White Girl

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I was sitting at the rear of the Ikorodu bound BRT bus (those red ones with fancy adverts plastered on their body), nonchalant to the usual eccentricities commonplace to all BRT buses in Lagos. People always rush to board into the nearest available BRT bus because it’s cheaper than the danfo buses. Most of the passengers don’t even mind standing along the aisle -their hands firm on the metallic railings affixed to the roof of the long bus- in the occasion where all seats have been occupied. And there’s the usual chanting by the BRT ticketers when calling for passengers: Sabo-Ikorodu-Garage-hundred-naira-hold-your-change-o, jamming all the words together like it were some sort of incantation.

The almost filled bus was yet to leave Ojota because passengers were still scrambling to get in, the same way I imagined those animals in the time of Noah, must have stampeded into the life saving ark with careless abandon.

Sabo Ikorodu Garage wole! The ticketer kept screaming.

By Jove, my attention was charged to the stunning figure pacing towards my end. In a swift maneuver she beat another woman to the only vacant seat next to mine.

Boy, she was drop dead attractive, one could pass her for a maami wata. That popular Maami Wata song by Sir Victor Uwaifo, the Joromi maestro, began to play softly in my head.

If you see maami wata eh/Never never run away…

I’m not running away, I assured myself. I’m not running away, not today.

My eyes couldn’t be still in their sockets, they kept revolving over the radiant damsel by my side like the planets in the solar system hopscotching round the sun.

There was something distinctive about her fair skin, it sparkles spotlessly like the golden-yellow of the evening sun. She was clad in a white cotton t-shirt, the hem was tied into a small knot by the side, which exposed a circumference of skin around her waist axis. Her jean was white as well, shredded horizontally along the knee area. This combination of hers made me to think of fashion savvy angels doing away with their flowing white robes to look more sexy and trendy on white t-shirts and distressed jeans.

I felt like running my hand through the silkiness of her long hair that culminated at her midriff. As I surf with my hand through the wave of her hair, I’d plant a kiss on her nape, and another on her cheek, tracing it all the way to her soft lips, glossed with a shade of red (to match the colour of her hand bag).

The ticketer’s flat wooden voice cut short my reverie abruptly. Owo, he was staring impatiently at me. Your money sir, he repeated this time in English. I reached for my wallet in my back pocket, retrieved a dull looking hundred naira note and gave it to him. I was issued a ticket by the ticketer, who then moved on to another passenger.

In my mind I was rehearsing how to strike up a conversation with my beautiful neighbour. What should I say? How do I say it? What if I say the wrong thing? What if she snubs me? Or doesn’t even pay me any attention? So many questions were going through my mind at the same time. She looked my direction and our eyes met. In that brief moment, I willed my lips to move but my tongue was inevitably frozen. I felt like Lots wife stuck in a pillar of salt.

Half way through the ride her phone rang. I pretended to be looking out through the window, but my mind wasn’t on the lagoon landscapery, intermittently surrounded by green vegetations and decrepit settlements, I was thinking about the ‘White Girl’ beside me. The sound of her voice felt like music to my eardrums, I eavesdropped on her conversation over the phone as if I were listening to the music of Asa. She was telling her mother that she was still on the road and that she didn’t have much money on her (probably her mother wanted her to get something on her way home). From the phone conversation, she had spoken a phrase or two in Igbo. She’s definitely Igbo, I concluded.

It was when I heard some passengers shouting, Agric wa o, it dawned on me I was already close to my bus-stop. My only wish then was for her to alight at the same bus-stop with me. As fate would have it, my wish was granted.

She was about crossing to the other side of the road, and I was yet to even say hello. Man up dude, I chided myself. I was still contemplating whether to take the plunge or not, while I was hesitating she had already crossed over. That’s it! No more dulling, it’s either now or never. Without thinking twice I ran after her. She doesn’t bite, I was saying to myself.

Excuse me, I said politely trotting behind her. She didn’t respond. So I tapped her arm gently from behind. She turned but didn’t stop walking.

