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The International Magazine of Poetry & Graphics ▪ Bi-monthly ▪ March/April 2008


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POETRY

 

DUBEM OKAFOR                                               

                                               

 

destroy this city

 

Harlem is cesspit of faith evaporated

city of decaying towers

crumbling, taking flame, falling to rubble:

 

destroy this city

from the ashes let the new seed sprout

make way for flowers

 

disheveled children of Babel

scowl in sing-song

holler monologues in monotones

gyrate and gesticulate in frenzy

saunter dazed through unkempt alleys

potted, cracked

 

destroy this city

let the new man take root

let the new woman bloom

 

city of parti-colors

oh destitute affluence

oh suicidal city

 

destroy this city

 

you have come to this pass,

they do not shoot you out and litter your streets

they do not dole you pot and crack your minds

they do not fertilize your child-daughters

they have not mortgaged your tomorrow

they have no fears

 

destroy this city

with it inter insanity

let hope flourish                               

 


 

 

Open  letter  to  idiagbon

 

had you been dead, brother

you had turned thousand times

thousand times beneath cold slabs;

but you did not die:

they only plucked your thunder

 

once upon a flatulent time

we strutted, scattered, plundered, siphoned;

in these arid times

are they not again at widening tunnels

whose mouths gape abroad, here?

dumbfounded pilgrims

have we not espied them all

seen their shovels and pickaxes

spotted their new accounts

their bursting sacks and laden trunk boxes?

 

hau! my brother

how many times will a people, my people

scorn, disown themselves

swallow their own phlegm

and curse their unpaid exorcists?

 

the home-brewed malady

its cure is not over the seas;

the solution is homegrown

 

in those lean days, brother

you dared, spat the herbal juice

into our eyes and we saw:

common sense became affordable

and we marched, not backwards,

and shriveling stomachs began to fill

 

my brother, my people

now that clouds thicken

and storms loom;

now that vultures hover

and hyenas practice old steps of carrion;

can thunder 'n' lightning be far

or carcasses be scant

in this jubilee dance of the forests?

 


opi  junction

 

                        I

breezes from the east and west

winds from the north and south

oh gales blow to me the songs

ungarnered scattered at the junction

when the singing suddenly ceased;

for the mask dancer

has abandoned the flutist and the drummers,

and what use are the drum-straps?

 

the prince only struts around the stool

for when the king journeyed

he did not abdicate

left no handing - over notes:

so his praises reverberate

for he lives for ever

the Sunbird lives forever

 

                        II

harsh Opi winds grate my ribs

whistling the sad summary of your life

I bow and shut reverent eyes:

the ground is holy and slippery

where you lie

your unfettered spirit our only guide

 

                        III

we promised you a monument

where bazookas splintered ferrets

your grenades worked miracles of disarray

and vegetation succumbed to flames;

we promised you another Citadel

but excavators drag their feet

 

now that the feast of vultures is in recess

and the sun rises once again

quiet at Ramah

it shall be erected

 

until then range unhampered

and gather the floating chords

           

IV

we pass death each day with life

and each coffin reopens our loss:

Ojoto could not tremble with breast - beating

nor Idoto overflow with libation of tears;

Ukpaka-Oto swayed in vain for bowel - deep embrace

while the spirit of Anna hovers solitary

behind the Towers of Odilia

among plaintive strains of the Oblong Panel,

searching for her Prodigal:

when will all rest, pacified?

 

         V

yet we forgive them all

that schemed the withdrawal

and thumb-printed your departure;

that sold their mothers

and sabotaged a destiny

for the alloyed face of a fading queen;

that battered ancestral lands and groves

for drudgery and life without life;

that mutilated their names

and exchanged their patronyms

for compromised existence

 

we forgive them all

yes, even minstrels

praise-singers of defamation

that sought to muddle the high-ringing Name;

we forgive them all

that sought preferment in calumny

 

        VI

oh Western Star departed

I know you wept down deluges

when you heard

when you heard that Golden Heart lay manacled

behind thick mud walls

behind treated iron bars

when the hot rains stopped

and Guntram decreed detention

yet I know the Sunbird chirped

when the fetters dropped

and the caged bird flew

disdaining all and scorning offers of pittance:

"non serviam; henceforth, I serve myself!"

