There are tears for the brook from which I draw
waters of identity, sounds of my tongue
and the story of my name.
I mourn the land of light plunged into darkness
before the first gasp of my third birthday
condemning me to three decades of fugitive life –
even in the bowels of the whale
that crushed and swallowed my homeland,
entombed its banner of The Rising Sun.
I move forward but get nowhere. Attempts
to heal knock toes on stumbling rocks.
Even my Northern sojourn along dusty streets
of Kaduna and Kano, butchering sites
of children of the light, tell of my fretting feet
urged on by hope that out of the ashes of war
unity may sprout. Even this sojourn of reconciliation
is determined by a flight through a crack in the wall
of another slaughtering saga as zealous knives
slashed in defence of gods and mowed down
my brothers like weeds that defiled the gardens
of hallowed grounds.
This is still our story! Time has failed to heal
wounds inflicted by pictures of spattered flesh
that grinned at us from bloodied mantelpieces.
We have yet to learn to sleep, daily reliving
mighty explosions and their afterglow
frozen in malignant memories.
These are cocktails of misery for me in limbo,
my bleeding heels wounded by time, unsure
that I have reason enough to love that whale
in whose intestine I grope, in the dark,
desperately gasping for air.
Nnorom Azuonye (Anerley, UK 2003)
‘Dead Sun’ was first published in Orbis (UK) #130, Autumn 2004
It was only primary school P.E.
not the Olympics, and off
my mark, like a weighted bullet
cheered on by classmates,
you cut off the air supply
of my sprinting ambitions.
At fifty meters I regard with envy
rippling backs of my co-runners.
The tongue of your whip licks
hard across my back:
Ta wai! Ta wai! Ta wai! Ta wai!
Tears wash my face as blood sips
through my vest and I crash –
knees on the wet grass
of the untracked field, visited
by mixed sounds of horror
and mocking laughter
of my classmates.
Boniface, I am thirty-six now
but I hold the pain you caused me
twenty-seven years ago
like a perverse treasure in the vault
of my heart and I detest you.
One funny thing,
do you know that when I heard
you had lost your mind,
and was in some kind of home,
I did not feel sorry for you?
I have just learnt
that you found your mind again,
therefore one fine day
you may read this poem
and you will see that nobody
ever forgets an evil form master.
Nnorom Azuonye (Anerley, UK 2002)
Walk with me towards a new sunshine
if your adolescent castles that stood
fine in romantic dreams like mine
have dissolved on the tongue
of furious unkind waves licking
the beach of life’s wet lips.
Come in your workclothes to rebuild
castles with bricks of wrestled obstacles
cemented with the dung of experience
ornamented bloodied jewels of hope
even as we plan a special day;
of skewered juicy meats and of choice
wines in expensive crystals.
Don’t be afraid to win to this time.
I am not afraid anymore,
now that I have found a way
to plan my life and live my plan.
Nnorom Azuonye (Hertfordshire UK 2003)
Show me firewood from a log that cannot be hewn.
Show me benefit in the impossible.
I don’t spit in the eye art’s noble prince,
but if it feathers your critical life’s hat, sew
a badge of southward thumbs across my words,
entomb yourself in crypts of stylemasters.
The incomprehensible can be colourful,
thrown for love at local jams or festivals,
a sea of perplexed crystals blankly blink.
If you don’t get me, would you listen keener?
Or would you rather spare a moment
for my burden, this brick, my brick,
one usual word by one everyday idea,
to the building site of time’s history tower?
I surrender everything to time,
the revealer, the healer and the judge.
When she sits in judgment against me,
would she blame me for walking light,
my notes unburied in concrete slabs?
Today, I indulge myself a delusion; in time’s
harvest eve I shall reap kindness and healing,
if she makes just one of my bricks luminous
beacon of eternal truth.
I prostrate before truth,
the liberator, the jailer, and the hangman.
May truth be told when my days stop breathing.
If it proves my one thought, belief, or fear
made life better for somebody, or somebody
better for life, because I was not lost in
a firework of fancy and unfathomable clues,
that will be my crown of vindication.
All poems (c) Nnorom Azuonye