SENTINEL POETRY #24   November 2004

White Hairs and False Teeth by Nnorom Azuonye
Continued from previous page

Here are excerpts from all the poems. You do however need to read the poems in full to get the full juice.

Uche Onuora's entry "Testimony Of Witness" is an experimental piece with whole blocks of prose slotted between his verses. I am hard-pressed to find a section of his long piece to quote, you need to read the entire work to get a feel for what he is doing, and where he is going with this experiment, but it is some tour-de-force in its ambition.

You know the times of which I speak

They creep into your recollections repeatedly
At odd times and in flashbacks of historic murals
They prod your senses and stir your echoes
When your forefathers exhorted with resounding idioms
That is what you must remember,
or maybe, you simply choose to forget

I'm telling you for a fact that these things happened. It wasn't Utopia but it wasn't Dystopia either. Life had meaning, a self-regulated continuity and harmony. Before we were introduced to the feetless ones, before we were corrupted into indecency. I remember; I'm telling you that I was there. You ask me who I am. How I could know these? How can I testify as to what I saw? I look at you in mirth, because you are a feeble child in the presence of a grown man, a wise man, a battle-tested man, an ever vigilant mind, an always truthful witness; bearing my charge with stately equanimity. Well, to cut a long story short, I know these things simply because I am the memory of time.

In the first stanza of "Towards Sunset" Nnorom Azuonye writes:

I dream of twilight years serene
like a stroll of leisure hand in hand
with my dearest gem, crown
of her days like mine equally greying,
our moonlighted village paths
alive with banter and laughter
of innocence playing in the sand
or skipping to whoosh-whoosh
straw ropes of fun whisper.

There was also the wit and whispers of independence in style to be found in Mia Nikasimo's "Growing Old":

Spent ages show the way with cruel dispatch!
One moment you' got all your youth before you
The next it spreads out like squirted perfume
Unwitting to the senses, defying comprehension
Only yesterday you were so, so oiled and fresh
Today you are a day older… Is that a grey hair?
Before you know it just one becomes a multitude.
What counts is how you spend your passage:

I particularly liked the play on youth spreading out like squirted perfume.

There was of course Sylvester Omosun whose piece "Age Is But A Number" makes a case, it seems to me now, (I still have not quite understood this poem) that it plays on racism and hardship suffered by black people, that the oppressed have no business growing old. He seems to suggest that his art is some kind of anaesthetic to the pains of injustice and through it the poetic character can come of age but not necessarily grow old.  I may be reading too much or too little into this cryptic and sometimes disorientating piece. Why not check it out for yourself. Excerpt:

with arts year upon year out of bondage
I learned that age was but a number
yet I opened the way to carry them further
Against the judgement society demanded on my brew.