OBI NWAKANMA


The Horsemen

For Christopher Okigbo
Emmanuel Ifeajuna &
Chukwuma Nzeogwu


I

It was a room above the alcove
in a city renewed by junipers

And by desires…

Stripped of words,
the moments recalled;
where the tower,
lo, was in sight:

memories undaunted by sound
or flames of the amethyst,
spoke to me;
spoke to me like the preacher from Galilee…

I recall this moment staggering through the wind,
when its breath hissed at the earth;
as we leaned out of the window
in that moment when the first light
streaked, joyous, out of the unalterable street…

Then, tuned to the immanent choir of the grassland,
untangling from the sea -

Then, stripped to the last detail, from her sinewed skin,
disheveled in the light, one aria from the immaculate concertina -

before her rebirth
a tongue licked through the core of my soul.

ii

Strange men in dark garments
riding in slow, weary steps,
paces of a far and distant journey -
in measured gestures

The clatter of hooves on the stone of the
street; wakened from the depths of
their tombs, long dead ghosts,

memories of a carnage -

There was fear bred in that silence,
nothing triumphant in their last march

nothing triumphant where
once a plot is weaved, a rider rides
into anonymity:

what is it that they seek -

These silent riders?

Glory?. Memory?.

What is it that they want among those
who have fallen from their swords?

Piety?. Ablution?. Anonymity?.

It is not enough to bury the sword
in the fold of the embrace;
nor is it wise, even prudent, to
seek meaning in past deeds
when those deeds are immortal,
or of an impure genealogy -

What do they seek in the bowel of the tide;
in that place, where Onishe,
spirit-mother, swallowed the ravishers of her children?
Graves?. Graves in the tide?.


iii

Theirs are troubled gestures full of potent wishes.

…are those wishes -

for as they came, those riders, each
hoof in the ascent;
each eye veiled by remorse, or anger or

a forlorn thought -

for as they came, weighed down by ancient baggage,
a skin of water, a measure of wheat, some
penicillin, in case of epidemic
a stretcher to fetch the dead;
an hourglass, and then the gloved idol,

the one that ordered the massacre -
who rode ahead of the light;
muttered a command: 'halt!'.


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© 2002, Obi Nwakanma "The Horseman" from the collection The Horseman and Other Poems. Page Up