Posted in Poetry

A song for Kibera

By Noel Ihebuzor

From their anthills and lairs, nests, cages and hovels
They crawl out of their holes, their dark damp cramped cages
At the first suggestion of light
on a new day
on empty bellies and in unwashed bodies,
on cracked tired broken shoes
they stream forth like angry ants in search of little change and
praying for the big change
In this existence denied of meaning, devalued and wasting

As they scurry to places to sell their hands and feet
They leave behind temporarily a jungle maze
full of the living and the heaving
most empty denied living hollowed souls
sucked into the hole of hell by want and still in want

Late in the evening, they crawl back insatiate to their dark damp cramped holes
To rest fatigued souls and aching soles
Every day repeats this same ritual of pain with no gain
This same cycle and the circle remain unbroken, imprisoning,
crushing and slowly closing in

A vegetating existence has slowly cooked and numbed the soul
Emptying it of meaning and thinning it as the soles of the tired shoes they wear
As poverty flourishes and hope declines, tired souls and worn out soles

Men and women, teens and adults, drifters and hopefuls
They trooped here from now dimly remembered villages,
Their minds and feet seduced by the lure of glory
The haste for gain
Now their souls sad and weary weighed down and confused
Reduced by pain, held by down as if by weights of lead and waste

The rains of regret have erased all,
washed away all rainbows from these emptying spirits
regret rears strong, sears and cuts deep like a shearer’s knife
the mud filled streams of poverty wash down and away
clearing and carrying away the struggling and clambering feet and limbs and lives
the slopes are steep and slippery and false
on this faulted journey to the portals of plenty and affluence
the streams become torrents, and the torrents rage and
drag down and away

the storms of ruin gather and billow
dirt, dust, rust and rot mingle
dearth and the death of living
the dance of the death in place of life
like the stagger of the club footed , ungainly, clumsy, ugly and pitiful

help comes on millipede feet, fortune just as fast and hope dies just as slow
poverty walks and stalks in tatters and foul rags
time is also a millipede, hope a stunting dwarf
despair blooms and flourishes widely like wild untamed poisonous mushrooms
announces her presence loudly in the echoing rumbles of empty stomachs
fading hopes, festering wastes, dirty deaths, dirt and garbage

priests and pastors, imams, preachers and prophets
conduct their rich rituals as they dispatch the departed
and console the living with tall tales

Life in the crowded spaces of the living is full of rage, red in the tooth,
Raw, rough, tough
Human waste runs open, in open drains, scattered
Pipes and pumps yawn empty, cheap card board and brown zinc habitations
Sprawl and lean dangerously before habitants who have since stopped to care

The smell of alcohol mixes with the stench of poverty,
mixes with the smell
Of airless spaces with exposed excreta, vomit and waste
In noisy cheap bars, cheap perfumes on easy prostitutes
male and female
Hang heavy suffocating with the damp clammy odour of fear that sits heavily on this place of violence that violates
Scantily clad child mothers parade their wares unheeding before
Progressively inebriated future clients, with dimming eyes and failing judgments
As the venom of booze slowly creeps all over, dulling senses and stirring lust
The flesh trade is fast and flourishes, a lot more than flesh is sold in those short exchanges
Poorly clad children issues of many a trade sit around abandoned,
Strong glue has fried their brains and slowly freezes their lungs
They observe, hear, see, soak in and absorb all the rituals of pain, shame, want, cruelty and neglect

The streams of life that waters the living flow away and distant
rough and raging torrents of mud dredges rush openly and scar this place of want
rich in misery, eroding living and corroding the soul

And the place goes on
one big dance of opposites
full but empty
alive but dying
urban yet a jungle
more animals and less human
all ready to pounce

