Editor's note: Nigeria as a nation is sick and is in dire need of a healing. Daily the media is fed full with disturbing stories of killing, cases of defilement, kidnapping, electoral violence and a dwindling economy. It won't be out of place to say that all we see these days only depict a future so bleak.
Some many cases linger in the courts but justice is a dilemma that for too long has plagued the Nigerian masses. The innocents have no say while the guilty ones pay their way out; the masses have lost faith in the judiciary.
Faith needs to be rekindled and hope needs to be restored. It is in an attempt to give back voice to the oppressed of the society, that NAIJ.com has put together a collection of poems from a great generation of poets whose works have the potentials to bring about the desired change needed at this moment.
It is haram to learn how to read
a poem in Maiduguri
words are fishes that own the mouth
of a volcano
whispering their intention to
burn a river
heating its rhymes
still the river
eyes cold in flames
and water cannot move
after losing all understanding
of how to crawl on its stomach
of how to see the girls
who were seasoned away under the nose of soft-gunned road-blocks
there is a fire in the stomach
what can extinguish
what makes water know its kneel
Saddiq M Dzukogi is an award winning poet, a rising voice in the literary circle in Nigeria. He was the maiden winner of ANA/MAZARIYYA TEEN AUTHORSHIP PRIZE for poetry back in 2007.
For Kelechi Obi
The last time I watched TV – chopped
Like those fried fish we used
To buy from that red kiosk to augment
Garri for lunch—these heads,
Piled up in a street of Maiduguri.
Flailing cars fleeing from terror crushed
Them into liquid. I wonder where the
Headless bodies are – could they have
Been sumptuous delicacies
For vultures? Their flesh wickedly peeled
By honed beaks, their families
At home, waiting at door mouths
Maybe you could bequeath
The rest of your life to God—
Become a Catholic priest—your penis
Castrated by the Holy Spirit. Isn’t that
The dream you always dreamed
Before you read the no-sex clause?
Under perforated palm-fronds,
Where sun passed through the holes
Scattering warm stars on the ground,
The picture of a black pope glinted
on your lips.
At the National Cemetery in Abuja,
A Catholic priest prays over
A barrage of bodies, firewood
Lit by the fingers of local terrorists.
Survivors surround the steep grave’s mouth.
You clench a bunch of flowers,
Crying, praying. My friend, listen—
It is time you gave your
Sperm to God.
D.M. Aderibigbe is an MFA in creative writing candidate at Boston University where he's a BU Fellow. His chapbook In Praise of our Absent Father was selected by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani for the APBF New Generation African Poets Chapbook Series.
How Memory Unmakes Us
(for the Buni Yadi boys, February 25, 2014.)
It will take a cinematographer’s eyes,
mine will not do
and she will need a button that makes and unmakes
memories. Perhaps with her we will go
into that morning again:
dim light actually
the brown of night as it lifts away,
love-sized cupboards in neat rows, we zoom into
shoes and sandals, buckets and hostel bunks, beds
and snores and the kids, 12 year olds or 13 or 14, boys,
spread like peace, asleep.
Some pouting like girls in liquid dreams, others
clutching to the bed for once safe and far from the bully.
Ibrahim too, a half-smile on his face, shy even in his sleep.
His ‘’to do for the Day” sketched on his palm: I will call mummy,
solve some Maths. Will tell Fatoumatou I love her like Lucozade today.
If she starts giggling that way she does,
I will run away.
For a moment our camera pauses, shifts focus and travels up
the wall to a gecko sticking out its tongue like some black
We zoom back to our boys—within that half of a minute—
But there are no boys now. Only ash and screams and
the flailing of arms. The beddings on fire, the buuum
duuum of bombs, the animal calls and howls of the
Militias: Jihadu! Jihadu!
Some of the boys scale the window to sure death,
their weaker friends crying names, reaching out hands
out of this dream of fire. Some writhing on their beds, burning,
too shocked to die.
