Posts Tagged 'love'

When are we going to see again

by

 

Noel Ihebuzor

 

When are we going to see
she asked, her dreamy voice
dripping with desire
and he replied
his voice sober and still
When the sea sings
and seals swim rapids
in slow sweet sync
when the slowest miler
becomes the sweetest smiler
and the time keeper
beckons on Air clad snails
to breast the tape
for the diner of the famished to commence
Yes, when the sea ceases
her never ending swim
in circles of seamless curves
after mermaids hang their laundry on ropes in the sky
And the sky empties its
voice into the willing  sea
We shall see, and sing and swim

Fizzy feelings and Fuzzy physics – a series of duets with the poet Susan Daniels.

by

Susan Daniels @susan_daniels and Noel Ihebuzor  @naitwt

 

Fizzy feelings and Fuzzy physics: # 9 Friction

By Noel A. Ihebuzor and Susan L. Daniels

In every straight and curving path of life
the interaction of opposites flows, friction,

its opposition
a delicate assurance of traction,
resistance and grip, always present
allows us to stand and move

same resistance slows and stops us
allowing motion, yet retarding it

the rasp of surface against surface,
smooth against rough,  rough to rough,
smooth to smooth; each raises heat,
awakens a force
moved into being by edge scraping  edge

the gliding plane
our movement through air as friction

the soaring heart,
the pounding heart, ventricle and atrium
pumping, pulsating and pushing life blood,
in never stopping motion,
constantly overcoming friction and resistance,

harp strings tremble, plucked and stroked by knowing
fingers
, the wailing saxophone,
the streaking trumpet,
the tickling tinkling piano strokes,
slides, glides, and breaks its chords
all raising hammers to strings
and frictioned strings to sound

the whispered violin

all engineered friction fusing with air,
music born of friction, peaks and troughs of sound
throb in our ears

the ship slicing through waves,
opening and parting them in bowed surge
the wetted measured friction
has the waters parting, gushing, rushing round
singing in joyous roars that fill, fulfill, and enflame
basking mermaids slithering and lulling in the waves
of plunging passion

our fingertips, too, on skin, are friction
we call pleasure, touches we arch under
the language of groans and sighs also moaned friction
of heated air rasping vibrating cords
in the throat, just so

and then tensing to yes.

the pleasure of the plough plunging deep,
digging deep into gripping soil
gratefully opening up to tilling, for seeds of life
to be planted, so that in season, a rich harvest would birth

and how our voices rejoice, secret yielded as fruit
the shared complicity in
friction and pulling,
plowing, plunging and planting

the stone grinder, the blunt edge,
engage in perfect frictional resistance,
sharpening, short lived stars shooting and flying dazzle,
heat rising to combustion points,
sparks flying with each roll, the spinning grind

the resistance of the pool
the waiting surface tension
the perfect contours of its ribbed surface
 pierced by the perfect dive,
the ripples and return heave of frictional resistance
the suckling suctioning into parted spaces, bubbling,
warming and enfolding heat, in the cool dive defeating friction, thawing,

how resistance melts down
into dissolving softness,
like a warm bread knife,
pressed deep into yielding butter,
soon bathed in golden cream…. 

the touch as fingers run through skin tense,
the kissing caress
lips slowly rubbing singing skin
bodies locking, unlocking, interlocking,
passions painted in colors of friendly wrestlers
locked in a tussle of mutual entanglement and enlargement,

grasping, clutching, gripping
skins toned, glistening, unchaining and liberating
expanding voices, accelerating motions of
perpetual ebbs and flows, surges and suctions
hurrying to a waiting harbor, destroying energy in liberating bliss

and incomprehensible scribbles
on the resisting vibrating surface of the bewitched air

all need your collaboration
demanding energy to overcome
though energy would be felt,
drowned in flowing pleasures

without friction there can be no pleasure
stuttered, stalled, sullen and static
journeys without boundaries

life a languid limp limbo
resistance and restrainer
you increase work and heat
liberating positive energy in seasons of amity
but when time and pride corrode the good
and anomie sets in
and thorn weeds sprout and spike in polluted hearts
painful friction, spawn and install in stubborn hearts
spout-spawning spiraling masses of negative energy,
spurning joy, acerbic simmer, toxic swelters, choking
as corrosive friction multiplies and you deepen your roots
the good begins to dissolve, the ugly enlarges

our edges dry and wear down;
stripped tongues heavy and cracked like warped wood,
hearts unmoved,
and our communications collapse

as enlarging frictions fetters and freezes the feet of amity
to resist and retard the swelling of heart
and bodies that once vibrated and throbbed as one 

***And here we are, at our last piece in the fizzy feelings/fuzzy physics series and Susan and I close it here with a flourish.  The theme friction is one that lends itself to diverse explorations and exploitations and we have not stinted in any way here in these :) and we hope you will like what we have tried to make of it!

