NOTE: While serving as a Christian missionary in East Africa, this unpublished poetry collection ‘Let My People Go’ was written as a reflection on the daily struggle around me. – Peter Kayode Adegbie
Marriage is a Miracle Here
Anna Kasumu is Kampala’s belle,
at last she is going to be a bride, lithe
like a gazelle, fresh like the stream
at first light, she laughs like a tinkle
of bells on a field of chrysanthemums
and her words dribble like early rain
when she announces her wedding to me.
I see joy dance in her eyes and love
stir her heart like new wine as we dance
around my office, priestly restraint cast
aside in the euphoria because, marriage
is a miracle here and Patrick Alonza
is a good catch. But she returns rigid
as a scarecrow, loose shoulder straps
and large insomnia bags, she sobs
torrents that run off my table, she’d failed.
No, Patrick didn’t know, she’d gone alone.
No, she’d never told him either of the night
at the Ambassador’s party when floating
on wine she spread her flowers under
the shower of the ambassadors guest.
One indiscretion and one major waste,
a scarred life and a marriage lost.
Marriage is such a miracle here.
Albert Matekiriza’s Choice
“I want to marry her.” He says,
His jaw juts out steady
his face like a sculptor’s work
set in stone, his eyes burn.
Albert’s love for Ruth Katelezi
is rich like the sea, it is straight
as a knife, it glows like a cluster
of stars on a dark night, it doesn’t
ebb even when she texts positive.
“Yes, I’ll marry her.”
“But she is dying”
“We’ll die together”
Her eyes draining and wet
shine in wonder at him,
at his thin smile
and clenched chin.
In Memory of Lawyer N, 1999
He clings on to life, hanging
his bones out daily till dusk;
a flood of thoughts drain him,
as he watches the sun’s lazy walk
through morning clouds, then
the long strides on craggy lawns
and the race across empty lots,
and sleepy houses on forlorn streets.
The city is tired, her regret
pungent as she yawns waiting
for caskets as men and women in
shades of silence clutch in vain at hope.
He scratches his leopard like spots,
his fingers rake a barren skin.
He peeps at the day’s end, remembers
his unsheathed dance, ever fresh
in his memory; now he can only
watch the sun scribble him a parting
autograph vanishing in his sky
behind where no one can advocate.
NOTE: In 2007, the Bicentenary commemoration of the parliamentary act that led to the abolition of slavery provoked my project ‘Changing Perspectives’ and also a number of poems. These are three from the collection on Diaspora experiences – Peter Kayode Adegbie
Ode To The Middle Passage
You were my birth canal
your raging waters broke over me
your womb carried me away from home
in the darkness of your cervix I fought for life.
Bound in the prison of my foetal sac
in ships with Godly names, I was born
to be traded for sugar and tobacco.
I wish I’d been stillborn.
I was a queenly virgin
A female primed for motherhood
you washed my innocence in brine
and made me a whore of the sea.
Boats ran through me from one side
to the other and men scrambled for my flesh
when I made headlines as a 400 year old
it was just to see if I was still there.
In your depths are many bones
dead dreams of lost souls
your expanse covers your crime
your soul is dark and tempestuous
I would never know who you are
I only evoke your sigh across time
The horror and terror of your waves,
your roar, the speech of death.
Echo of Time
Memories echo in time, gongs
and drums of discordant music,
beats out the rhythm of my pain,
mirrors the reflection of my shame.
I am encrusted with the dust of
my journey my mind is a cargo
in agony as I pray to see the sun
in a ship called ‘the Grace of God’.
I am a mother whose breasts
Have given life and I’ve travelled
a lengthy road longing to find home.
Do not cry for me do not mourn
the marks on my face. Do not cry
for me do not mourn the scars
on my back. My face is grooved
with destiny borne with fortitude
My breasts have suckled the lips
of ghosts and now my tears are dry,
I travailed over a tormented past
to fill the earth with life. My face
is no longer a hidden mask
I see the world with new eyes,
I sing new songs now, songs
that make the earth buzz with nostalgia,
the refrain of my motherhood
the glory chant of my present
I will dance because my seed is hidden
in you. My song is a fruit that ripens,
and my song must become your song.
Your face must become my face.
We are no more faces in the dark, dark faces
My eyes have seen the sun rise of freedom.
In The Field
Is anyone out there in the clouds?
I thought I saw a beard and eyes,
I thought I saw tears falling from the sky.
Is there a sage in the heavenlies?
I sat under the stars on the field
Questioning my birth, my life, my death,
I watch as shadows fade into darkness
I hold my hands and dream of a new dawn.
I sat bound by soul searing pain
‘Is Obatala changing his robes?
‘Would he wash his clothes in sunrise?
‘Would he wear royal apparels now?
I am speechless at the expanse of the horizon
The moon ignores me; the gods have long
Abandoned me, the soil is a new school master,
I learn to sow my soul to reap a future.
(C) Peter Kayode Adegbie