 

       VII

yet it pains, oh Saint

it pains

for how can the version be final

when it ends with a colon?

 

it pains oh Sunbird

you left without a parting note

without a swansong:

the trench and bunker poems are not.                   

           
 


DIANA 1961-1997

 

Diana: 1961-1997 is a document that includes,

but also seeks to transcend, poetry.

It is my meditation on history and mythology,

philanthropy, colonialism, and cultural imperialism.

It is both a dirge and a celebration of a life,

an invocation and a commentary;

it is a lament and a subtle call for revolution

both in our thought patterns and our worldviews.

In the end it aspires to the status of poetry of action.

 

Queen of earthlings

Princess Diana larger than Wales

whose canopy transcends insular Britain

Diana, my princess of staked hearts

 

softer smasher of sterner masks of Buckingham

whose nobility humanizes pompous unroyalty

Diana, my princess, loveful and unloved

 

loving soul bereft of love

you give joy to somber world

cheer to those could not laugh

succor for gnashing teeth

hope to despondent ones, without hope

light to darkened niches

flower to barren gardens

Diana, my princess

what difference, yet what great likeness

with your Mother Teresa

who had her Mass

when you had your Service

humble souls both

careless in bone-fills where you rot in peace

your lives criss-crossed on doorways of attenuated principles

her speech once was invocation:

in the name of the naked

in the name of the hungry

in the name of the homeless

in the name of the wasting

in the name of the poor

in the name of the rejected

in the name of lepers

in the name of outcasts

in the name of untouchables

in the name of the scum scooped by her army

into death-pens of catholic dignity

in the name of the poorest of the poor

in the names of suffering godhead disfigured

in India which the Apostle of Doubt

Christianized two thousand years today

beatified in a hurry

that John Paul II, himself approaching transition

may assume the credit of her sainthood….

this prayer became your fire

Diana, my princess, Oh Diana

 

brief eclipsing meteor

whose dazzling flamboyance upstaged senescent clowns

who now stage hyperbolic farewell of appeasement

for the people who still love her

who wail with fairies for abrupted life

the groundlings whom they despise and royalize

Diana, my princess

 

Lady of the Lakes

in frolicsome repose on the family island

enshrined forever for paying pilgrims

whose search will be in vain

for the Excalibur and a crown both lost; 

 

hounded huntress Diana

on the brink of love

driven to death by stalkarazzi

whose salacious probosces aim, frame, hit, and shoot

by besotted slave of Bacchus

this death froze your charm and youth

adored iconoclast turned icon

Diana, princess of the world

 

doting mother of future kings of puny Britain

whose brigand and gory power succumbs

whose braggart wings you have clipped

these nurtured sons will live your dreams

will compel royalty to another reformation

Diana, my princess

 

whose disarming simplicity and charisma

evoke Teresa’s mantra: prayer-faith-love-peace

her ostentatious humility

her modesty that mocked greatness

her fetish of poverty: my poorest of the poor;

whose good thoughts good words good deeds

recall enshrined Mothers: Khali-Fatmata-Mary-Amina

in whose milk all erected difference melts

one voice, one prayer to The One, The Essence

Hear us hear us hear us at this mortal hour                                            

 

 


 

bagavata

(In two voices)

[For Gen. Maman Vatsa, executed under the orders of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida of Nigeria]

 

[Arjuna: I would not kill, to rule this universe:

how much less for the rule of this earth....

O mighty - armed one, all the planets with their                                      

demigods are disturbed at seeing Your great form,

eyes, arms, thighs, legs, and bellies

and Your many terrible teeth;

and as they are disturbed, so am I.