Thanks again to Susan, my partner in poetry and co-creator, for challenge, co-inspiration and for such gorgeous use of the language!

Fizzy feelings and Fuzzy physics: #8 Particles

By Noel Ihebuzor and Susan Daniels

Lately, conversations,
learned or elementary
about quantum entanglements
resonate & bring to mind
you

rich in kinks and curves
to the eyes straight
mirrors of us imperfect in perfection
reluctantly splitting in medium dense
elegance bending in fine angles

And  tonight I lose sleep
to deep speculation

wondering at which point
and  how

particles of pure energy
roaming space free, opening places
penetrating spaces and crevices

the flowing and roaming  particles of 
our matter collided

breaking barriers
upper and lower limit
vibrating stream of energy

yes, streams that crashed
and colluded
to synthesize
this synchronized turn
& counter-turn
between us

how across distances
the color of angel robes
the bow of the sky

this awareness continues
bundles of colors at different energy levels
streaming to lighten, to loosen
a delight

past an elemental level

indefinite until measured

 

** As usual, It was such wonderful fun doing this duet with Susan where we explore the relevance of aspects of particle theory in physics to communication and bonding across space, place and cultures. Susan says it better in her usual eoquence in the words below. Noel

***Quantum entanglements, or the theory of, was the inspiration for this duet between my bolded friend and I (italicized).  I believe it describes nicely a friendship and affinity that stretches across the globe :)

As always, hope you enjoy our fuzzy, fizzy exploration between particles and people — I know I had fun writing it with Noel, hope you enjoy reading it.

Fizzy feelings and fuzzy physics: #7 Energy

By Susan Daniels and Noel Ihebuzor

Raw or refined,
Raging or reclining,

Coiled, uncoiling, recoiled
force and power, taming and untamed , kinetic and potential
constant in final summation
never lost

Eternal borrowed magic
forged once and never destroyed;
only shifting form,
released or recaptured
in new attachments

Transmuting, changing, converting
fields always present
in us, force field, flooding
all life is you, dancing

 Whether rolling, roaming, roaring or lulling, tangible proofs
of your occasional intangible presence
we sense the voice singing you
sketching or announcing your passage
either as silent footfalls or thumping poundings
reminding us to be, that we are,
we are beings because of you,
primal mover at the beginning

and still being, celebrating and echoing the command
to be, and you are and remain
being in your  bounding, binding,
pounding, driving, falling,
tumbling, stumbling, climbing

the invisible hands drawing the earth’s pull taut,
the rise in slopes, hunger also rising;
rivers rush, stream, and sing your name

and here, we pull together in equal force,
meeting and blending these shifting fields
other disciplines call spirit
but I name simply us;

a measurable magic
weighed in breath
and silent singing of neural nets
taking in and releasing

perfection enacted, beauty embodied
tumbles joyfully to waiting limbs of estuaries,
your torrents delighting, passion swirling

and in the heart pumping blood,
necessary and rhythmic expression of muscle
exalting, exulting, and moving 

pure life energy 

beating and pushing
the energy of the heart

and this energy can push, also,
the pulse of hate, the politics of rage
the power to heat up, hurt, harm
and strengthen the impulse to heal, help

raw and caged in dams, you exist, taut, waiting
leaving us free, agents with choice
to channel you for good or for bad or for bland

We  draw from you the means for
tearing down or building
and weeping as our hands itch for and grasp the former 

and you weep in fits at our failure and our fate.

***My co-creator Susan’s voice is in italics – mine is bolded.  Again, we had so much fun with this when we created it–hope you enjoy reading it.  As always, a treat to write with Susan whose energy and creativity added life and flow to what is  difficult concept in physics !