Again I was lost for words, so I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind. Are you Igbo? I couldn’t place her expression, she barely even looked at me. Yes I am, she responded uninterestedly.

Kedu? I chipped in impulsively, hoping my speaking her language would change her attitude towards me. Adim mma, her response was cold. It seemed more like a sneer.

Undeterred, I was bent on not letting her attitude dissuade me. Which state are you from?

Maybe she didn’t hear what I said, or probably she heard but chose to ignore. I decided to cut to the chase, for her to know my real intent.

I have been observing you while we were in the bus… I began to mumble.

She wasn’t listening anymore.

I’d like us to be friends, what do you say?

No response. She kept moving, my presence and all my mumblings didn’t seem to have any effect on her.
I kept pushing my lucks but to no avail, she was bent on not giving me audience. If only she knew the amount of courage it took me to walk up to her, even though I wasn’t articulate enough, at least I tried. The least she could have done was to hear me out.

She wasn’t going to hear me out. She never will. The queue of okada riders lined up at the junction of the popular Agric Market, took turns calling at us (especially her) to patronise them. She signalled one of the okada men, told him where she was going to. I didn’t get to hear that clearly because of the noise around.

How about your name? I asked desperately.

No response.

Please tell me your name at least, I pleaded.

The response I got was the Voom! Voom! Made my the motorcycle. And off it went with my White Girl.

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A New Dawn (songs of hope)

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I
Nsogbu*, came knocking at our door
With open arms we welcomed him
Into the sacred heart of our obi*
It is said, an only palm kernel doesn’t get lost in the hearth
What happens when it entertains neighbours in its flame?
How then will the owner distinguish his own?
Shall we continue to roast in our own charcoal?
Anyanwu*, can’t you see how dark our sky has become?

II
Nri* would have challenged its chi* to a wrestling contest
But she has no strength left to put up a fight
Her wings are like the petals of a wilted hibiscus
There is no difference between her beak and body
These gods are gourmands; always thirsty for libation and hungry for
sacrifices
They too are to blame, for while they feasted
Hawks preyed on their subjects, who were helpless like motherless chicks

III
I see the empty stalk, sucked limp off its nectars
Oh, dry bones in this valley skirted by fleshy mountains
Shall evenly rise against the odds
Just like thick smoke of oblation ascending to the heavens from Amadioha’s* shrine
Not even the deities of gravity can curb your ascension
At the sound of the agogo*, let it be declared
That the fallen iroko isn’t dead, he was only asleep
Kukuruku!* It’s time to wake up. Arise!
And fill the forest with your rejuvenated presence

IV
Lions will bark, dogs will roar
The eagle will walk, while the ostrich soar
Blind eyes will speak and deaf ears will see
Let the eze-mmuo* conjure the distant gods
For the new dawn shall take them  by
surprise

V
Our mouths shall chorus new songs
Under the yellow smile of the full moon
Shall we sit in harmony sharing tales
Of exploit and collective bravery
Oh, Ojadili!* Thou man of insurmountable valour
Fearless like Jaja of Opobo*

VI
Bring the calabash of palm-wine
On Eke* we shall dance to the chiming rhythm of the ogene*
Throb our feet to the percussions from the ekwe* and udu*
Intoxicating tunes from the oja* shall get us drunk
Celebration we must, for the victory to be won
The kola nut understands all dialects
Listen and share this language of hope with us
May its taste never get sour in our mouths… ise!*

