Ayalolo: A Requiem
This is the house in which I was born
Looking from windows upstairs, overlooking the family compound,
Lay the Ayalolo arena, the rallying point for the Messiah,
Where the oracle of history was announced to the world;
“We prefer Independence in danger, than servitude in tranquility,” he said.
Those who have come and gone, told us tales of a time
Only by our imagination can we comprehend.
Something synonymous with secret lives, lived in awe, took place here;
Of memories that snipe into the heart, like arrows of awakening.
The house is well kept, the old pots tucked away,
Where my grandmother once baked and prepared the meals,
Is now empty, vacated by ghosts; besieged by a harrowing void,
Unshakable and unflinching in its persistence to be remembered –
Yet everything is filled with the mirages of memories gone, and lost;
The teeming crowd of hawkers and shops overwhelm the streets,
The scorching sun glittered at noon, insisting time remain still,
While the traders display their imported wares by the pavement,
A colourful chaos of things, useless to the gods –
We really do come back home from the long road of exile
To tell tales of our lives lived in foreign lands, an exiled generation;
To mourn where our mothers and grandparents once slept –
The house looks smaller than how it looked when I was a child,
The Romanesque pillars propping up the house appear tired.
The wooden planks creaking with age; the roof whistles with the wind,
And the scars of our lives remain written on the invisible walls
That hold the architecture of memory together – Don’t look back –
Oh, what a tide of time like an oracle of Orpheus?
I am sitting at the head of the same table that my grandfather sat,
To witness the persistent cries of his progeny –
Years later, I am here to preside over the funeral arrangements
Of a older cousin who was a brother, slices of his life
Cut through the bread of remembrance, to feed our misfortune.
It is by the death of a family member that the custodians of memory
And the extended family converges to orate on the narrative
Of love and the nostalgia of family lore –
The Ayalolo we knew, is not the Ayalolo I see,
Time and change have taken their toll against our will,
To stall the narrative by which our forbearers told their tales.
Whose life am I living?
I was supposed to be the conduit
Through which the inheritance of memory would find its place
In the arena of world literatures – But I took divergent paths
To places where poets pay a deeper price as custodians of the word –
So I might have betrayed my calling and opted for other genres.
Something is amiss, making me feel lost on the long road to Ayalolo country.
Pray that I blossom late enough, to see the golden trope at the rainbow’s end;
To earn the applause of humanity for sharing with the universe
The magical myths, folklore and oral traditions of Ayalolo country –
Poetry of prophecy, struck by secrets that seduce us in our dreams;
I am living an enchanted life on the continent of God’s last land,
Recollecting old memories and withered faces converging to memorialize
The meaning of ancestral prophecies past and libations poured –
The orchestra of sorrows sang, as the priest prayed, I cried in anger –
My brother is dead and whispers of wisdom fill the air,
Things unsaid linger, waltzing in the eyes of the bereaved,
“This is good,” an elder said; “his suffering has ended. Let’s forgive Death.”
I refused to go to the cemetery, knowing that the grave
Will not be deep enough to bury my memory of him –
Death is a silencer that exhumes and uproots us out of earthly existence,
Only what is written remains –
What we have uttered while alive vanishes
With the winds that transported our voices to those who heard us speak –
His death was my final expulsion from Ayalolo country,
To seek the end of the rainbow in far off country, invented just for me.
I now take his death in stride, a monument of reminiscence.
I belong to a place that was once a Kingdom of dreams that lost its way
To the legacy of quarrels and a contested inheritance defined by squabbles.
We are the descendants of yesterday’s oracles; mimicking our ancestors.
We are now the children of rebels, who defied the logic of history,
To be free against the narratives of yesterday in search of a new tomorrow.
Yet, yesterday’s logic overtook the imagined vision of tomorrow
And the conjurer of new dreams found himself betrayed by those
For whom he believed he was anointed to dream for and to lead.
Truth has now become a traitor, lost before the insane logic of the past.
What is Africa – is it beyond what we fought Independence for?
Do we deserve our destiny and the benediction of heaven?
We have become the custodians of the mundane
And live by the mandate of the inept logic of senile rulers.
What we have not created does not belong to us,
Time does not exist in Ayalolo.
History is a coincidence of time, lacking in vision
For those who strive to grasp the enigma of tomorrow –
We have been waiting beyond an hour
For the head of the clan to appear before the council of elders can proceed.
The widow waits and the bereaved contemplate the mystery of time,
Within the solitude of their grief; their tears I use as ink on the page.
We have all lost a loved one, born out of this house
To my mother’s older sister; so he is my brother too.
What are we here on this earth to do?
But to repeat the ritual of existence as our ancestors once knew it to be.
The ritual of orality begins with a prayer to God and to our gods
And the hierarchy of traditional utterances sets the tone by which
The ceremonial narrative of life shall commence.
Orality has its own rituals of discourse
And the encoded nature of speech, speaks to the supremacy of tradition –
The authority of the linguist, conveyer of truth to family, clan and tribe,
Insisting we live by the persistent demands of the past,
By which the codes of speech express the ancestral wisdom of old.
The collective narrative of the past, like rhythms of a river, now dead;
The future is stillborn, aborted by the tyranny of the past.
Ayalolo functions within an inverse narrative of time.
Time is not time, it is a movement by which every occasion is measured
And that moment can last a century, even if the world has
Moved on from one epoch to another –
Oh, Ayalolo, you are trapped within the static realm of the past.
The past is a prison, the future is freedom,
Yet, time has no future in Ayalolo, it is the past that lasts,
It is the past that persists, that is why Ayalolo is now last.
Only in death shall we find the meaning of our future,
Like ghost armies marching to an invisible drummer;
Drumming that cannot be heard by the living.
Ayalolo’s legacy continues within the imagination of my belief,
My country, my continent, foretelling the fortunes and misfortunes
Of a people on an invisible journey to find the resting place of the sun –
Ayalolo, my Ayalolo…Prepare for an odyssey,
To chase for two thousand seasons; the mirage of exile –
Poem: Kabu Okai-Davies
IMAGE: AYP0721422 via Flickr