Poetry

Jazzy Blues: Winter Poems by Ikhide R. Ikheloa

Jazzy Blues

The river is not the same river
That was here
When I held you close.
The river is gone.

The secret is here
The river is gone.
The secret is here
The river is gone.

And the river
Is not deep enough
To hold our secret.

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Nando’s Song

You held my hand
And giggling we crossed
Crossed the four corners of darkness
Kicked to Olokun’s bosom
The sacrifice to nonchalant gods
White chalk
White cock
White chalk
White yam
Red palm oil
Four pennies
Empty bottle of Fanta
I will hold your hand
And together we will cross
This junction of darkness.

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This Planet, That Planet, This Planet

This Planet
Sitting by your lake
Swan that went away
The same water molecule
Keeps coming back
Keeps kicking teasing my sad toes
Perhaps, there is hope
And you will come back?
 
– It is good to see you.

– It is good to see you too. You look well

– You look unhappy.

– I am not unhappy. All is well. Everything is as it should be.

– So look me in the eyes.

– It’s all right, you worry too much, I am well. The heart is not as light as it should be, that’s all.

– Look me in the eyes. Are you crying?

Silence. Silence mocks the lies that shield the heart’s shame. Startled fish dart in and out of mute rocks, searching for shields. The silence screams for help.

Silence.

– I am going home.

– You are going? home to where?

– Home, home to Nigeria

– I see?

Silence. Silence mocks the lies that shield the soul’s sadness. And startled fish dart in and out of mute rocks, searching for shields. The silence screams for help.

– I have told you before, we are at war, we are soldiers, and we must be strong or we die.

– Stay. Don’t go.

– I must go home. Exile hurts, and I don’t want to stay anymore.

– Stay. Don’t go.

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

Song of the Dreamer

If I close my eyes, to the things I see, that I don’t understand,
If I bathe in anger, in the darkness that hurts, then soothes,
Perhaps, the truth will stay, stay, stay, until I take it.

But what will I do?

My eyes won’t close; the mind won’t go to sleep,
It is hungry for answers to her questions?

So what should I do?

If I close my eyes, to the things I see, that I don’t understand,
If I bathe in anger, in the darkness that hurts, then soothes,
Perhaps the truth will stay, stay, stay, until I take it

But what will I do?

My eyes won’t close, the mind won’t go to sleep
It is hungry for answers to her questions?

So what should I do?

I don’t want to close my eyes, to the things I see, that I don’t understand,
Because if I stare at these things long enough
Perhaps the answers will come cascading down
Out of the mouth of darkness.

Interlude. Murtala Muhammed International Airport. Ugly edifice for a mass murderer. The Harmattan winds wash my face dry and hand me a chewing stick. Is that Marvin Gaye pouring his pain out on my father’s gramophone? And the policeman with the skin plastered over dry bones said ‘Welcome home to Nigeria.’ And my heart asked, “Why did you come home to this?”

– Your hair looks nice.

– I am glad you like it. I made it for you.

– You lie. You made it for your husband.

– I made it for you.

They sat there on the bed each saying nothing. After all these years away from Nando, he could still tell when she was going to cry. Her eyes were glistening and soon her body was shaking gently, the tears were streaming down and she was sobbing quietly, gently. Perhaps, he thought, he should have never come to see her.

– You did not write me. You said you would come for me.

– I have missed you every day. America has been hard on me and I didn’t want you to be part of the suffering. It hurt so much but I could not get you out of my mind. In the depths of the winter I would stay in my room and dream of coming home to you. I couldn’t get you out of my mind, but I was too ashamed to write. What could I write about? There was nothing here to write about, America was not the land I dreamt of, and I did not want you to be a part of that dawn.

– Stay. Don’t go.

– I have to go. I will be back tomorrow.

He got up and walked out into the dark chilly night and he didn’t look back. Her heart wailed, ‘Stay, don’t go.’ But the words stuck in her throat. And like a sweet nightmare her dream vanished as quickly as he had come. She shut the door and cried herself to sleep.

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

Kisumu

Dark eyes
I wish I’d never met you.
But we are here
Before you
And I am glad
I met you.

And
This is why we are here
This is why the stream flows past
Taunting the scorched tortured earth.

This is why we are here
To mourn our passing images
Of images etched hard in our irises.

