Poetry

For Christopher Okigbo: Poems by Chris Chinwe Ulasi

FOR CHRISTOPHER OKIGBO

“I am standing above you and tide
above the noontides,
Listening to the laughter of water
that do not know why:…”
CHRISTOPHER OKIGBO

Hail the sea breeze labyrinth mind–
Christopher Okigbo,
Your reputation followed me to see my God,

And I’m stronger because my fire burns
After the meeting; you made words sing;
Sentences scratch our heads.

Your words stared at us while we pretend to be walking,
And reading you makes us laugh at our foibles
Instead of sighing; but how certain is our dancing feet?

Many of us who urinated freely on ourselves
When our napkins were dry ask shyly for forgiveness;
Many of us who saw fear in the eye and blinked,

Your soul would absorb their sorrows.
I remember the unbearable, you in the khaki grass;
Am I out of place to ask, why did you volunteer?

Not that any less is thought of those who did;
It was a cry that called from the grave after the feast
That served thirty thousand heads of your species.

Biafra was a call at dawn from the grave
Like a great and memorable eulogy
One hears at the funeral of a fated hero.

Defending against tyranny spilled blood
Upon the ash-brown waters of the Niger;
And so it is, a legend of Ikenga,

That flame burns eternal;
That like your mind, bent forward to justify our doubts,
And kill our fate in ourselves, in a country

That watched her children buried before their parents died.
That moment, that light, will flame eternal
To remind us of the perils of indolence.

We wait…

=============

I HAVE EMBRACED THE HARMATTAN TIDE

I have embraced the Harmattan tide.
Even though wool and cotton
are not raised in this season.
The rainy season was treacherous.
The bright tropical sun still camped inside the sky,
bordered by a darkened heart.
I paid no heed to an obsession; and
warmed up to its daily sights.

Nothing yet could replace its assurance
for my discomfiture,
these tides of my veiled despair.
The first sign of its coming,
in a studied contour awash with filtered sand,
white-washed, a painting by an anonymous artist
revealed her patron, nonetheless.

My skin, which refused moisture from petroleum jelly
Is now coated by the white hue:
on its pale white face the gem
of the North East Trade Winds.
The cool dry wind whistled continuously.
Everywhere, it seemed, a pleasant taste
of white powder rains on the skin of this earth.

In the bright tropical sun, warming my skin.
Across the palm-lined road,
where brittle brown leaves have joined in
on an Indian ritual dance,
the foul and her chicks scrambled
for what insects will rise against the dusty-white sky.

Up in the palm fronds, a squirrel stood
on two legs mocking the wind.
Down on brown earth, a woman struggled
to keep her wrappers on
against a sudden gush of impolite wind.
From the approaching sunset, a whirlwind;
the orange bright glow of the twilight framed
against the border of the distant sky.
Inside the house, it was morning.

=============

NIGERIA ADRIFT IN DESCENT

When in our lofty idealization,
Nigeria became an admirable prodigal,
and almost a father of his children,
we called upon flattering foes
and chagrined friends
to witness our bizarre opera,
a massive, protracted comic play in two acts:
the prelude before rehearsal of descent,
a parade of insouciance to reality –
unimaginable and unspeakable;
the commemoration of descent.

And then at Savannah’s noonday,
as we started to be fanned
by the arid’s scorching wind of anxiety,
causing our faces to know no hope, ad infinitum,
the blight I saw was the maddening incompetence
of a political cadre adrift long ago
and resurrected by a sordid promise
made from nothing.   If carried through,
this promise, painful and bounded over our heads,
would validate all hopes by reforming them
and impel freedom to gather speed
as its mission to restore confidence
in those who almost witnessed their own burial
yet postponing it as if it were lunch,
because, left to hope, super will be better.

=============

(C) CHRIS CHINWE ULASI

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5 Comments

  • Sir, I enjoyed the flow, the richness and the deepness of “I have embraced the Harmattan tide” the opening lines opened the door to a delightful read and the rich imagery and metaphors keep the reader glued to the verses flowing like butter. I liked this lines best:

    The rainy season was treacherous.
    The bright tropical sun still camped inside the sky,
    bordered by a darkened heart.

    This poem describes harmattan well and having spent my earlier years in the north, precisely Kaduna I can relate to it.

    I liked your other poems too and I’ll look forward to your new book. You may notify me by e-mail sir of where to get the hard copy as soon as it is available… I wont mind.

    Best of luck in all your endeavours, sir.

  • Hi Sesan,
    Thanks for your kind review. Am glad you enjoyed the Harmattan piece. I myself was born in Northern Nigeria so I share your experience. I’ll definitely inform when the book is published. Good luck and best wishes. Chris Ulasi

  • The poem dedicated to the memory of this great Nigerian poet, Chris Okigbo is a very fine one and I wish it was included in Crossroads, the anthology of poems published to mark the 40th anniversary of his death in 2007. A very fine work. Keep it up.