Fizzy feelings and Fuzzy physics: #6 – Time

By Noel Ihebuzor and Susan Daniels

Monosyllable rich in polysemy
endless, stretching fabric enfolding layers
of meanings, deeper than the infinite
finite, endless, far and near
seamless unity, past, present, future merged
was, is and will, history and hope
defiant of human labels

Eternity the endless is;
neither forward nor back,
but everything now, old and new
the cry of creation echoed
by foothills wrapped in morning mist
reflecting the hum underneath sound,
an ageless shout

Stretched out in space
travelling and rolling
never straight, never monotone, velocity varying
in your kinks and loops,
you dance backwards to lace and trap the minds
of the traveler looking backwards from the present
reaching backwards to embellish images and events
with generous sweet strokes and paintbrushes, dripping nostalgia

We can only chart your path,
a journey from now to the less-now
colored by memory–beautiful,
instructive, instinctive;
more art than accuracy
in the retelling.  Still, we rise
from what we think shapes us
to this moment, the moment now past

The beat of the pounding heart
the chimes of throbbing bodies
measure of rhythmic flows
the pulsing vibrating instruments
ogene, piano, ekwe, flute all sing and hum
with you, imperfect mirrors of your rhythm and soul

Yes, we keep time,
counting in fours and swings
and steps, our imposed order
an accompaniment
to your dance through and with us

Measure of intensity, streaming shooting jet
fast as light, often twice as swift
for those in present passion
crawling slow overweight snail for those who wait
rhythm ancient undying
constant motion, flowing streams
defying all our puny efforts
to trap, define and fix your roaming endless stroll
numberless, units without limits, objective
us subjective
the time traveler’s delight, mind shuttles between epochs
gone to relive, coming to feel and anticipate and feel
through frosty crystal balls,
shady mind prisms and tired eyes permitting
astral and mind travels
mind dragging body

Our error
the attempt to capture
or predict your movements,
when we should simply
play within your loops
that wrap us loosely
and then tighten; you are truly
Ouroboros,
constantly swallowing your own tail

the measure of seasons, defying seasons
ebbing and flowing
value and value, always subjective, never same,
the marriage of intensity, attitude ,
people, person and place parade and prance in your amber
producing passion, patience and pleasure
thundering and thumping

Like you, we should
open these mouths to swallow the past
in endless loops of hunger,
taste what has been
on the way, strengthening us
for the race to what will be

your rolling boundless presence
a glimpse into eternity
no boundaries, binding, bonding
all who live, breathe
feeling raptures and ruptures
departures, returns, beginnings and endless endings without end

the eternal dance and mystery of you

** Susan has wonderfully summarised the genesis of this duet on Time in her post below! Need I say more? Except the obvious – that it is always a pleasure to sing with Susan. My voice is in bold, Susan’s is italicized!

***My duet partner caught inspiration for this jogging on the beach in Dar es Salaam; sent me his lines, and I answered from Eden.  The actual time it took to write this piece together was under an hour, I believe, and I love its spontaneity and movement!  Hope you do too. (Susan)

Fizzy feelings and fuzzy physics: # 5 – Heat

By Noel Ihebuzor and Susan Daniels

Dense  with entropy, warm interplay
life’s strumming is thermal,
made in heat and made with heat
beginning in fusion and fission of stars
heat riots everywhere, all ways
stored in bonds and energy fields and folds 

Heat, energy, pure warming
source and inspirer of life
your touch sparks us and enflamed, we glow

the slow movement  to love  is fever, seething
body temperatures rising
(Like cold blooded creatures
Basking on sun teased stone, slowly warming)
and thickening blood like magma;
forest fires on skin

our flowing emotions awakened too;
relationships are about heat energy and transfers
warm glowing when souls converse and caress
when bodies melt, flow and fuse,
the scorching joy song of molten gold passion

yes, the constant shifts within us and without us
in traded heat;
radiations, convections and conductions
we conduct, we conduce the  flow
nodding to the  first law
,
nothing made or lost, only changed
from one form to another

high energy charged points to lower points, 

seeking release
we free and burn slowly
and with caution

Rising beyond limits, you transform to scorch,
burn, melt all matter past form and shaping;
shuddering volcanoes, molten heat as rage reigns  

everything in its path ashes
and twisted metal;
what took years to frame consumed by flames
and past all salvage

Heat energy change
throwing sparks, breath of TOR,
blazing like thunder, causing conflagrations, blazing and burning

Hot burning scorching when hurt installs hate
and envy, spears, poisoned arrows fly, flames burn down

Better flash fires than maximum entropy;
where, lifeless, immobile
we drift further, with no sparking between us
in  slow, heavy heat death;

ice cold and indifferent when  separated lovers, love burnt out,
now strangers co-habit the same space
invade their naked bodies  and feel nothing,

no warmth, no flow, no energy
save ice particles on bodies seeping from the cracks of frozen hearts 

***another in our series from physics, hope you enjoy the warmth of this one!  We certainly did! Susan’s voice is italicized, mind is in bold! Enjoy the heat!