Bhagavad-Gita ]

 

why have you brought me

my friend and peer

to this Golgotha

of suspiration and caked blood?

 

caking is ...

to forestall deluge... you will delude all

mind-reading cyclop, you?

equate dream with fact

conception with execution?

 

I have a duty to execute

to nip all schemes in conception

chart an apian order

unruled by logic

for unthinking hordes

 

consider the bones your hoard

in the cupboards of your soul

these ten of us were not the sole lepers

in the colony

and..., who stained the stream?

 

you are the chosen, the elect

picked to ascend the stake

to purify the stream

 

what stake had you in the cross

when the many shouted my salvation

and you pulled the beard

of the Three seeking to stop the sun?

 

oh, the bards that sought your reprieve?

they had passion;

but intended blood

they say will have blood

and ritual cleansing have its course

 

so what have you stopped:

the drift, the dream,

perhaps, the madness?

what have you filled:

the sapless stomachs

and the widening gulfs?

what have you solved:

the equation of repetition?

what have you salved:

does it not fester still the sore?

blood will have blood

surely in circular conduits

to gyrate eddying brains

and bend Nimrod's bow

 

nonsense ingrate miscreant traitor

these rains shall cleanse my brain

shall submerge a shared secret

shall deface all records

shall mock all tears

shall soothe my nerves

as CHAKA is my witness

 

we were not sole witness:

this rain has not availed

in hot pellets of lead

to quell asserting souls

 

then probes and catechisms

ferret all termites sneaking

behind cabinets

discover unknown caches

arrest incipient dreams

and pelt more magma

or else work the miracle of Five-0-Fours

that then is the fulfillment

of spring's prophecy

for this dance in circles

will sprout whale-wombed

yet sinister offspring

this turbulent dance prelude strange dance steps

to frenzied drums of returning Easters

 


 

FIRE-TO-FIRE II

 

What fate conjoined you

iridescent cataracts of fire

cascading parallels of fireballs

avalanches that engulf idleness;

how you dare contain the torrents!

 

Good souls that brook no dullness

large hearts that deny the selves

giving hands that impoverish themselves

kind hearts that set no bounds on munificence

kindred spirits that enfold each other

how will you, confronting the stump

survive and not harm the world?

 

Fire that is born of Fire

Fire that is called by Fire

Fire that yields and leans to Fire

Fire that is licked by Fire

Fire that sears only the self

cold ash is not your destiny!

 

Conflagrant uproars purify you

Fires that transcend divisions

Fires that feed simplicity

Fires that obliterate pretences

Fires that deflate contentious egos

Pentecostal daemons of luminous tongues

Fires that evangelize to loveless nether

your fiery dance will be forever

grand themes for songs and ballads         

               


 

About Dr. Dubem Okafor

 

An Africanist and Postcolonial scholar, Dr. Dubem Okafor did his graduate studies in English, African Literature, African-American Literature, Comparative Literature, and Cultural Studies, at universities in Nigeria (Nsukka), England (Sussex), Canada (New Brunswick), and the United States (C.U.N.Y.-Graduate Center; University of Iowa; University of Minnesota). Formerly Reader and Chair of the English Department at the Eha-Amufu College, Nigeria, Dr. Okafor taught for four years at the University of Minnesota, of which he holds the Ph.D. degree in Cultural Studies, and was Associate Professor of English at S.U.N.Y.'s Rockland College, before moving to Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches, among other subjects, African Literature, Postcolonial Theory and Literatures, World Literature, Diasporic-African Literature, and Literary & Critical Theory. His other publications include essays in scholarly journals, poems in magazines & journals, and My Testaments; Jungle Muse (editor); Don't Let Him Die (co - editor with Chinua Achebe); Nationalism in Okigbo's Poetry; The Dance of Death: Nigerian History & Christopher Okigbo’s Poetry; Meditations on African Literature, Ed.; Cycle of Doom: Selected Essays in Discourse & Society; and Tsunami, Katrina, and Other Poems.

 

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