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Three Poems: By Obemata

Self Portrait

No matter how long I look
at my portrait,
how hard I look back at the past,
all I see is yesterday.

It’s hard to live a life
beholden to time,

still trace my face
to the outlines of a portrait
time stills.

Yesterday fits snugly
into my portrait.
Take a look.

For WS, for Breytenbach

You shall remember the homeland:
your abode, the address
your gaolers fixed,

the cell that welcomed you,
the hand that turned
the lock of pain,
the wall you hung your grief.

You shall remember the past:
the borders you crossed,

the strangers that placed
their hands on yours to welcome
you to stranger places
you called exile.

The past is years
etched into memory:

you have grown old
remembering the homeland in chains,
the many roads to exile,
the future you dreamt – always of freedom.

The future is here
like a bad dream.

In his footsteps

At eight, I inherited a pair of shoes.
The wedding shoes
my father spent a lifetime polishing.
The pair didn’t fit my feet.

Walking in his footsteps
was a song I sang at school;
and back at home,
I would put my father’s shoes on,
a size too large
and strut down our living room.

Years later, still trying out
the shoes, I would
clump away down the neighbourhood
in familiar steps.

Did I hear someone say
I walked in his footsteps?

(c) Obemata

Obemata Abdul Mahmud
Obemata Abdul Mahmud
Obemata Abdul Mahmud, an attorney, lives in Nigeria and England.

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