Archive for April, 2012

Fading voice

 

You now dance like a drunken flame

in a broken earthenware pot

now sooty, nourished by a short weak wick

soaked in sleepy sludgy dreg palm oil

 

You zig and zag in vain

singing like an ogene with a cracked throat,

with a parched throat

like an ogene in pain

rusty and drunk

its voice dying…croaky and groggy, its timbre gone

 

Your voice now rough grates my ear drums ……

I hear your voice, fading and faint as if from a distance,

Cracked, crackle-less

fleeting and fading

as the distances between us increase,

even as you stand before me…..as I wonder what has really changed…

whether it is your song, or my ears, or the two of us.


 

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Mind before body

The mind precedes the body

defying and defeating inertia faster than the physical

Spirit, liquid, the mind defies and denies physics

The mind pulls away before the body 

furling back, recoiling, curling back,

blocking and blanking out,  disconnecting,

once it disconnects, unlocks and disengages

the body limps around empty,

trailing on tottering feet, wobbly on jelly limbs,

trapped by recall habit , afraid, uncertain,

stuttering, stammering, hollow, hesitant

speaking as Judas must have

clutching and trying to drag any sleepy residuals

and left over emotions of the mind along,

often like an unwilling accomplice

to feasts with now impossible satiation and reconnection points.

A song along the beach

by Noel Ihebuzor  

I jogged along, hearing but not heeding tiring feet,

tuned into and turned on by my untiring mind

On the horizon

Where as far as the eye could see,

the awakening sky draped itself in colors

lent to it by the awakening sun

dipped into the wrinkled rippling ocean

The young rising sun painted masterpieces

on the canvas of a willing and wide sky

Here and there, it oozed through the sky

there it streaked through it,

cut through it

like a golden laser,

a dazzling jeddai sword

and over there it streamed

through huge holes

pouring gold-like rays like they were flowing

through a colored sky into the ocean

that rippled, danced and welcomed it,

regaling in the generous hues of rippling silver on gold

with which it was adorned,

The blend of rippling silver with a golden touch

beautiful to behold,

inspiring awe and wonder

And the slow moving ships

in different sizes and shapes

in measured paces and distances hung around

the harbor gates

patiently waiting their turn to be called into the harbor

And I wondered what lesson in life their patience taught us

to learn to wait our turn

For the ships are called into harbor

According to when they arrived, first arrive, first enter

and so each has learnt to wait

to sail into the harbor in the order in which they arrived

as I mused over this

my mind strayed to another journey

when people are called into the final harbor of life

and I wondered why this call

did not follow a logic as neat as this

where you go into the harbor

in the order in which you arrived

and then I thought I heard a voice

break into my thoughts

speaking with soft compassion

“my son, my aging son,

why do you seek answers to questions

beyond the confines of your mind

your restless mind strays

from the path of acceptance

away from the assured safety of trust in me

and the logic of faith.

must my logic and the harbor master’s be the same?

is the gardener not free to walk his garden at will

and to pick the flowers he planted as he wills,

randomly and by his own wisdom and logic

which are above yours

as the heavens are above the earth ?

can the prettiest and brightest of flowers

with its petals dazzling the earth and sky

challenge the logic of the gardener”?

 

How I miss these flowers!

How their beauty and feel haunt me!

How I miss them

I must have said it

Did I say it?

His question meant that I must have

For I heard the same soft voice say

“Or would you want to see these flowers, to feel them

For to do so, I must call you too into the harbor”

And at this,

I thought I saw the faces of those

whose voices I no longer heard

Whose voices I longed to hear

And whose smiles I longed to touch mine

Faces that I miss so painfully

shake their heads in unison

as if to say

“Say no”

And I saw their faces against the silvery skies,

familiar and loved faces bathed in soft glows of silver halos

Of those who sleep well….

As dear now even departed as in life

All who I once held and whose memories I still hold

All signalling by vigorous sideways shakes

Of the halo surrounded frames

“say no, stay on

Emeruo emeruo ka nma” ,

their silent lips all said, all sang

And I found my own voice

Heard myself saying

to the silent approving murmur

of the rustling speaking ocean

“Call me into the harbor

After I have run at least the three score and ten you promised all,

not before

For then my debts would have been paid

And I can sail into the harbor strong, free, strong, slow and steady

Mind free, soul full and spirit willing,

But your will, supreme gardener, supreme harbormaster, not mine”

 

I jogged on, the ships sailed on

In their order and logic,

The ocean rippled,

The waves raced to the beach

The rising sun now bolder

trying as if to drown the ocean with the intensity

of its warmth and embrace

And I jogged on, in the embrace of life

embracing the living and

still remembering the departed.