Fizzy Feelings and Fuzzy Physics #4: Motion II

By Susan Daniels and Noel Ihebuzor

All life is motion compelled to move;
you and I, we must move too

even in apparent stillness
our atoms vibrate

past vision and all senses, rearranging with
the simple harmonic motion of elements,
the inner rotation of the subatomic
like mirrored, miniature solar systems
the shift of season into season,
the pulls tides answer, and strokes of waves

all singing life
every motion has brought us
closer to this motion today
where we move in unison 

your voice in mine and
mine in yours

your tongue vibrates, feels
and feeds my throat motion;
fluttering, trembling, all kinetic and stirring
and we move, the rhythm of us a motion

born of force and attraction

by polarities that pull
create this swirl, tremulous gyrations, vibrating, oscillating
where merging in vertical and horizontal flows
we reach forward and beyond
with hastening speed

and now, with vectors charting
direction, force and magnitude
this joined velocity singing and ringing
still accelerating, celebrating
the influx and efflux of creativity,
its season of release 

** Our second duet on Motion! Susan and I hope you will  enjoy reading this duet as much as we did writing it.  Susan is italicized and Noel is bolded.

Fizzy Feelings and Fuzzy Physics #3: Motion (1) – By Noel Ihebuzor and Susan Daniels

Three balls dancing in space
in place lace us to the larger cosmic circles
of perpetual motion

The blue pearl spins on its toes
in never stopping rolls like a top
held in space in distant but constant hug
by the sun radiating
surges of magnetic and force fields 

Locked in predictable patterns
but always surprising us;
the times of sunset known
but not its colors,
the exact flush and spectrum flash of sky
as the axis spins and shifts it to night colors

Rotating and revolving
centrifugal and centripetal discourses
neatly balanced as ordained though slightly inching
imperceptible

Our mother an eye, soft and smiling
a constant blue gaze unblinking,
but kind, a glowing awareness
logical in her turning;
her light beguiles and seduces
in its soft sparkling
as the moon, her hills, and blue seas
use their pulls in equations
to twirl, whirl, and swirl

Caressing and awakening the sleeping ocean
stirring, causes waves, tides, and surges
three balls hanging apart in space, moving
yet linked by invisible forces flowing from them
and causing motions and emotions to rise and ebb

And you and I, also
feel the pull, the irresistible forces
that draw our blood beneath skin,
that grasp our hands to lift and turn us
so we also spin and dance like these,
hoping that our weaker movement  too
will birth waves
and pools 

***Once again I thoroughly enjoyed braiding lines and interlacing voices with my duet partner, Susan, whose beautiful voice shines here and who succeeds to breathe life and plenty of movement into a difficult topics in physics – motion! Susan’s voice in italics and mine in bold!

Fizzy Feelings and Fuzzy Physics #2: Inertia – By Noel Ihebuzor and Susan Daniels

We drift in habitual wobbling circles
hobbling like feet poorly cobbled, feeling
neither earth nor one another, stranded
arid motion free stretch of ever elongating slippery
quicksand highway, without grip or traction

Smiles stiff and still
not sparking eyes, sparkleless
exhausted, shambling, soulless routines once so fresh
now stale, sour, and old
constant motion long past dancing

Radius, diameter and circumference in grating logic
circling each other in yawning cycles

We roll unresisting into a heavy, unpiloted slide
remaining in these present states easier
as with each change comes resistance
which must be swept across
or persuaded into action

what is held still craves flow,
though frozen and powerless
to break old bindings
and change direction

We shuffle limp on a limping highway
limp unable to rise nor flow, trudging on a treadmill
threadbare, going nowhere

The mournful sky wraps above and around us
mourning our uninspired mornings
soggy flat in colorless monochrome
borderless without hope, our soulless soles
burdened, weighty  and weighed down
at the border of the deadening present and a feared future

Eager to depart, move on and move apart
and resist its own yearning,
and though we have breath and pulse, we lie inert

The half-life of what lived long past
in search of direction,
going nowhere, unable to live
unwilling to leave

Habit a tripwire trapping our feet,
a seething past that teemed,
boiling over, over-run with energy heaves,
now idles
empty of steam and wind

