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Looking out the Window: Poems by Chika Unigwe

Cele Uwa

When the news came from home
Spirited by the waves
That you had gone
I snapped my fingers beside my ears
To still the steps of fate

I weave a basket of words
To accompany you on your journey

If you listen really hard
You will hear the trilling of my voice
As it calls your name
And reminds you of what you were
What you are

I garner a harvest of euphonies
To lament my loss of you.


Seattle, Ash Wednesday

Bricks and mortar
Buildings sway
Dance to an unheard tune
Chairs accomplished
Waltz across floors
“May I have this dance, Miss?”
Running feet
Racing hearts
Praying for an end
To this quaking of the earth.
Before my stomach
Became a moon
Bulging and full
You promised me the earth and all in it
You swore to pluck the very heavens for me
And lay it under my head
A pillow of wealth
You throw words at me
Plastering them on my cheeks
With a viciousness
Like a mason at work
With an unruly tool
Before I was
Your unrivalled goddess
Now I am
Your unbridled dog.



If we do not fox trot to this tune alien to us
Would we be allowed into the inner sanctuary?

If we do not kow-tow to the deities they serve
Would we be allowed to enter paradise?

If we do not claim that the Chief’s clothes are elegant
Would we be allowed to see?

If we do not savour their words like they were fresh palm-wine
Would we be allowed to taste?

If we do not say that we believe them
Would we be allowed to live?

Looking out the Window

It’s a plain enough window
Nothing fancy
No trimmings to it at all
An old common window
Just like an old common woman
I am often told

But my mother is not common
Nor was her mother before her
Or the mother before that mother
Strong women all

Who raised children
Like they knitted booties
Tight and well

Nothing common at all in that!


 A Plea

Will you let me whisper
In your ears
The secret of a thousand years
Which now come bobbing up
To my chest
Pleading with an earnestness
To be released
Gurgled out a throat
Cackling like a bush fire left untamed
Spreading its wildness beyond any borders known to man

Will you let me hold
Your hands
As we walk through this maze
So puzzling I am yet to make head
Or tail of it

Will you let me love
You like
Only I know how to

A battle
Every night at bedtime
You fight me with the strength of a small army
Resisting my commands
Thwarting my order
Taunting me
Daring me to do my worst
Lock you in
Shield the moon from sneaking in
Take away your little friends, comfort in the dark
Until slowly your eyes shut
And you become transformed again
Into my little angels


(c) Chika Unigwe

Chika Unigwe
Chika Unigwe
Chika Unigwe is the author of the widely acclaimed novel, 'On Black Sisters’ Street' and winner of the 2012 Nigeria Prize for Literature.


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