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Masquerades at the Harvest Dance: Poems by Chris Chinwe Ulasi

Image: Aurica via Flickr
Image: Aurica via Flickr

Masquerades at the Harvest Dance

…without guns and fanfare, except a crown
for the festival and a raffia skirt for fans…!

I think of the wide-eyed gaze of the masquerade
mocking what it sees.
I must admit, I’ve always liked
the power that comes from being behind the mask.

Tradition invented the festival,
and custom dictates the rules of the game.
Nature, the harvest granted in yam barns,–
I am inviting the world to see.

The harvest week is approaching
with crown for the peasant’s head and a mask for his armor.
The music a sonorous affirmation to the harvest God;
jubilations winged in triumphant flights of changing climate.

The noonday ghosts are everywhere in the streets.
A ghost, in multi-hued decorum, accosted me.
His fork-shaped wipe danced in my face.
“Yeah.  You know am not scared.”

But the old choice of running,
enamored of fear, departed me
at the precise stroke of noon
the tropical sun ray hit Savannah’s anthills.

Clutching a jumble of raffia palm in my hands
I revisited the dance of blessed spirits, only now,
my naked face is racing the masquerades who, I figured,
knew me.  In fact, they didn’t.


Verdict of “Agwu” the Madman

A very rich man died the other day.
Does anyone know where he is now?
His benefactors say he’s gone to heaven
Because he was a paragon of kindness.

The poor might not understand it.
Yet, to the madman’s mind, —
Of deepest vistas than death’s eye,
His departure serves him right:

Material possession of all things
Will not find solace with the dead;
Just as the grave reasoned why in hell
Must death escape vitality?

The gravediggers were not amused
By the madman’s earnest rantings,
But they paid him no heed
As if by design, nature’s laugh is done.

Alas, the madman is not done:
“Is he going to sleep without these
Possessions which my dreams loathe?
Please tell this little stone that rambles

In the road alone, and doesn’t mind
About careers, nor feign to be prophetic,
Whose prophecy holds vision over this grave.
I’ll return when nature’s laugh is done.”

Poems © Chris Chinwe Ulasi
Image: Aurica via Flickr

Chris Chinwe Ulasi
Chris Chinwe Ulasi
Dr. Chris Chinwe Ulasi has been a professional communicator, scholar and researcher for over fifteen years. A screenwriter, producer, and poet, he was from 1993-1996 journal editor and book editor of the Journal of Nigerian Affairs (formerly CONPO REVIEW). He is the Executive Editor of USAfrica, a community newspaper, and The Black Business Journal both based in Houston. He has published scholarly articles, poems (DrumVoices Review, Summer-Fall 2000), book chapters, and presented papers at numerous conferences. He has been a consultant on International Communication and Development for the International Education Foundation in Austin, Texas. Since 1988, he has taught courses in Media, Culture & Society, International Communication, Screenwriting, Film Theory, Aesthetics, and Media Criticism at Texas Southern University's School of Communications. A TSU graduate himself, Ulasi holds a B.Sc. in Mass Communications, MA in Telecommunication Policy and Administration, and Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in International Communications. Chris is a member of several professional organizations, including African Studies Association and the International Communication Association, and is very active in local and nationally based social and cultural organizations. A film producer and director, Chris has to date produced four feature length films: Material Witness (Songhai Filmworks, 1994) and The Kangaroo (Songhai Filmworks, 1995), The Stalk Exchange 419 (Songhai Filmworks, 1997, and the fourth film as a producer, Return of the Exile, which he co-wrote with Don Okolo is currently in distribution. Chris co-directed the feature film Blood n Destiny with Don Okolo in 2009. Another project by Ulasi, a documentary film examining the lives of the Nigerian emigrant community in Houston, is currently in pre-production. His new book of poetry Demigods of the Rainy Season is forthcoming in Summer 2010. He lives in Houston, Texas USA.

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