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Obi Nwakanma: Blacksoil


In the thrush of blacksoil
The forests are so dark they swallow
Sunlight –

In the valley of your mothers
Where the river, Omambala
Nicknamed the Niger
Daughter of the goddess
Idemili –

Flows: she like you
Towards the sun and the temple
Of the Falcon god.

He of the crested crown
He of the twin plumes of white
Feathers of the eagle.
He who wears the ostrich feather
As the lion his mane

And like you she has suffered much
From the exile of her daughters
And her sons from her thighs.

First the whitemen came and led
Them in chains –
And then came the black contagion
And drove them from the land
Out of which Eri dug yams

From the skull that sprouted
Wild berries from the gravemound
Of his shamefaced sacrifice

His first born –
Son to the long-throated god
Ya weh – who left Canaan
In a fit of bile, and now hounds
This land by the river that washes
Her hand in the great sea.

And sing?
Sing “Halleluia!”?
Sing from a stricken land –

Sing for more sap
Out of the stem of the opete
And sing to the empty shrines
The looted relics of numbed gods:
The four divinities –

Who once wore your faces
Like the boughs of a green
Cloud of leaves

And loved you
With the gentle hands
And caresses of a patient lover
And lie now in fecund sleep deep
Where neither plea nor summons
Could rouse, or wake them.

Sing to the falcon god, or
Weep? And beat the skin
Of your bodies hard as new drums –

Because the land is closing
Her womb and the sun rises fierce
Like a falcon high and like herd
Out of the land they drive us, o gods
That come like wasps – above in
Black cloud in rage against the albino god.

Poem © Obi Nwakanma
Image by József Kincse from Pixabay

Obi Nwakanma
Obi Nwakanma
Obi Nwakanma teaches English and Creative Writing at the University of Central Florida. He is the author of The Horseman and Other Poems and Thirsting for Sunlight, a biography of the poet Christopher Okigbo, whose life was tragically cut short by the Biafran War. Nwakanma was awarded the ANA/Cadbury Prize for his first collection of poetry, The Roped Urn.


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