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Homage to Hostages: Poems by Dike Okoro


(In memory of Phaswane Mpe & Sello Duiker)

Fame was your destiny, loyalty
The service fee you paid
For wooing the deaf to listen
To the thunder behind your mask!
Born genius, schooled in public
Education, embraced by the owners
Of our barren farmlands and streets
Once your imagination ran wild
To treat the east and the west
To your vested knowledge
And wisdom gained from
Studying the violence
Of silence and the blues
Of the night’s stars
Were you not another child of the cycle
That took Nortje and Marechera?
Were you not another son of the sun
Too soon gone, like Okigbo and Rabearivelo?
Fame was your destiny, loyalty
The service fee you paid
For wooing the deaf to listen
To the rocks thrown by your ideas
Emerged with flashes, sobbed
By the latent vices of the worlds you captured,
You wept for the stars departed
Before their sparkle were celebrated.
You sang of the dirge forgotten
By the bereaved, portals of antiquity
And raindrops of miscellaneous agendas!
But tonight you sleep well in the vaults of time,
Since we here have betrothed our lives
To measuring our own whys!



For a good cause he faced the furnace
At Port Harcourt, name extinguished

From memory, where mothers shook
Their heads through silence and bit

Their fingers. I was here, stuck in traffic
At Chicago’s Kennedy Express Way

On that fateful afternoon when word came,
By phone as usual. Gory details, frightening

Reality. How they trailed him,
Homebound from a political rally.

His car they stopped, made him enter theirs
While they drove to an unknown destination.

Gun to head, bottle full of acid placed
In his hand. I know he saw the world’s ugly

Face that minute, the wretchedness we decry
Daily, as he drank into his funeral dirge.

Then they left him and drove off, mission
Accomplished, their nemesis at the debate

Podium turned a casualty of their medium
Of assassination. He got home well all right,

Knocked to announce his arrival, but it wasn’t
The kind his softhearted wife expected.

Mother and wife crushed to their knees, voices
Soaring, the neighbors to the rescue, but

It was too late. He spoke, but all they heard was
The silence uttered by the smoke evicted from his mouth,

The aftermath of the executioners’ plot. And that was
The end of Zongo, the firebrand who got his PhD from

America’s Ivy classroom only to return to dust
At the joy of wolves threatened by ideas.



The epidemics have summoned the paramedics,
Fears have given birth to an abundance of tears.
We brace the landscape with our sights set on
The hills coquettish before the rising sun
Where did the eagle go to deny the sky
The splendor of flight and the melody
Of adventure mapping loves apart?
You will visit the silent groves again,
You with the conscience stubborn
Like the fly stalking the cow’s tail.
You will let go your vices
Upon the rain’s arrival,
You with the residues of gods
Your guarded amulets
Confined to a totem’s fate…
And what shall the deceased say then,
The prayerful whose sorrow once swirled
To paint sidewalks with
The mosaic of their blues?
The epidemics have summoned the paramedics,
Fears have given birth to an abundance of tears.
Let the eagle have the snake for lunch.
The landscape will not be forced to mourn
For a long time!



Come with me to the forest
Where the doves arrest the sun
With adventure
To appease the verdure

Come with me to the forest
Where the snake hides in the palm tree
And the palm tree climber is cautious
With every move and the farmer hums
Along, his hoe ever ready to strike

Come with me to the forest
Where the pond assures the dry face a wash
And the bush meat acquiesce
Even when wounded and doomed by a trap
And the trap collector is a gay chap with
A heart full of dances

Come with me to the forest
Where the villager ploughs to plant
And the trespasser observes the towering iroko
And its host of flighty admirers, while
Fallen fronds rust into soil and the elephant grass
Is fondled by the wind

Come with me to the forest
Where we have known the womb
Of our earth is rich, with yam tubers
Adorning the skies, and the parade
Of walking leaves delighting the
Majestic sun

Poems by Dike Okoro

Dike Okoro
Dike Okoro
Dike Okoro, a critic and scholar of African literature, is a professor of World Literature at Olive Harvey College, Chicago. He received his PhD in English Literature from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and both his MA in American Literature and MFA in creative writing from Chicago State University. He is the editor of three anthologies of poetry and the author of two books of poetry. He is widely published as an essayist, reviewer, poet and short story writer.


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