was despised for it. No one dared to tell me, but I read it from the way they crossed to the opposite side of the road when I approached and how they took to their heels when I crept up behind them to say good morning. They all knew me, and even told their children about me but I was never a subject of discussion. I didn’t make any sense to them, as did the ambience of their native land; their culture; their hard-fought society.

Seven and a half

Kero walked the comb through the few strands of hair left on her head. The sharp pains that she always felt in her kinky hair were gone. She closed her eyes. So this is it, the end. Just half an hour ago she had put a call through to 767, the police hotline.

“Hello, hello. Please I need help” She screamed.

“Calm down madam. What is your name? How can we help you?”

 “My name is Ovu” She gasped. “I am calling to report a murder at 24 Aremu Olatubosun Street, Mafoluku”

She hangs up the phone and looks at the phone booth manager probingly.

“Why you dey look me like that abi na crime to call from your shop?” She barks.

“Aunty no vex o! I was not hearing your phone call o. I want ask if you know that two buttons don comot from your shirt”. The boy drops his gaze.

She takes a sharp glance at herself to find that her left breast had leapt out of her black silk shirt. She quickly re-adjusts herself and looks around.

“Thank you dear” She gives a half smile as she hands him a dirty fifty Naira note.

“Keep the balance”. She yells as she hurries away with her luggage.

Her tortuous six-hour, five-on-a-seat journey from Lagos to Sapele did not have as much impact on her as did the untimely fall of a giant.