SENTINEL POETRY #16          MARCH 2004          ISSN 1479-425X


(for Obi Maduakor)

It is only the pigeon who has left the loft
and journeyed forth and has been brained
and bloodied in wing, beak and claw, who
returns to recite anew the myth of the land

I am winging homewards now.

The homing pigeon is winging homewards
now. I am nosing homewards now.
Wending southwards towards the equator.
From the North! But the landscape
has changed.  The pools of water have dried up.

And from these heights, even when
I bank low like a jetfighting plane
scraping the leaves on the tree tops
avoiding the jagged edges of the mountain tops
I cannot tell the landmarks anymore.
I cannot see the milestones anymore.
Cannot see the tarmac or the anthills.

The trees we planted, the branches
wherein we nested to be nearer to the sun
have been caterpillared; bulldozed
by the beasts, trodden under by the cloven hooves
of donkeys and camels and lame horses…

Once more I have to live in a church,
under the ceiling of an undertaker.
Once more I have to live in the village council hall
Under the roof of a thief and sorcerer
Where are the landmarks, the crossroads,
Where we used to wing rightwards
To the farms to share the final cornseeds
From the harvest with ants and weaverbirds.

Where are the little pools of water
In whose liquid mirrors we could see ourselves
In flight, diving homewards with glee
Feeling the strength in numbers, undaunted
By the smoke and cannon balls they are firing
Near the village square to celebrate the death
Of a thief who was christened and crowned a chief.

There are no more streams I hear
To drink from after the feast of grubs
And worms. The earth has crusted over
They tell me, and the sunbaked mud
Speaks like a traitor eager to trap my claws
In its fissures concealing the dirt, if I land.

There is, as I understand it now,
No rest for the wicked in this country
And its polluted provinces. So I am turning back
To where I came from, North, to find a nest
Somewhere on the sixth floor of a building
Along Broadway in New York City,
And wait till it is safe to travel South again.

Master, I am winging Northwards now!
But I shall return. Yes I will return
When the nsa-nsa smiles again and the cockerel
Begins to crow at dawn again. Meanwhile,
I nest here sharpening my tool in this workshed
You helped build, knowing, like all exiles, that:

It is only the pigeon who has left the loft
and journeyed forth, and has been brained,
And bloodied in wing, beak and claw,
Who returns, to recite anew the myth of the land.

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