Poetry

Season’s Craze: Poems by Nnaemeka Oruh

Season’s Craze

Countdown: Thirty days to D-day
Festivity smell thick and strong
Breath quickens and the heart beats faster
Santa Claus comes!

Everywhere:
Green leaves turn brown.
A misty blanket envelopes the world
And everyday,
Morning smiles from the
Choking grasp of a hot-cold night.
With the lazy worker held back in bed,
By the chilly winds of the harmattan.

The craze to make the celebration great,
Many times leads to extremes.
Twelve gauge shot guns are dusted,
Then highways turn to war ways
Running slugs finding homes in vulnerable chests,
Bags of money forcefully taken,
By robbers desirous of a grand season.
Yet many never live to see D-day

The kings of the road quadruple fares
And in a bid to make more money,
Drivers turn crazy to their death.
The accelerator is weighed down,
With huge stones
The soul killed with hemp and akpeteeshi,
Broken bones and mangled flesh
Become relics of this craze.

The Ogas withhold salaries
Of workers in desperate need.
Fraud turns second nature
And treasuries are rifled
With forged cheques wielded by smart brains
The body hawker is at her season,
Too late she realizes,
The ritual killer needs money for the season.

Craze! Craze!! Craze!!!
Everybody desires the meal ticket, focus though myopic:
Its all for a grand season,
Then souls are lost in unreason.

The earth spins round and round and round,
And D-day finally arrives.
Then attention changes
And all monies accumulated begin duties.
New weave-ons for new hairdos,
Laces and shoes for changed outlook
Cows, goats and fowls are scrambled for
By those who ordinarily could not afford them

New cars and refurbished houses decorate the landscape
Then, the craze of
Who outdoes the other in the donations
That constitute the numerous ceremonies.
The festivities are many times uncountable
And for each we must represent.
More money is not made this time
Spend, spend is all there is.

The year’s pregnancy finally due for delivery,
To the labour room she walked.
The world waited on bated breath
All churches filled to the brim
Hosanna shouted by hearts pious
As the pastors preach for a new life this new season,
The midwife of the year conscientiously tends
The intending mother.

As the warm air turns freezing,
The expectant mother pushes fiercely then,
The thundering shouts of ‘happy new year!’
Herald the birth of the new child.
Then, we pause in our crazy actions,
Our breathing slowed and our heartbeat more normal
Then, stocktaking:
What did we gain from this craze?

Epiphany. We realize that,
We lost all and gained nothing,
Except a year closer to our graves.
Then we commence the New Year – disconsolate.

——————–

The Tragedy of Man

Conceived in darkness
Mother lying on tattered mats
With father sweating it out in between her thighs
In a hut where the room floods,
When the heaven weeps.
My lot was cast,
Among the neglected and impoverished lot,
Where abject poverty, is the garb of humans.

Mucus rains from the nostrils of children,
Protruding belly fed fat with hunger,
Flies competing violently
To lick the mucus from the nostrils
Women with bodies decorated with veins,
Have their fingers worn rough from
Scratching arid lands hard as stone for food
And with half-fed stomachs, sleep weary each night

But hungry though and deprived,
When the moon casts its beam,
On our impoverished village,
Children dance in frenzy shouting ‘Onwa apuo!’
While the old sit together in harmony drinking gin.
And laughing off all the worries in the world.
At bedtime although sleeping on tattered mats,
They snore in freedom unwary of robbers.

As a juvenile soon weary of the life,
Which the drudgery of poverty promises.
The glow of the metallic city with streetlights and tarred roads,
Becomes my desire. Sitting in posh cars and apartments,
With pockets full of the meal ticket become my dream.
Dreams! Dreams!! I chase them committed
Out to end my life of drudgery with a deft stroke.
Adieu to peace of mind if that is what it means.

To attain fame and fortune, I played foul.
Brothers are remorselessly duped and robbed.
Evil became my garb and vehicle to fortune
Dedicated to the struggle, I got what I sought too soon.
Metallic city, a garland of roses for you!
Wash me clean of the mud of poverty,
And on my cracked, dehydrated skin,
Carefully rub Claire to freshen!

Yet in my gargantuan house, sleep flies from my eyes.
Armed robbers find in me a bank to rob,
While brothers angered at my duplicity,
In vengeance hire assassins to cut me down.
The gardens harbouring manicured flowers,
In irony portend danger to me,
As assassins could lurk in them and get me killed.
Ah! The lost freedom of my impoverished village!

Oh seer, unknot the knotted ropes of my life,
And tell me, what it is that I really want?
What do I desire; what does man desire?
Is it peace of mind and closeness with nature?
Or a very firm grasp on mammon
Although the worship of him deprives us of peace?
The voice comes swiftly not waiting,
The answer, ready to give:

Not content with what he has,
Is the tragedy of man.

——————–

*Otiin Growing in the Desert

Like a cricket’s sole shrill
Breaking the night’s tranquility,
The alarm shrilled, piercing the night’s stillness
And my soul’s sojourn,
With flippant minstrels of the dream world,
Snapped in violence, teeth knocking together from cold.
Struggle! Struggle! Eyes appoloic red with
Poring relentlessly over voluminous books:

In dilapidated classrooms,
With scarce chairs and floors with broken tiles.
Windowpanes lost to vandals and burglary proofs nonexistent
Naked wires protruding from,
Where before, sockets stayed.
Ceilings caving into classrooms cage-like,
I sit with stomach half-fed and
Brain sharpened by desire and dulled by hunger.

