Poetry

I Am Still Eager: Poems by Uduma Kalu

A Ram without Womb

You know my phrases hang in the air
When you waltzed your tight waist away
Our hearts are bleeding
And now we are ageing without shoulders

They carved a law to build a past
We stood before the edge and blocked our bleeding
The scars didn’t heal. Did they?

You have learned to waltz your waist
And I have learned to stain the air with phrases

But I am only a ram. I have no womb.
I have no past. I built no empires for the future.
I can hoot. But you root the horns.

They carved a law to build your past.
And you bared your breast at me
The silly heart forgets. it is only a pawn
The silly heart will buy its defeat at the feet of the priest
I will bleed again to the alter
Then trapped in a golden ring

I am only staining the air with hanging phrases
Bring your price – and I will die again
I am already forty. I am counting my fading hair.
I am not a hero
Heroes don’t return
Neither can I dare you, my root.

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I am Still Eager

I have kept late nights
scattering speeches in moonlights
and tall flowers had  answered in silence

I have recited, evoked the spirit of the wise, wild and water
—and  tall flowers had mirrored your silence

My toes have tossed the mid-night dances
along dark paths
deep contours lit by fire-flies…
I have encountered the spirits of the nights
And I’m still eager

In the day time
When kidnappers tiptoed with big bags of slavery
I have wandered
searched along lengthy paths
I have stumbled, recoiled,
Groped beneath big trunks…
asked questions
and I have broken the pot of silence
…my first visit

But the mountain still mounts
The mountain builds mounds after a climb

I may be the wandering tiger
I may be the expectant beast
I may be the lion prowling
And each mount reinforces my quest

I am still eager
For I have broken the pot of silence
I am still eager
For the mountain has less sand to mount.

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She came like the wind

She came like the wind
Fluttering the past about her
Some she fell before me in a cloud
Some she scattered about in her throaty laughter

She came at the last hour where my fleet flew in the wind. She stretched the wind
She folded the wind into a bag
_and laughed again.

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Signs

I am a poet
signing my silence in blood.
a poet singing of you
signing my silence in the wind.
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Saints’ Lament

You cleared the space with seduction
quoted the saints of hell
who mourned the loss your faith

I laid you bare like folded pages
opened your folded pages
and led you to death

You called me Christ
asked of my name
for the witches’ broken pots

The saints lamented the loss of your faith
The witches lamented the breaking of the pots
You called the smith. He brought a snail
You called the spider. He brought a snail a needle
The smith gathered the broken pots
The spider needled the broken pots
The snail soldered the broken pots

You wailed and ran to the forest
The forest followed you
You jumped to the road
The four hundred sisters followed you
Beware, the road is slippery when wet

The road is slippery when it is wet
You beckoned to the fish
It splashed you with okra
They sowed your path with thorns
called twelve men to follow you
and cobwebs to entangle you
to the place where saints hold their lament

You called to the viper for his skin
The python appeared, shook his eyes at you
You  cleared the space with seduction
quoted the saints of hell

who mourned the loss of your faith
You called to me for your name
I opened you like a book
Borrowed the head of  the python
Into your temple
Where I built my Church.

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To the Unheard Voice

[For Nwachukwu]

I have drunken of the deep.
I have heard mermaids singing.
Our paths have branched to the road not taken

This is a period of silence.
The audience retain their body.
But the masquerade dances to secret tones of the dead.
This is a period of silence.
You too can hear mermaids singing in the night.
Between the deep, under the crevices of the towering rapids.
You too can partake in the ritual of the masquerade.
But our paths have branched to the road not taken.

We danced to the virginal throbs of the jungle.
Then it was our circumcision to silence.
But those spirits gave us the pots.
What was in your pot, son of God?
There was no reptile when I broke my gift.

You too can hear mermaids singing.
You too can hear winds raving in the wild.
The thunder too can play jazz.
But have you drunken of the deep?

This is a period of silence.
This silence sings of rituals.
These rituals sing of spirits.
When you will listen to mermaids singing their strange songs in the deep.

Does your pot contain sacred songs now?
Then you will rise above the folds.
Then you will soar.
Then you will lose your flesh and dance a mermaid’s dance.

Haven’t you seen them in the noons making strange marks in the sand?

Did you think they sang of you then?
Did you think they danced to the raw beats of your jungle?

I have worn those masks, son of God.
They carved me in woods
They painted me red, yellow and white
The painted me black.
They made me a woman.
And like Ekwuefi searching for her husband among the audience
You did not see me in the crowd.
But I was agboghommo sparkling like scattered gold in the sun.
I danced in the noons making mysteries to the seventh earth.

You thought I was colourful then, son of God.
You thought I was making music for an incoming madness.
But I was just agboghommo learning the secrets of the mermaids.

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Crowded Faces

Strange faces struggle noisily in the park.
A valley necked into the trees
The crawlers cuddled far behind the earth.
I nudged and raised my frowns to the sun.
I burrowed my head into the open bus.
The earth received me at the centre.
Where earth stretched into oblivion.
I was alone in the dark, backing the void.

Strangers milled around me.
Strangers in the bus
Strangers by the windows
Strangers in the park.
I burrowed my face in the book

A mist appeared
I wiped my eyes
Another face appeared fading and shaping again.
I wiped my eyes.
I thought of Anyi
But it faded into Billy
Then into the sun.

The earth threw me into its face.
Into the park.
Another face passed by
But this face I knew.

I am torn between faces.
A rascal appeared in the mist.
A distraught one explained past things
I, myself, I looked into the oblivion.
Into strange faces.

A mist appeared
I wiped my eyes
Another face appeared fading and shaping again.
I wiped my eyes.
I thought of Anyi

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The Magic of the White Sand

I read your verse and wished it were spring on fool’s day.
But this August disembowelled.
What was it that reeled your heart?
The broken lament of the sisters, and the cackle in the night.
The dumb girl breaking her bones
The bleeding cloth before the needle?

I read your verse and wished I were holding your breasts
But it was dry like the wretched of this earth
Do you remember the lines you caressed round the broken pot?
The song of the great world.
The great trek round the world

Do you remember the great silence of the eighth world?
They conspired and labelled you
They cooked your head and ravished you

They sang of you flew in the wind

But what was the magic of the white sand?
A wail in the cross
What was the water in the tree?
A lyrical verse
But this is August disembowelled.

That searing hot night
A fairy procession of the three yellow girls wearing silk and incense
Stood before you, before the bell tower
They raped you that night at bell tower
They chanted their gory songs and prayers that night at bell tower
They roped you to the cross standing on white sand
They rolled you to the great world
And sent you on the great trek to the great world.

Tell me what did the sirens sing in August?
Of broken pot bellies in spring
Laments and orgies
surgeries and tunnels
But what is the magic of the white sand?

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Evelyn

The gentle breeze rustled the tenderness of your hair
It fluttered around my face with its sensation
I love the cascading cadence
as it falls
down to the deep hollow of your back,
…and gather together like horse wisk.

I love its gentle golden glow
as it casts to life
the bright beauty of the sun.

But let me touch this gentle hair
and partake in the assemblage of God’s scattered beauty.

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Poems: (c) Uduma Kalu

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