We are trying to pause the camera now, bidding
the cinematographer to please press the button that unmakes
memories. We are fidgety. Caught as we are between seeing and unseeing. We
are trying to walk out of that morning, muttering to ourselves that we
will walk back to discover
the fire had only been a mishap of seeing. But it is not.
There is a singe and hiss of bodies praying their last,
the unritual twisting of boys and their names into a mess
of flesh. And the clang of death, our death.
The unbelievable fact of history that the sun came out later
Gbenga Adesina, poet and essayist lives and writes in Nigeria. His poems interrogate love and loss and the miles and more in between. This poem is part of his chapbook, Painter of Water, edited by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani; published by the African Poetry Book Fund and Akashic Books, New York (in the New Generation African Poetry Boxset).
You Will Never Live Life Here
I am from a country where living is a community service,
And the dead are never quite at rest.
See! You will never live life here;
Not in the manner you crave.
No! Not even close by any stretch of the imagination.
The men pour frustration at the bar.
The women cook rebellion in the kitchen,
And the children – they dream of Santa and snow.
But the world here is different from the ones in fairy-tales.
The weather here is both rainy and hot.
And when grey hairs show, and the staff is stirred,
You will look back to see the stranger you have now become.
For you have never lived life here,
Not a day as yourself, but as a blind man led by others.
First you were born into a world of Tradition,
Then baptized with waters of Religion,
Your tribe became your true identity,
And your nationality – a foreign conspiracy.
You must go to church on Sunday.
You must go to mosque on Friday.
You must not question your elders,
You must not question God, and his minions.
You must attend nursery school.
You must attend primary school.
You ought to have a WAEC certificate
And a University degree if you’re lucky.
It doesn’t matter what you want to be
A doctor or a lawyer will do just fine.
You should be married by 30 if you are a Lady.
You should be married all the same if you are a man.
You must have babies, if you can.
You must adopt babies, if you can’t.
And when you are trapped in that marriage;
Chained by the rules of society,
And you look your first child in the eye,
Carry it in your arms, and hear it cry,
You may not know it yet;
But that’s the dying cry of your free self.
For you have only existed, you are yet to live.
And now you will never live life here.
Chukwudi Okoye Ezeamalukwuo is a published poet and a graduate of Geology, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Nigeria. He discovered his passion for writing, especially for Poetry while in the University. He is a founding member of Ink15 Literary Group. He is a blogger and the editor of Ink15.wordpress.com. His collection of poems titled "The Words of My Mother" was published early this year by Bahati Books.
MADE IN CHINA
Buried dreams wear mirrors in their grave
They split with solace like this child:
Wear frugal wings, fly through
Dark ages, through Khaki-Men And Blockades
Through Six Boots Stained With Blood
To watch future scenes before they are shown
But what use are future scenes
When dreams are
Made in China?
Buried hopes wear mirrors in their grave
They split with solace like this mother:
Wear head gears, dance through
Sacred grounds, through BringBackOurGirls
Through Ibadan Forest-of-Horror
To sow future seeds before it is night
But what use are future seeds
When hopes are
Made in China?
Buried truths wear mirrors in their grave
They split with solace like this father:
Wear eager hearts, hew through
Shabby oaths, through PayOurPension
Through Some fathersAreStillUnemployed
To pleat future talks before they are done
But what use are future talks
When truths are
Made in China?
Wale Owoade is a Nigerian poet. He is a recipient of 2015 Tony Tokunbo Poetry Silver Award. Wale is the Publisher and Managing Editor of EXPOUND: A Magazine of Arts and Aesthetics, he also founded and interviews at The Strong Letters and the Creative Director of Bard Studio.
I’m that rose-ringed parakeet, perching on the branch
of the morning. I’m small and ring-necked, hungry
for cedar nuts, refusing to fly, refusing to drop down
from my Southern twig, refusing to devour the gorgeous
berries, still loving the Northern knot of sparrows,
and brave shimmer of hummingbirds singing.