They trooped here in droves in search of hope
hopelessness and dope now bind many
in their rage the gun and knife now become a few
and for many the rope calls and ultimately unbinds……

let the sky open like my eyes and see
may the sky unblock her ears to the cries of pain and shame
heaven, reach out and wipe away their sighs, their pain
as they hover stunned by the lies of smooth tongues
sky loosen their bonds
bind those who tie up others with their inaction and truthful lies
heaven, unbind these bound tongues, bind those of the binders and wasters

heaven, open a window for these trapped souls
so that sun may shine
sky, open your sides and send showers of calm, of hope
of renewal, to reborn, recreate
let your waters of life wash away the gloom and doom, loosen their grips and unbind
the victims, wash away greed, remove need
let the seeds of hope flourish, hope and possibilities as twins and triplets
let new habitations spring up, homes for humans and hearths for hearts
women and children will be fine
and songs and dances may explode in every throat richly
and tired feet may again dance in nimble and rediscovered elegance of souls filled and fired by fine wine

**** I visited Kibera, Nairobi for the first time in 2004 and returned there on a number of occasions. The intense poverty there never ceased to shock me…and this song of despair and hope, written in 2004 was one of my responses to the strong emotions Kibera stirred up in me.

Posted in Poetry

Haiku on witches and wizards

which witch worried men

know suck blood,seeds, teeth red

fear hiding malice

 

 

wizards wine and dine

fine wisdom filled, while to stakes

witches wicked go

***still grappling with this haiku art form and still unable to wrap my head around it!

Posted in Poetry

A song for IDPs

A song for IDPs

by Noel Ihebuzor

(For BOSSASO and other  IDPs)

 

Hope lies here poorly shriveled and shriveling,

withered and withering

once high hopes now desiccated dry

the hot tropical sun sits on the dying camp

oppressive and roasting, quickening rot,

a constant rain of dry dust flows

roams freely in this place of captivity

slowly drying and dimming the voices of the trapped dying living

 

Do you hear their voices, can you touch their pain, feel their shame

do you care to listen, do we dare to hear, care to share

do we need a third eye to see, a second tongue to speak up

 

 

No water runs here as life slowly runs out

no food grows here, despair bounds and grows,

this place of rock and stones arid

by a sea that rolls, simmers and boils

 

This place bursting at its seam with suffering in the sweltering

scorching suffocating heat

betrays the jungle in the hearts of men and women

for there is no logic to this place, no sense it

 

Good sense departed so many moons ago

care and compassion suffocated and hope now orphaned

The animal in us runs raw, ragged, ranting and dimming all sanity,

rages, savages, pillages in a sad presage of the triumph of the beast

 

Do you hear their voices, can you touch their pain, feel their shame

do you care to listen, do we dare to hear, care to share

do we need a third eye to see, a second tongue to speak up

 

 

Mothers and females, forlorn drag around their feeble frames

full of fear in this fiery place, haunted by fear

humiliated by hunger, haunted by anxiety

sagging flesh sits ugly awkward on tired bones

violated mothers their pride sold to nourish those they once suckled

suffer the chuckle and derision of their temporarily satiated invaders,

armed predators chuckle as victims hide their shame

and their pain in sphinx-like empty stares

hoping against hope that they caught nothing else

in the unequal exchange

 

 

Do you hear their voices, can you touch their pain, feel their shame

do you care to listen, do we dare to hear, care to share

do we need a third eye to see, a second tongue to speak up

 

 

 

Fathers and sons sit around sullen

avoiding each others’ gaze

hiding their fear and shame and hate

wedded to woes and wants

souls trapped, feeling man-less and impotent,

empty yet full and over running with rage

in this cauldron, hatred and anger cook, slowly, simmering

raw rage grows and fills every crevice

in bitter emptied dried out souls

 

Outside and beyond, the voices of good intentions, of

actors and reactors, benefactors and beneficiaries mesh

while the victims die in large numbers

their groans and hisses drone on

and are drowned by distance

 

Do you hear their voices, can you touch their pain, feel their shame

do you care to listen, do we dare to hear, care to share

do we need a third eye to see, a second tongue to speak up

 