The teacher unpaid yet dedicated,
To the extent which his worries will let him,
With Libraries and research facilities nonexistent
He throws open his unrefillable well of knowledge
And from it I painfully draw,
Empowered by eagerness, hindered by deficiencies
I held on desirous to grow from nothing to something
Constantly kayoed by adversity, begging for help.

I struggle alone,
No love, no rest
Dumped amidst thorns,
Reaching to the sun almost impossible
Stuck in this gloom that
Choke yet turn me out
Under extremely difficult conditions.
Half-cooked despite all my struggles.

And like Otiin
Growing in the desert,
I come out with pale leaves.

*Scent leaf. A very precious plant among the Obuohians

——————–

To my sister Oddiri

Oddiri, ah Oddiri my sister!
The tears rain from my lachrymal glands
Evil has beset us greatly
And the good old days are lost so soon.
What world of innocence we did have,
Fantasy suffusing our hearts with joy,
Our future built on hopes,
As we saw a world that greatly needed us.

How we dreamt of journeys to Mars
Living like giants in a world we bettered
Those days of innocence,
When fantasy fired hope
And happiness was derived from dreams.
Those days, we watched cartoons
And lived like fairies in a fairyland.
What bliss we did have then,
As we had dreams of affluence and fame.
Passionately building hopeful castles
Discovered too soon to be built in the air.

Not that we didn’t work hard Oddiri,
But the world is wicked that we never knew.
Now harsh realities have stripped us of all we had
As we realize too late that,
Much more than bare ability leads to success here.

But Oddiri,our brothers had great plans
Blood was to be their brick.
Our shoulders are meant to bear.
The staggering weight of
Their mansion of misuse and misrule
Aha! Humans as pillars.
Pillars alone? No Oddiri
Others are meant to serve as carpets.
The more honoured are elevated,
To solid steps to the top of
This staggering tower of Babel
Which God seems to have forgotten.

Oddiri,
Here was paradise,
Honey flowed, milk sang
In the Niger River.
We saw them Oddiri, we tasted them too,
And it was communally shared
Then, who knew,
That milk can be canned?
Who knew, that honey can be prepared?
And together with the canned milk,
Sold and money stuffed,
Into the pockets of a few brothers?

Brothers?
The very sound of that word,
Makes me feel I have blasphemed!
Traitors, pushes harder to come out,
But I must hold it back.
Lest my head become an ornament
Flamboyantly displayed on a pole,
A Shouting deterrent to others,
Audibly saying; “keep your mouths shut!”
That’s another one Oddiri.
You talk only when you are asked to.
And then, say the evils are…
I cannot ever say the word!

But you know sister,
That this is how it is,
With other lands we call developed.
Deep potholes are trademarks,
Of roads well constructed!
The days we had smooth roads,
Then we lived in hell.
This is heaven, heaven on earth. So drum!
Who says electricity must hold on uninterrupted?
Taking it and bringing it, shows people are at work!

Fuel scarcity only shows,
That we are thrifty
We do not waste things here,
We save them for our children.
If we use up all the fuel,
Which one will our children use tomorrow?
You say people suffer during this scarcity?
Is it not only the greedy ones that suffer?
The non-greedy ones manage the nothing,
Which they have.

You want me to say it, don’t you know?
This is Africa, where Kola is given
From the bottom of our hearts,
To influence service.
Although our forefathers gave kolas
To welcome and show appreciation
And not as a necessity for deliverance of service.

Hush! Oddiri let no one hear it,
They eliminate opposition here.
To sustain their bloody rule.
The schools are barren,
Of implements of production.
Teachers starved, left, as they are – hungry.
They are donkeys, mules of work.
If they protest,
Schools are shutdown
When they are tired of protesting,
They continue the sacrifices.

Tell me Oddiri, what does our big brother sacrifice?
Hush baby! We know it, but
Let the knowledge die with us!
If the poor man is fed up,
Let him pick up his gun and go rob.
When you let the fool,
He turns the gun on a man poorer.
Violence reeks is it not only in the slums?

The poor are like hounds.
Locked up in a common pen.
Tearing up one another,
While in skyscrapers and posh cars,
Children of the same mother,
Sip champagne and set fire,
On the congested dog pens.

Ah! Oddiri, evil reigns here.
Tell me sister, is it true?
Did we ever have a good time?
Was there ever a time,
When all was good and well?
Wake me up with a slap Oddiri.
My memory fails me.
And like a man suffering from amnesia,
I begin to wonder;
Did our fathers ever live
A life of freedom and equality?
Is this our great land of Iduu
Where all was once good and everybody merry?
——————–

The Tragedy of Our Youth

Tragedy,
Our lives,
A constant malady.

Adversity Kayoos us,
Despite persistent struggles.
Innocent Otiins that we are.

The tragedy of,
Failed leaderships
Have squashed

A luxuriant existence,
In our land,
Overflowing with

Milk and Honey.

——————–

And if Mother Dies…

Today,
I can only shed tears.

I watch,
(and so do other millions)
As our Mother
Together with all she has,
Is being squeezed to death.

The greedy clamour,
For an extension,
To a perpetual  rule of a few,
Has become foghorn.

A negation of tenets,
Long approved by others,
From foreign lands.
(Not that they should lay the rules).

How can it be,
That despite widespread clamour,
That we breathe freely,
We are being axphyxiated,
With claims of representation,and rulership,
That can only mortify us?

Sourness has enveloped my mother.
The cry for justice drowned,
By the selfish acclamation of support.

Brothers!
Do we watch in silence?
Should Mother die?

But know,
Know that when Mother dies,
We have all died.

——————–

Nnaemeka Oruh

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