Translations of Igbo words (in asterisk)used in the poem

1. Nsogbu means trouble or problem.
2. Obi is like a small hut or house specially reserved for the head of the family in traditional Igbo society.
3. Anyawu means eyes of the sun and is also a form of deity in the traditional Igbo cosmology.
4. Nri is a mythical bird, folklore has it that it once challenged its chi (god) to a battle after having too much to eat.
5. Chi means personal god or deity.
6. Amadioha is the deity of thunder.
7. Agogo is a local gong mostly used by town-criers to create awareness when delivering a message.
8. Kukuruku is the sound made by a crowing cock.
9. Eze-mmuo means a chief priest who consults the gods on behalf of the community.
10. Ojadili is a folklore hero said to be a great warrior who fought and conquered deities in the land of the spirit or supernatural realm.
11. Jaja of Opobo was a nineteenth century king of the Opobo people, south-eastern Nigeria, who was banished into exile by the then colonial British government because of his defiance.
12. Eke is the first market day in the traditional Igbo calendar.
13. Ogene is a metallic gong-like musical instrument.
14. Ekwe is a percussion instrument. 15. Udu is a percussion instrument
16. Oja is a traditional flute.
17. Ise! Is an exclamation for agreement in prayers just like amen in Christianity

Cupid’s Curse

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Adam!
I thought it was Eve calling
Nay, these trees don’t speak
In my head it must be
Symptoms of schizophrenia

This is Eden… my he-den!
Idling o’er familiar paths
Bare feet caressing lonely soil
Twin birds chirping above
Beak to beak, under the umbrella of a palm tree
Plumages knitted into a pillowy nest
United in a dovetailed union
A fate to wish for in faith

Blessed is the celestial sky
The sun to brighten his day
And come night, upon his grey hairs
Will the moon glow in a halo

Wingless butterfly
Stuck like a fly in butter
Oiled, yet dry
Fattening in thinness

The search for colorful petals is far-fetched
In this garden of flowery bones
Hedged by hollow chambers
Carved in auricles and ventricles
Asphyxiating pulmonary pulsations

Trailed thither to the tunnel’s tail
Not a speck of shine smiled on me
Edging towards the precipice –
The fountain of my waterloo
I must drink and increase in thirst
Like a desert yearning for an oasis
Never to sip from the Benue basin

P.S: River Benue (alongside River Niger) is one of the major river in Nigeria, West Africa.

Hello (a response to Adele)

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Hello, I know it’s you
It’s been like ages since you left
Without saying goodbye
Countless nights I laid alone
On the same bed we used to share
Dewy eyed, lost in the cloud of thoughts
Wondering what it could have been
That made you so cold
Like frost on our once burning flame

What we had was priceless
A bond akin to diamond
In your eyes I found a new world
A clime of light bereft in mine
Your touch, like the Messiah’s
Brought healing to my soul
You were my angel
Until you flapped your wings
And flew away into oblivion

I thought I wouldn’t survive your absence
But I did, painfully so
The hurt of your departure
Remains embossed on my heart
As an indellible scar
A reminder of what could have been

I might never be able to get over you
But I have moved on, just like you did
I may still wet my pillow at night
Reminiscing over moments past
Still, in the morning I wakeup to smell the coffee
Hopeful that someday, I’d find someone like you

You don’t have to be sorry
Of what good is being sorry
Over deeds that can’t be undone
It’s one of the mysteries of life
For one’s heartthrob to leave the other heartbroken

Maybe someday, we’d see again
When the chasm between us is bridged
By the cementing hands of time
When we both might have found happiness
Wherever we may be, outside
I know time is fast running on us
The best we can do, is to sprint along

Through the Tunnel

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Bubbles of blisters caress my feet
Dusty, sun-baked on hapless debris
Enroute El Dorado’s highway
Gridlocks glued me to a halt
Like a paint stuck on a wall
Keep on moving, the mind whispered
How can I advance in a fix…
Can a wingless eagle soar?

Don’t throw in the towel
Have faith! The tithe collector said

Easier said than done
Hope hung on a rope
I’m alone in the jungle
A wanderer like a Cain without Abel
Seeking furtile redemption
From the Almighty’s curse

Sickle in hand but-
no grain to harvest
The land is green without pastures
Many a famished herds strayed
To graze from the savanna
On the other side of the farm

Broken spirits terrace the pavement
Mirthless in the face of nothingness
For a better tomorrow in the offing
That may never see the break of dawn

I’m one of the myriad few
Battered daily by the even odds
Ground into smithereens
of molecular fragmentation

Upon this barren sky
Shielded by the foggy clouds
Not even a brass lining lingers
Awaiting the inevitable end
Where the light is said to domicile