A song for friendship

 

by Noel Ihebuzor

 

The touch of friendship

is gentle yet solid

Its balm ordinary

yet potent, like those of Gilead

Its soft flame pierces deep

to lighten and brighten

the darkness of our sad moments

its abiding gentle glow

reveals and enkindles torches of love

hope, health and happiness

 

Always present even

when not there

beyond, above and astride

borders, ages, sex and climes

defying latitudes, shrinking longitudes

scaling altitudes

friendship floats like a soft feather

but cuts deep like a sharp knife

enabling and ennobling

those it touches and caresses.

The Good Shepherd

We celebrated the good shepherd Sunday in church today. Permit to share some quick, rough and not too well coordinated thoughts on the significance of this Sunday’s gospel reading  for me. I have attached the gospel reading for easy reference.

Gospel Jn 10:11-18

Jesus said:
“I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
A hired man, who is not a shepherd
and whose sheep are not his own,
sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away,
and the wolf catches and scatters them.
This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I will lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice,
and there will be one flock, one shepherd.
This is why the Father loves me,
because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.
I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.
This command I have received from my Father.”

 

The mention of the shepherd brings to mind easily one of the most popular psalms in the Christian scriptures – Psalm 23, a psalm which we all love so much! I will therefore use this psalm as a convenient launch pad to approach today’s gospel reading. Yes, psalm 23 is great. Its assurances are immense! Our cups run over;  our heads are anointed with fine oil;  goodness and mercy follow us; and God leads us to green pastures…and all of this in the presence of our enemies who we are happy to imagine,  with considerable glee,  must be gnashing their teeth at our good fortune! Well perfumed oil, abundance of fresh wine, a table running over with the best of dishes, green pastures! Read green pastures as a metaphor for the good, the abundant, the flourishing and you begin to see why this psalm has so much appeal to us all. Why not? Who no like better thing?  A colleague whose name is Mercy got so taken by it that she named her daughter “Goodness”!  Psalm 23 is the good life! Indeed, so popular is this psalm in Nigeria that pidgin versions are now circulating with authors struggling to out-do themselves in creativity – lexical and syntactic, in ever newer versions! 

 But what the fondness for this psalm conveniently omits to consider or prefers to gloss over is the total surrender and deep obedience by the sheep that is implied in a sheep/shepherd relationship. Christ spells out this relationship very clearly in the gospel reading. He is the good shepherd and we the flock of His pasture. The sheep know, recognize and heed the voice of the shepherd when he calls. The sheep trust the shepherd completely. The sheep do not direct the shepherd! The sheep do not lead the shepherd. If they did, perhaps we would have verse like – “The Lord is my shepherd and I make HIM lead me to green pastures”! The shepherd speaks and the sheep respond.

The good shepherd lays down his or her life for his/her flock. He or she is willing to stay with the flock through thick or thin. Not so the hired hand who the scripture tells us abandons sheep and takes off at the first sign of danger. The commitment of the good shepherd is therefore total. Devotion is total and the interest of the flock is the predominant priority. He or she lives for the flock, does not exploit them, does not betray them, does not steal from them. The good shepherd is therefore the model of the perfect service and one which commends itself to our preachers, pastors and politicians of today. How many of these act in manners that are suggestive of the devotion of this good shepherd? Very few! For the truth is that most have come to steal and to loot and devour the sheep they are supposed to look after! Any wonder that the sheep now desert their shepherds in such a relationship? Any wonder that the sheep no longer respond to the call of the shepherd? This type of relationship is a far cry from the ideal bonding relationship between a good shepherd and his/her flock. In such a relationship, the sheep flock around their shepherd. They hear his voice and he/she feels their needs.

In such a relationship characterized by trust, honest service, predictability and  security, the sheep do not respond to the voice of a stranger, nor do they follow the stranger no matter how appealing the call or flute of that stranger is. The call of the stranger is to the false attractions and ephemeral comforts of this world. It is an invitation to the fake things of this world, to transient pleasures but slippery slopes and to things that could lead us in the long term to moral and spiritual death. It is a call that could promise at the beginning the lushness of wealth but which soon traps us in an arid wasteland of hopelessness and despair, something I call the Judas phenomenon where for the immediacy of cheap gain, you sell your soul to the tempter! Bad decisions have huge opportunity costs, and despite our claims and aspirations to rationality, we do show a particular tendency or such bad decisions, and this tendency is worse the more we are cut of from our good shepherd. The shepherd/sheep imagery thus assumes a heightened significance for an error prone and frail humanity, a humanity whose choice capacities are often vitiated by excessive focus on the here and now, yes with short-termism and also by a tendency towards hedonism.

