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Okigbo’s Flute: Poems by E.E. Sule

Okigbo’s Flute

Logistics! Okigbo staggers awake!

Multitude of amputated metaphors
– a procession of progeny
Bearing a calabash of broken poetries to the goddess

In the goddess’s talon
They find Okigbo’s flute
Its logistics an archaeology of confused tongues

The water suddenly acquires depth
Deep, deeper than the intestine of the Atlantic
They file into it seeking strayed melody of the flute

Logistics! Okigbo cackles alive!

A poem brightly blinks its eye
Alas! the pen is broken
the fingers downcast with whitlows


(For Ayo Ileti: I will always love you because you made me believe that I can still love and be loved)

We do not know how deep we love those we hate
Until an exchange of emotions
Flushes bits of sentiment
Clogging the arteries of our mindscape

Artlessly we allow words
– bare, basic, banal –
To build a bridge of smiles between our hearts
And tales spring in hilarity
Inventing a future, a freedom, an ecstasy

And we seek a room to safely inhabit
Two lone brave souls
Restless like drunken birds on the surface of sea

Come away, the brave one
The world will misunderstand us
And the daring revelation you bring
Will spill across hundreds of sickened minds

Come away, the brave one
Let us listen alone to our minds
Exchanging heartbeats of endangered doves
Where prejudices conspire against the will of the heart

We do not know how deep we love those we hate
But triumphant souls are they who
Hand in hand trudge up the hill.


Don’t let them out

murderous sentences,
wings spread, chase themselves into
antediluvian mind-valleys
for the kill

don’t let them out!
don’t let them out!

enough carcasses litter the minds
any more drop of a syllable
will wipe away hopes from the surface of despair

summon the wind
the ageless wind from the hills
to spread its cowries
and say what destruction
the rotten word from the innards
of a murderous sentence brings

to say the fate of two rivers
fast drying into the gulag
of a murderous sentence

to say the hope that might spring from
cobwebs of silenced tongues.


The Radical

His radicalism choked him
and before his last breath
the bird arrived with hidden missive

“he turned himself into a tongue
offered the tongue to people

He danced naked in the universe
only to a rhyme
with the energy of provoking
sublime complacency

He blunted sharp edges of stories
that hopped from ear to ear
moulding humanity

Above all he longed to be known
as the supreme radical of a clime”

Hail radical! Hail radical!

He sought the tendril that would climb farthest
on it he tended his fame


I will not hurt

I will dip into calabash of inferno
(huge fires exhaled by sacred books
and jaundiced hearts of excited amens)
in search of a tuber of peace

I will not hurt
when I step into a bowl where earth
sizzles inside oil
invented with blood of nation and natives

I will not frown
when self-contradictory middle east
claps its way into the lone shrine
left on the edge of my bewildered homeland

I will be success I will be failure
I will linger alive
not with hope of healing wounds
neither of soothing furnace of minds

I will delude myself no more
I will rest with the last sigh
suicide brings to a soul
thrashing in calabash of inferno


© E.E. Sule
Image: Kevin Dooley

E. E. Sule
E. E. Sule
E. E. Sule is the pen name of Sule E. Egya, a professor of African Literature and Cultural Studies at Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University. He is a fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and of the African Humanities Program. Besides academic work, Egya also writes poetry and fiction. His poetry volume What the Sea Told Me won the 2009 ANA/NDDC Gabriel Okara Poetry Prize, and the AWF/Anthony Agbo Prize for Poetry. His novel Sterile Sky was long-listed for NLNG Prize for Nigerian Literature in 2012, and won the 2013 Commonwealth Prize, Africa Region.


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