I’m a black cormorant maybe—yellow throat-patch,
aging voter. Most of me is the land, a part of me
is the longing for it, and some of me is undecided.
It seems good among the silverbushes to smell
what the land smells. To dust its bedded cabinets
were it a house, to make it fluid and fluent
were it language, to make it firm and lean
were it government. But it is. There’s heat here,
still the touch of my lover is warm. There’s oil,
still my lover’s lips are dry. There seems to be
an equation forever unsolved. No matter how hard
I calculate, no matter how often I swoop down
and beak the elms. The mouth of the rain is shut.
All falling leaves are moving up. Gravity is breaking.
But it’s true I might look back some day, and see
where I’ve missed and mixed it. I might look back
and watch you spring and bud and shimmer
like a peace lily and a pebble plant. I’m a fool
for landscape, and all of it is you. Dawn breaks
upon me and it’s night. Take my hand, hold me
longer, watch us walk this path together.
Play my voice like a radio in your ears. I’m part-
musical. Carry me in your arms like a child.
Let the night sleep on somewhere in the Niger,
and wake up as dawn, not drenched, not drowned,
not having to breaststroke again in the morning.
Samuel Ugbechie won the Sentinel All-Africa Poetry Competition, was a finalist in the 2014 RL Poetry Award (International), and longlisted for the 2014 National Poetry Competition.
A testimony: of edited stories
As soon as my breasts were ripe
juicy & firm enough to touch
and be touched with eyes
and hands of juvenile lovers
the women came with a sharp knife
to edit the story between my legs
they did the same to my sister
but as she screamed and struggled
they deleted her complete story–
a flood of blood & water gushing out
it is a common mistake, they tell my father
she is a strong woman, she is
let her stand under sun for six days
nothing will happen to her
my cousin asks how it feels to be cut
how it feels to have one's story edited
how it feels to watch blood flow
like a river through the v of one's thighs
and I tell her: sleep, dream, be strong
by tomorrow morning you too will testify
Ehi’zogie Iyeomoan is a Pushcart nominee, Sscribbles have received awards from the Korean Cultural Centre, Nigeria and the University of Trieste, Italy. He recently received the UNESCO sponsored Castello Di Duino poetry prize for his satirically political poem, a dead poet’s table of content.
These Corpses Must Speak Their Names
They have bobbed-up belly-wise,
Like fishes drawn out of water;
There's a message in the white of their vacant eyes,
And we are left the riddle to decipher.
The river does not swallow
What it did not chew;
So she has rejected them
Like the fart from a harlot's anus.
We who watch them lifelessly float drown internally,
As we drink the scene with voracious thirst like famished camels,
And let the message of fear written on their faces
Sink effortlessly into our minds like stones.
Their adept and inert swimming skills we gloat,
Those autonomic reactions, those untrained eyes;
Their rather calm behavior,
It all smells like foul play.
So I ask,
Were they passive or active in this strange task
Of burying themselves
In a watery grave without a coffin?
We question them to explain
But amnesia they feign.
The doctors claim they have suffered great hypoxia;
The matter is sapping, spent is the oxygen in our brain.(24)
But on this issue,
Sleeping dogs will not be left to lie.
For our sons are no bastards,
Only young prodigals that have forgotten their fathers' names.(28)
There's a vasoconstriction
Restraining the flow of truth
In their stiff veins;
But today the tree must be known by its fruit.
Though they deprive us of oxygen,
Still we shall have our justice;
For no fragrant perfumes will hold back
The stench oozing from their orifices.
Yea, these corpses must speak their names.
And though they char their remains in capricious flames,
Still we shall attain the open secret,
From the lips of their ashes.
Soonest Nathaniel is a passionate journalist, an editor with Naij.com, his poem "These corpses must speak their names" won the Gold Prize at the 4th Korea-Nigeria Poetry Festival.