With no wand to wave to will us forward
we live as hollow shells
in endless cycles of repetitions
that weep and
wait for that external force to move us
either backwards or forward,
to push us on or push us over Inertia

 

**While a pleasure, as always, to write with Noel, I can’t wait to move on to more dynamic physical concepts in this series we are working on

Again, Noel’s voice is not italicized, mine is. (Susan)

****Susan and I explore in this duet a concept in physics that dates back to Newton’s seminal work. Inertia is essentially about the inability of an entity for internally generated change and movement in the absence of external impetus.  It is a great joy to feel how in this duet we have been able discover some life and truths about life in Inertia!  Always a pleasure to sing with Susan and to feel her voice, soft and delicate,  blend with mine, gruff and often strident!  (Noel)

Fizzy Feelings and Fuzzy Physics #1, Waves: A Duet

By Susan Daniels and Noel Ihebuzor

I want to ride this wave
suspended in stroking flow, the way a child
rocks to sleep at night, body remembering
the forward shove, the dragging back

The mind surveys, questions the source
the ends, the purpose and where they end
this timeless travel, unceasing pulling
Constant pushing and tugging

Your mind brushes infinity, reflected
In a wave with no beginning
that never breaks, but meets invisible resistance
and release in reactive crests and peaks;
The raw push forward, still with softness,
Rocking and wrapping everything that swims
within light, inside water, coiled inside sound;
all the patterned peaks and troughs that invite and incite
with throb and force, always present within a wave–
should we resist or should we swim inside its logic

There is a logic to its heaves
the pull of the moon
stirring tides, stirring blood surges and longings
in its genteel stare bewitching

Let it come, let us call it forth–
summon it to strike and shape
the substance of song and sighs;
the drag of magnets siphoning bitterness,
drawing pure substance to pure substance,
energy flowing  forward without resistance.

The waves moving, endless motion,
the to and fro of each wave,
each wave inching deeper and closer
moving us and the world with it

If waves are change, let this one birth a tsunami to crush
and carry away the proud
the assured who stand opposed
but a wave that can with tenderness lift up,
splash and cleanse those
who gently cling at her rolling hems, hide their faces
in her soft skirts

Let us then ride and roll on her foaming wings
as the world rolls and spins
and advances  in its waves of ether
moving always and the world forward

***Trying a little something different here with Susan, my duet partner, in a series where we explore the possible applications and implications of concepts from physics to life, living and feelings.  Susan’svoice is the one italicized, and Mine is the one not.  As always, it was a pleasure to co-create with Susan and to blend my voice with hers!

When Body and Beauty fade

By

Noel Ihebuzor

Prompted by a poem by Nomzi Kumalo

Peel away all
layer by layer
strip bare, bare
the peripherals
to the till of the core!

Can you hear the core still hum
do you feel the peal of the core
in the still of new time
– if YES, then it was worth it all!

Wishing you a Wonderful Valentine Day

By

Noel A. Ihebuzor

14 February, A Special Day dedicated to Love, a badly needed commodity in our present day world where petty ambitions, greed, short-termism, myopia, concupiscence, materialism, commercialism, ethnicity and all forms of bigotry conspire to strangle all the vestiges of this decent emotion called LOVE in all of us, and to dessicate us and to make us hollow and hollowing men and women. A world without love celebrates the triumph of sterility, hopelessness, emotional drought, angst,  social disconnect in manners that remind us of portions of TS Eliot’s “WASTELAND” or Bob Dylan’s “A hard Rain a-gonna fall” – and this is the general direction of our drift in a world now marked increasingly by impersonality, indifference, violence, anonymity and consumerism – all of this because of the death of true love

Without Love, we are thus nothing. Let us then commit today to rediscover, to reinvent, to refresh and reactivate LOVE in each of our individual lives, to show it to all around us, to share it with all we meet and to convert this world to a beautiful peaceful garden filled and blessed with LOVE, a garden in perpetual bloom and blossom, where harmony becomes the background rhythm that inspires, challenges and animates all humanity. As economists and public policy experts would tell us, LOVE is one of those items whose sharing and consumption are non-rival in nature. The quantity of LOVE in the world does not decrease the more you share it with people – rather it increases!
Share LOVE today. Happy Valentine Day……and just to remind us all what love is, here is a link line to one its best descriptions in the new testament of the Christian scriptures. I have also printed it out in full for friends who may not have internet connection. It is a beautiful passage, worth committing to memory and to be called up in each of life’s encounters . One amazing feature of love is this – Love never ends.
The Way of Love
1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.7Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
 8Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
 13So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Beautiful passage! Now apply it! Go on, show some love today. Share some love today – I mean real love, not those narcissistic and self serving displays we often call Love. Real love involves giving “a la Mother Theresa”. It demands the control and domestication of our impulses and the recognition of the needs and interests of others. Real love involves sharing and caring. It involves the recognition of a shared humanity with others, a shared humanity which then makes us see God in the faces and needs of those around us. To love is to sacrifice. It is to give in humility and to find love and joy in so giving and helping others to grow, to self actualize, to bloom and to blossom.
Go on, share and show some love today – to your spouse, your partner, your children, your family, your neighbours, your parents, your colleagues etc.. The world will be hapier because you did.
Noel

