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.


 

Advertisements

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.

Short lived gifts

 by Noel Ihebuzor

Confess it and it is yours

and like Thomas, he doubted.

but time, loneliness and hunger conspired

and so with breath heavy and hesitant

He did and it was,

and he remembered your promise

anything you ask in my name, I shall give

 

He held on to your gift

with strong and firm fists

his heart was a rainbow,

his person a song as the days

flew bye, and the stars sang and every rustling leaf

sang to the chorus of his singing soul

 

Then the gift slipped through his grasp

Silver through his clenched fists

And his heart leaked

His soul drained, parched

his groan from deep down tore the

Soft curtain of the silence of the night

 

Should he shout his despair

on the crest of the ZUBA?

Should he mirror the broken spirit

of the savage whose sadness permanently

encrusted on ZUBA Hill incites

the sorrowful and the gay to pity?

 

And he seeks  to soothe his pains with lavish

Portions of potions and balms of forgetting but

remembering becomes more acute the more he gulps and rubs of these

 

Should he now shout himself hoarse

in rages of hurt and despair?

 

and in between heaves and deep sobs

he longs for  an anaesthesia for this tortured mind

a potion to change this jelly soul to stone

that can feel nothing, and therefore not hurt again

Every night now,  he wrestles  to release his frame

and his soul from the grips of  his overpowering  sorrow

 mornings in well -rehearsed smiles  he repeats 

in a hollow and breaking voice

“Thy will be done”

And he breaks as he struggles to manage his pain

 

A song for onye obi omam

 by Noel Ihebuzor

Do you know you touched me when you did not mean to

Did you know you saved me when you were not looking

And because you were not looking

you failed to feel my heart leap at that moment of rescue

missed to see my soul drip with honey, my body come alive

and soft warm flows gently fill me my being

 

Do you know how deeply you touch me with your warm voice,

and how with the slight touch of your hands you speak to my despair

how and so often with your soft touch you stop my hard fall?

Do you know how much you soothe my soul

with your warm voice and the reassuring beams of your smiles?

 

Can I sing what you do ……

When you hear my silent sobs even when you seem not to be listening,

When you feel my unspoken words and decode their deep syntax

When you read my silent lips from across the distances

When with a single glance you read my pain and

with a soft touch share my grief

 

How warm your kind gestures must boom to the deaf woman

When with your soothing and tender touch you speak your care

And stroke her famished spirit and stimulate the eardrums of her soul

And rescue her from the loneliness of silence

 

How colourful and full of bloom your touch must shine to the blind dancer

as she surveys your kind face in the flow of your hands,

when the love in your soul that your touch speaks

fills her mind’s eye with pictures of beauty and bliss

and rescues her from the agonies of the dark,

 

How warm and welcoming your keen eyes must sing to the deaf mute

When they follow and read his every voice and their modulations

and share in the labours of his limping speech

your compassion lends and restores dignity

warm as cover cloth in the harmattan night

 

feel his sweet thank you song

in the moisture that crowds his grateful eyes

in his subdued shy smile which celebrates your attention

 

How you deeply you touch me when you speak my words,

when you speak soft words

and when you lend me your voice and speak for me

and speak for those without voice,

when you listen with care, when you care to listen,

 

 

Do you know how deeply you touch me

when you speak words that only the eyes of the heart can see

the eyes of the heart sees deep and clear

the ears of the heart hear even the softest footfalls of footless spirits….

 

 

Soft words touch hard

Gentle kindness holds fast and bond

Unreflecting and unselfish gestures strike deep

Human warmth oozes solidly

And multiplies, even when we know not

and even when we are not looking

and even when we mean not

 

look over there and see a bridge of rainbows

listen and hear the strains of soothing music

and see the angels dance and sway

 

all because with a gesture, with a thought, with a word

without talking, without thinking

you touch me, you touch others

and you link and connect

and love flows…and grows…and soars

and multiplies …and liberates the soul, the body and the mind

and the echoes of your silent actions sing loud and smell sweet,

rising higher to the clouds

 

did you know you touch me when you did not mean to?

 

Noel Ihebuzor This is a song of gratitude for all those who rescue others from despair, depression, sorrow and gloom by generous acts of acts of love…..often without knowing it.

 

@naitwt

A song for Ndawi – Judge me well

A song for Ndawi – 1 – Judge me well

by Noel Ihebuzor  

for Ndawi, who sleeps silently and softly in the shadows of His Love. so many years have flown since I wrote this song….

Judge me well

As you see me through this great glass divide
frosted by tears, through this dim glass of infinity
that now divides us

As you now survey me from up above
Be not too hard, nor too harsh
judge me well

Remember me on the day of your resurrection
On the day when all still bodies shall rise,
their soft sleep ruptured by the genteel warmth
of rapture, the glass dissolves to reveal and reunite and
You and I meet
You in your beauty and me different, frayed, strained

For I strain under the weight of a cross
the cross of your flight
your flight from family to infinity
I stagger, I struggle
I sway and retreat
to the limits that you have crossed
like an orphan out of time and place
waiting for the boatman
but with no coins in my pocket,
and even unwilling to board the boat
because of the obligations to your fruits and love

Remember me well
on the day the curtain shall split
and the separation line broken
and the still quicken,
on the day that the veil of separation
shall split and be flung aside
to reveal all in light so bright

Remember then that I never sold our dreams
not even for seventy in seventy tons of gold

Remember me on this moment
of your liberation and our reunion and nod….
I shall delight at that instance
in the light of your approving gaze that would
reveal your soul’s joy and delight
in the care I have shown to the four
fruits of our caring and sharing
Four full seasons and and a month
have filtered by, whittling and
frittering away at the edges of my soul
but your fruits are fresh, full, firm and free
tendered by the same love and care
as always

Remember me well
for it is only in this garden of your labors
and the Eden of reminiscences
that I now cherish you

Remember me well
I grope around in unfamiliar groves, hills and valleys
But not in betrayal
I venture out not to forget
but to remember
I am in search of balance and equilibrium,
I am in flight from an anguish I feel since
your unscheduled flight on a one way ticket…..

Remember me well on your day
I have clutched to memories to support me,
I struggle to keep my memories fresh and free
for the moment of my own flight
All I now do is to be able to travel fully, healed
so that on the day of reunion
you may recognise me

Then as we rush in embrace,
at the blast of the last trumpet,
clothed in linen bright
remember not to judge me
rather remember to look over
and beyond and thank
and not judge all those who may have hurt me
and shower thanks and smiles
especially on those who have
helped me, helped heal me, helped me carry on
since you left.