TOPE OMONIYI


I REMEMBER

(for Uncle Nat)

I remember being 17
I remember working with you
I remember my litter of peanut shells
I remember your frown
I remember suspension
And my tears on the tarmac
On Ahmadu Bello Way going home

I remember your beard from a picture on your desk
I remember thinking of Ho Chi Min
I remember your words moulding my mind
I remember working up an appetite
I remember going back to school.
And pondering your righteousness
In the midst of establishment rot around you

I remember Lagos and Sunday's rituals of pounded yam
I remember your parting words each occasion
I remember 'ta ba j'iyan tan orun laa sun'*
I remember our talks on Marcus Garvey
I remember you on Che Guevera
I remember my gists of Fela and Mandela
And thinking I'd earned your respect
But I lost it briefly once acting my age

I remember my juvenile phonecall one Sunday
I remember fibbing about overflowing college work
I remember I had a boogie on a ship at Tin Can
I remember the crash at Ojo Cantonment
Se bi oro ta ni ki baba mo gbo, baba ni pari e**
I remember the doctor ringing you up
I remember my shame and apologies when you came
Even as I lay contorting imagining death

I remember your understanding gaze
I remember my six-cylinder wreck in your garden
I remember kindnesses and the endless stream of folks
I remember watching, listening and learning
I remember our phone chat on your last weekend
And your promise we would share moments at Christmas
Now there's a gash in my heart that will not heal
I stare into the eyes of your portrait on my bookcase
And wonder why you spared me the pain of goodbye
We have no conclusion Uncle Nat, we'll never have.

Notes
*After a meal of pounded yam comes sleep
**That which we conceal from father will be resolved by him

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