 

The shrivelling thinning hair on the enlarged heads of children,

Fontanels fallen in

sad sullen eyes, empty sucked into large sinking sockets,

wrinkling, flaking aging skins, bursting balloon bellies

enlarged heads sit ugly on tiny martian-like necks

frames as if of new born lambs adorn once chubby children, all

announcing ungainly early return trips and escape from this place

where fear is fertile

 

Flies buzz around, settling on the yellowish phlegm that ooze from nostrils

drawn by the foul stench and litter of littered humanity

of wasting and decaying humanity

 

Do you hear their voices, can you touch their pain, feel their shame

do you care to listen, do we dare to hear, care to share

do we need a third eye to see, a second tongue to speak up

 

 

Hope runs dry in these running noses,

in running temperatures and running stomachs

and soon the earth will take into its already distended bowels

these ungainly sacrifices and the earth is desecrated.

 

Do you hear their voices, can you touch their pain, feel their shame

do you care to listen, do we dare to hear, care to share

do we need a third eye to see, a second tongue to speak up

Or do we simply continue to stare

 

 

***** I wrote this poem when I worked in Somalia somne seven years ago and after visiting IDP camps in Bosasso in Puntland, NE somalia and in Hargeisa. This particular sad song was triggered by the human misery I saw in those camps as we struggled to bring help and hope to victims of human folly! I saw the same misery in eastern DRC when I worked there!  Noel

 

Posted in Poetry

A song against gender based violence

by Noel Ihebuzor  

Short and simple – for the battered and abused –

“and the moon cried herself dark the night you battered me, and the silent stars sobbed and the heavens rained damp tears….and frowned at your flowers of appeasement”

Flowers, presents, clumsy sluggish contrition
Wham, bang, in, out and over
Short, quick and simple
And with this short and insensitive flourish,
this contrived contrition
failings are deleted, denied and wiped clean
and the slate is made clean

A ritual of voluntary and selective amnesia
is once again re-enacted
on an over-burdened and traumatized victim….
this abused, reduced, confused,
this ravaged, ripped off, ripped up,
this maligned, denied, defiled piece of womanity
for whom there is no longer peace
and life together empties of all reason and rhythm,
save a rhythm rich in thuds and thumps
which deflate the soul

The camel’s back is strong but growing sore
and the woman’s soul initially deep and rich
is now growing raw and red and full of rage
and the seasons they come and they go

and the woman’s hopes for change
soar and crash with each season
and the seasons weigh hard
and soon the back is bent with sorrow
as the eyes are baggy with worry and self pity
slowly she counts her beads of sorrow
as she bids her time
as her soul beats and looks beyond the cage that is her existence

(somewhere in the hard-soft corridors of truth,
mute angels ask in a mixture of angst and empathy
“ how do pearls get thrown to swine,
and beauty to the constant stings of scorpions?”)

the mighty strong ignores the hunger and needs of the dove
and the soul, beautiful but trapped by ugly cruelty
agonizes with each passing day,
imagination and ideals slowly ebb away
and hollow emptiness and eats away the inside
a calm soul now battered by the staggering immaturity,
by the still born imagination and emotional aridity of a partner
a clod, insensitive and immune to logic beyond the brawn,
beyond the mighty fist, the rod, the muscle

each day the soul is mangled by pangs of regrets
of an alliance without spice, without rhythm, colorless
and the once bright eyes are now sunken
dazed by impunity and slowly sucked under by her powerlessness
and the indifference of those around

and the clouds gather and darken, and swell…
and swell and soon to burst into homicide

and the partner blames the spouse
and the victim is the aggressor
and the partner massages an ever swelling ego and self-righteousness
with the puerile glee of the mentally challenged,
like one caught in the stasis of frozen and retarded adolescence

“and the moon cried herself dark the night you battered me, and the silent stars sobbed and the heavens rained damp tears….and all frowned at your flowers of appeasement”