 But not so, the good shepherd! He leads and guides his flock. He instructs them to be good in good times and in bad times. The good sheep know that life will not always be green, that life will not always be on the upswing. Valley and the shadow of death signify difficult times, but in these periods, the sheep are sure of the constancy of the good shepherd. The metaphor of the obedient sheep thus provides us with a model of obedience and faith driven responding when we pass through our own valleys, when we walk through our dark moments and when life throws rough tackles at us. And such moments are never in short supply –  those moments exactly when we feel we should abandon our shepherd and search for a new one, usually a merchant of honey coated platitudes and utopia who would promise us quick fixes and wonder cures!

 The good sheep would not do such a thing – they have an alliance marked by solidity, constancy and complete trust with their shepherd. They know that the words of their shepherd in John 10:10 that He has come so that they may have life in abundance is true – they know a price has been paid to secure and insure this promise and prize. They also know that the price to pay to win this prize at the end our race is obedience and complete and undoubting faith.

 May God renew us, may He renew our faith, and may He open our eyes and ears to the signs and voice of the good shepherd. May we learn to sing the famous words of John Cardinal Newman – Lead, kindly light

May we surrender to be led by the good shepherd.

May worthy servants and faithful models of the good shepherd emerge to lead the ever growing flock.

May we also have the Graces to reach out and invite others to join this flock and may goodness and mercy surround us as we do. And I am sorry this has turned out to be longer than I had wanted and I feeling too lazy to consider any pruning exercise!

 Happy Sunday 

 

@naitwt

A song for Amebo

by Noel Ihebuzor 

SPEAK SOFTLY AND SLOWLY……

Speak softly and of the dead
Speak slowly of the stiff and still
Of those whose voices stilled now into permanent silence
suffocated by depth and stuffed with sand
yet refuse to be still
Speak softly of the dead, of those
Whose silent tongues tug at the sleeves of our conscience

Speak softly of the living, slowly speak
Speak softly of their wrongs which you see clearly
With your assured lenses and your clean sanitized soul
Speak low, softly and slowly of their follies even as you have none
Speak softly of their wines, wenches and wives
Of their waywardness, of their wickedness and their weaknesses
Of their wiles and woes, of their filth and their follies
and their unworthiness even as you are clean

Speak softly and slowly of the dead and of the living
For so too shall the living dead speak of you
When beneath the sand and earth
Eyes open but blank and not seeing
ears though open yet deaf as wood
you see them and hear them
You struggle to re-speak the wrongs you spoke
When your tongue was free and swift and slippery
And your pen was quick and easy, broad and loud
Wild and wicked

Then shall you recall and regret the twists you gave to life
The lives you wrecked and the nerves you wracked
the shreds and tears you wreaked on the fabric of souls and persons
whose causes you loved to hate
and the smears and smudges you made on lives and those
whose histories you mangled

Speak softly of the dead
Since in death, your eyes free of life’s jaundice,
Your soul purified by the freshness of the grave
and the fresh scent of the raw sand
You may struggle with tongues then stiff as steel
And hands heavy as timber
To revisit the past present, to right the wrongs you wrought,
And in vain
To heal the hurts you may have caused

(Note for the reader: Amebo is the gossip and character assassin, who rejoices in and finds fulfilment in the failings and shortcomings of others, and derives intense pleasure in narrating/painting these and blowing them up and often out of proportion)

Dreams, desires and departures

by Noel Ihebuzor 

I dream in bright colours

of gold, silver, and all the colours of the rainbow

I dream of the fresh scent of the dry earth

in the kiss of the first rains

I dream in colours of children’s  voices

of beautiful music painted in a kaleidoscope of colours

I dream of you

I desire souls that sing with the agility of nimble athletes

of serenades, where lion and goat,

goat and yam commune in bliss

I desired you

I dreamt my desires

and I desired my dreams

Dream and desires met

and as I savoured this meeting

in undreamt melodies

They parted; departed

 

Their meeting was so brief

but their memories are eternity

Is this parting for ever?

Will they never come together again ?

Why ?

perhaps my sins,

perhaps my desires were wrong,

perhaps my dreams were done with eyes open

perhaps it was not your will

 

Beauty does not reside with sinners

pearls do not fit swines, nor furs the wretched …….

perhaps what I now suffer is thus meet –

an expiation for sins committed in the past

but unknown even to me.


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