And now we drive blind with tears in our eyes
Drip, drip, drip
Tears in our eyes.

They walked along the dusty streets of their ancestors, gingerly holding hands. They walked along the pregnant bush-path to the river that holds the dam, that holds the dark, crimson memories of the angry warriors felled by the guns of vengeful warriors.
 
Silence.

The brook babbles on, babbles on, mocking the timid silence. The water laps relentlessly brushing sensuously against weathered rocks, the water taps on quiet rocks, water, timekeeper for that which must be done. Little fish dart in and out of favorite places, dangerous places. Nando’s feet suddenly kick up water. And suddenly everything flees in protest, and for a split second, there is a vacuum, where troubled feet once kicked restlessly.

Silence.

– I don’t want to see you again.

– Why? That doesn’t make sense. Why?

– I am in love with you. And I can’t see you again.

– Why? That doesn’t make sense. Why?

– I told you. I am in love with you.

Silence. The brook babbles, babbles on mocking the timid silence. The water laps relentlessly against tired rocks, the water taps quietly on tired rocks. Little fish dart in and out of favorite places, dangerous places.

– Don’t go.

– I must go. And I am in love with you. Go. Go. America will take care of you. And I shall think of you.

– Nando, I never stopped thinking about you. When the Americans gave me a job, I told myself I would put some money aside each month and then someday, I would come get you. I had to come get you. Gentle one, strong one, you were my best friend, you pulled me out of the darkness that hurts, out of the shame of the madness that no one can see and you made me walk along your side. I have traveled all over the earth and your love haunts me, still. Here, this is for you.

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

Rain

And the gods
  mocked me
    frail reed
     leaning
      on the wind.

    and the gods
      mocked me
       with thick
          furious
           sulfurous
            salty gobs
             of rain.

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

Before the Dance

This hut that holds you,
Mystery of the misty, musty, wet Savannah
Nando of the burning dream, hold me.

Hold me in this river
That holds shards of pretty mirages
And I am sick no longer.

And now we may dance, Nando, no?

Nando of the hurricane’s eye,
Listen to the rush of your eye’s fury.

Nando of the blood-curdling roar,
Your age-mates came chasing your tail’s wake.

Nando of the hurricane’s fangs,
The wind, the wind chases the cowries
Round and round and round
Your wind-swept skirt.

Nando of the pretty face that spits hot rocks,
Crushed white chalk,
Crushed black pot
Crushed in crushed blood
Crushed in crushed earth
Crushed in crushed ancestors’ white chalk
Turned crimson turned black
Turned red-hot angry
Turned coal-black with shame.

Nando of the raging river
That washes the earth pure,
Bathes the earth red,
Nando, Olokun of the moody river,
Masquerade, they are coming for you,
Nando, harbinger of the moody spirits,
They are coming for you.

Nando of the eyes, dark
That tease the warrior’s loins,
Look! Look! Ikekhuamen stands on this anthill.
The flute! The flute!
The flute wails, dark sonorous sobs,
The flute is out of breath
Looking for you.

Nando of the legs
That peek out of the gazelle’s loincloth!
Look! Look! Ikekhuamen stands on this anthill
That breeds masquerades
 Of the sensuous raffia skirts.

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

Masquerade (Oduma)

I know you,
Masquerade.
Every morning you rise,
White shirt, khaki pants,
From the anthill on the parking lot.
Of our dreams.

And I follow you to the coffee pot
Where the coffee is black, no milk no sugar.
And your face says nothing.
And your eyes say nothing.
And your body says nothing.
Everywhere there is laughter.
And all the questions are answered
Masquerade
I know you.
You came from the anthill on the parking lot
Of our dreams.

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The Cab Driver’s Song [From Exile]

If you look through him,
What do your senses tell you?
Are you staring at this mirror?
Do you see yourself?
The river of images keeps coming back,
The waves keep returning
Lapping at your conscience.

The waves of the apocalypse return
Relentlessly dropping time capsules at your clay feet.
Time capsules of a past drenched in the blood of patriots.

But nothing washes these feet clean.
The waves return with the fish from Hades.
Fish with teeth that belong in sawmills.

We’ve been here before.
This is just another cycle.
The door opens.
And I walk out into the rancid air.
Life goes on.

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(c) Ikhide R. Ikheloa

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