Poetry

Threshold of Nothingness: Poems by Francis Ohanyido

CLAN KIND: An Ode to Ufuma of old

I

I beheld the grinning mask of pleasure;
Of the masquerade of the ancestral treasure.
It was a vision without measure.
In the great silence of the night
The spirit of the trove stood bright
And beamed upon my wondering sight
I heard his roar, and the voice was thunder
Briefly fear quaked me asunder
And as suddenly submerged under.

II

Through the mist of fire, I basked
In the glow of understanding with the masked
Messenger of my forebear, and my mind was tasked.
I saw the secret of the ancient trinity-
My forebears, the masquerade and I in unity.
T’was then that I saw that my new age pride was vanity
I realized that I knew so little, I also knew no fears
Nor will I in ignorance again forget the tears
For a generation that denies its forebears.

III

Timeless beauty sparkled in his being
The fragrance of sweet traditions
Was exuded in soft and pleasing
Tides of warm radiations.
And as if with springs under my feet
My hand extended forth to meet
The great ‘Mgbedike’.
He came to my cordial hand
To greet in ancient salute
And from a silver band
On his mirror studded head
He drew forth the mystical ‘oja’ flute
It was golden with a single red
Bead of a glittering jewel
And my Silver cross I showed him
He understood and smiled, well pleased.
I had chosen my path and the vision was now dim
I picked the ‘oja’ and blew it, it was cute!
And…Ah! I glimpsed into the citadel
Of ancient lore and wisdom!
Even now; I still feel it’s magic
As  I touch it to my brow
And stopped to ponder the tragic
Fate of our traditions.

——————

THE WARRIOR’S DRUM

I have heard it told
I have heard it said
Many times, in many folktales of old
That there was in ancient days
The drum of drums.
From where did the drum come?
Not even the most ancient and wizened
Of men could say for sure.
But it is believed that even before seasoned
Warriors wore loin-cloths and scabbard machetes
The drum existed.
The drum was only beaten
With war chants renting the air
It was an instrument of spells
And was beaten by the gentlest of men
With stringed tinkling bells
Wound round his legs
It was never beaten in anger
But throbbed in the sight of danger.
It readied the brave and strengthened
The weakest of men to do battle
By setting their blood to boil
In mystic rhythms, in their veins.
Many an enemy warrior was entranced
By the spell-binding beats
-And with weakened hearts
-And with marred courage
They were felled to the earth
Never again to dance to the music of warriors,
It was the mystery of bravery betrayed.
And so many villages fell?
There is this beautiful old drum
That I have seen several times
In my grandpa’s inner room
He talks to it like a friend
And I’ve never seen him beat it.
It looks exactly like the drum of the tales
Maybe someday I would beat it
-without anger, and gently
And see what it will feel like
Do you suppose it’s the same drum?

——————

THRESHOLD OF NOTHINGNESS

He stood still
Trembling in the night
A threshold
Of nothingness
A black face
Washed with sweat
Tanned by the sun
Agleam in moonlight.
Palm frond
Twisted between
Quavering lips
A mockery
Of warriorhood
A tale of strangers
With skin of nzu
And abominable betrayals
Of the calabash
Of the kindred spirits.
His body shook
For fear stood
With him.
Why?
Cried his mind.
His uncle?
Abomination!
Strength fled
His being
And his body
Paid fear
With chills
As his knees
Like drained saplings
Bent to kiss
The earth.
He tried to stand
But the hut
Began to spin
Again the knees
Greeted the earth
And his shackles
Bit deeply
Into his ankles.
How long now
2, 4, 6 moons
The stench of his fear
Made brother
To his excrement
Keyed his senses
As nausea
Like a tempest
Welled up in him.
His arms
Across his chest
Met in a hug.
With head bowed
In conquered submission
The amulet bands
Hugging his arms
Watched
In serpentine impotence
A warrior subdued
He awaited the cockcrow
Into
An unknown world
A fate
Worse than Osu!

——————

SMILE AWAY THE PAINS

Though gray streaks of sorrow
Permeate our hearts
Today we shall roll our carts
Before the sun be blue, we’ll borrow
Sunbeams to shine our smile
And away with all the terrible bile
Of regrets and pains
That pierce so deep
Like the rains
Of tiny needles
On our hearts.
Away with all the night sprites
That haunt our bedsides when we sleep
And fill our minds with frights.
The sunshine has been drawn!
Smile for our new dawn
Of great hopes,
Away from the mires
Of depression bathing the fires
Of unhappiness and despairs
That bind our beings like ropes?
Smile away the pains.

——————

(c) Francis Ohanyido

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