Poetry

When Men Play God: Poems by Osita Okoroafor

AN AFRICAN NIGHT

It was that a dark veil was thrown
Over the face of the moon
As it smiled down on the sprawling savannah
But then was your beauty ever made more manifest
Nor has yet a greater glory revealed the face of night
The chorus of a thousand stars
Blinking in solemn acclaim
Of this rustic rapture on an ancient landscape
A cacophony of sounds in a crazy potpourri
The chirping insects and the owl’s ominous hoot
Stirred in perfect unison in nature’s boiling pot of
soot
Like a conductor would an orchestra
One and all a symphony of harmony
But suddenly quiet descends on all like a heavy hand
As hunger seize the night in a reign of terror
Trailing the musk of fear they stalk majestically
Their prey through the still frightened foliage
Soon they make their harvest
From the darkness that abound
Can I ever forget the smell of blood?
Mixed with the odorous aroma of the camwood forest
Tell me what other sound tests the stout heart
Like the growling of the devouring of a fresh kill
Danger soon fades away
In the awakening of the forest
As it erupts once more in a celebration of survival
The night wind pause its excited conversation
With the thrashing foliage
In awe of this surreal masterpiece
A splash of black on nature’s canvas
Punctuated with flickering flames of gold
Under the moonlight in the village square
The lights of these fire carrying insects
Is reflected in the eyes of the wizened sage
Surrounded by starry-eyed children
As he regales them with tales of nights long past
The stories of glorious African nights.

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BLEEDING HEARTS

With sharpened points and flaming darts
We have come to play
The game of bleeding hearts
Reeling from the mangling scars
I’ve received
With flowers and a heart full of promises
I come still
To receive forty more severe stabs
All fatal blows
Agonized screams and a heart torn apart
A feigned smile in the eyes of a seductress
The orgy of devouring hearts has begun
Drowned by a surge of emotions
Drunken on these dizzying feelings
On the day when tomorrow’s echo
Is a frightening roar
In the arena of racing pulses and beating hearts
O! Cruel love you have slain me yet again
Armour of brazen hearts
Rent in two by the flash of a smile
A ripple of blood through a heart of stone
Somersaulting souls in acrobatic posturing
Flipping feelings in a tide of fluctuating fortunes
The draught of a season of frowning
In the famine of dry pockets
And a deluge of reined-in emotion
In the high noon of bounties
Still I come
To receive more severe stabs
In the Golgotha
Wherein I was crucified in the name of love.

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THE WORLD OF EFFIGIES

In a world of effigies
Night falls as the shadows lengthen
In a world of shadows
Under the full moon of reality
Characters of clay dissipate
Like wisps of smoke they regurgitate
The foul breath of loyalty gone sour
Fanning the horizon
Inspiring debited devotion
Ring forth your collated chorus
Rousing the ranting rabble
Bearing banners of banality
Remember that a prayer
Before a tottering totem
Will be offered on mounds
Of mundane immorality
For the man that courts immortality
While groveling in the pits of life’s crudity
Has led to the sacrificial slab
His shackled posterity
For a mount of the throne of brevity
And will be besieged by courtiers
With hollowed integrity
While dancing to the drums of infidelity
Chanting hymns to his deified sovereignty
Like flies pecking furiously at a rotten carcass
While buzzing with praises to its strangulating stench
With copious conviviality
Remember that the fate of a defiled deity
Is written on the walls of its crumbling shrine
For when a god loses its iron teeth of chastisement
There will be no more sacrifice of appeasement
To be deserted by the carrion eaters of fortune
When the banks of your faulted favour runs dry
You will inhabit the desecrated house of fallen gods
Playing host to the lizards of desolation.

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POETRY

A tattoo on my soul
A sharp point, an acrid contact
Infinitesimally minute
yet monumentally bewildering
It is like sap dripping on
Green shades and brown glades
Still scorched and blighted
like a sparkling pond in the soul
Which overflowing turns an arid heart
Into a field of blooming rosebuds
It is a dream hanging
from golden tassels
A vision of heaven and gilded angels
Wafts of perfumed petals
Purifying, cloying and alluring
Absolutely stilling
Drops of poignancy
yet it is like
Torrents gushing from the mouth
Of a roaring river
All consuming, bewildering, all conquering
Life’s mark on my soul
My identity in this crowd
It is my passage through this unyielding throng.

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OF WHAT COLOUR IS LOVE

For you lovers in this age and time
Take this skeptic to task and tell me
The price I pay?
Conviction for faith eternal
And maybe keep this flame burning forever
Or imprison those hurried whispers
Ever so ephemeral
Of what colour is love?
Is it red?
For the supreme price of loyalty and sacrifice
So then I may intone
“I shall share a lover’s fate”
And with a smile approach heaven’s gate
Is it blue?
The colour of dreams
Sailing down the calm blue seas
Charting a course of destiny
Under the wide blue heavenly skies
Nestling safely asleep in the serene arms of romance
Tell me if it is black
The angry skies, the rough seas
The dark end to a morning of promises
A sad tale of lovers gone astray
Wet tears on lonely nights
Or even two lost souls together finding their way
Under the dark curtain of bright stars
Or green maybe
The fresh promise of a new birth
Of health, sustained growth and longevity
Inspired by nature’s benign elements
Or green still as the green eyes that see all evil
Bought emotions, weightless still
Despite the weighty pockets on which it is anchored
The hollowness of materialism
A heart’s dereliction for an empty bank account
Is love as bright
As the sun’s glowing rays?
The glorious rebirth of a golden dawn
Or the dove’s purified plumage
Of peace and tranquility
Brightened hope and a renewed zest for loving
When life could hold more promises
Than the colours of the rainbow
Of what colour is love?
Tell me that I may know when I meet it.

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FACES

These faces I often see
As forlorn as ships on boiling seas
What nature’s glorious art has turned to be
A mask of pain and anguished pleas
Grooves traced by tears a thousand miles
Wrinkles of worry like valleys wide
And hollow tummies are reflected in arrested smiles
Blank stares and haggard hides
Drought ravaged bodies and hunger-crazed eyes
Staring out of hollowed skulls
Gaunt souls bent double by the scourge of affliction
Wearing the skulls of poverty like a common identity
Are these the faces I’ll always see?
A race of oppressed beings
Memories of a harassed humanity
The tribe of the dehumanized

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WHEN MEN PLAY GOD

When men play god
Men die, the skies cry
And hope is the beggar round the corner
Dressed in sores and rags
It’s all hail and blitz
Hell and no bliss
When men play god
Peace is a bargaining chip
Pushed across polished oak tables
By podgy fingers
And life expectancy
Is the heave ho of laboured breathing
In solemn and awe inspiring halls
The clang of an anvil
Resonates round the exchange rooms
And the echo is heard still
In the inflated tummies
In distant and unheard of lands
Five million children lie dead
In a valley called depression
When men play god
The spark of life is extinguished
By a finger – no!
Not the finger on the roof of St. Peters
But the finger on the button
The writing on the wall spells
Calamity, annihilation, doom
Bombs, missiles all go ka-boom!!!
I look in the mirror
And I see two or more of me
Dolly’s bleating is a merry sad song.

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(c) Osita Okoroafor

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