Honey, it’s heaven in my womb.

By 

Natasha Sebunya


Tears make their way through the passage carved by the loneliness that your sorry ass created
My irises burn open with the sting of regret
The salty taste bubbles through the vocal chord that had been silenced by your insensitivities
But then I hear the familiar thump that pounds in my chest
And hey, blood is still running through my veins, and air still fills my lungs
And I am reminded that I still live
Breathe- speak-beat-live
I almost drowned in a pity filled pool
Thank God I saw in it the reflection of that fool
She 5,3 drowning in tears for some fool
(who by the way is not even that big)
And I remembered
Knees-hands! crawl…left-right,march! One-two,fly!
Breathe-speak-beat-live
And I thought to myself;
There should be a license for the penis
Drive at 16, drink at 21, penis at 33
Some sort of a class where they are taught,
You opening my door, does not equate to me opening my legs
You can, and honey yes you may, buy me flowers, diamonds, a house, and some of you even the world
But mister! you can never afford my heart
My uterus is not for sale, baby not even for rent,
You have that weapon that sits between your legs, but remember I can make rise
And don’t you forget,
Honey, it’s heaven in my womb.

 

Another strong poem by Natasha Sebunya

Views and comments on Chimamanda Adichie’s “Americanah”

By Noel Ihebuzor

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This is not a review in the formal sense of the word. Rather it is a collection of comments and scribbles I made as I read through the book – a book made of seven unequal parts.

Part 1 opens in Princeton USA and already introduces the reader to Ifemelu’s longing for home, her imminent home coming, her lovers – Blaine, Obinze and Curt. It also introduces us to Obinze’s wife, Kosisochukwu. The story then shuttles between Nigeria and the USA depending on whether the narrator is Obinze or Ifemelu. These two chapters in part 1,  beyond the initial introduction to the principal characters and beyond their stage setting functions, are also very biting criticisms of the nouveaux riches in Nigeria and their fawning and fake lifestyles! Adichie’s dissection of the manners of the Nigerian elite in this section is rich in both sarcasm and pity. Some lines in this part do indeed float like butterflies but sting like bees. Here are two to illustrate – “mundane observations delivered as grand discoveries”; “middle-aged Lagos woman, dried up by disappointments, blighted by bitterness…” Great powers of description! This is certainly a writer with a very keen sense observation and a way with words.  Consider again this very damning but apt observation of Nigerians “Everybody is hungry in this country, even the rich men are hungry but nobody is honest” And this piece of self-recognition and assessment by Obinze – “It was honesty that he valued; he had always wished himself to be truly honest, and always feared that he was not”. Adichie also indicts the nouveaux riches for their complicity with military regimes that raided, raped and ruined Nigeria. The preliminary examination of hair, color and culture are also commenced in part 1. The encounter with Aisha in the braiding salon is used to explore the theme of hair and bleaching further and Adichie leaves the reader in no doubt as to her position on these two matters. “Aisha was almost whispering…and in the mirror the discoloration of her arms and neck became ghastly sores” Fela coined the expression “yellow fever” to describe such skin variegations that arise in the African’s quest for skin lightening.

Part 2 (chapters 3-22) shuttles between America and Nigeria and narrates in part the early beginnings of the love between Ifemelu and Obinze. But it is more,  as part 2 is a huge canvas on which Adichie paints a number of things – race, religion, relationships and relocation. The part also deals with enculturation/acculturation, situation driven associations, settling down to life abroad, the privations of life in America as well as coping strategies immigrants adopt. Also, featuring prominently in this part 2 is Adichie’s depiction of the early love between Ifemelu & Obinze which is done with a combination of simplicity, depth and some plausibility – though I found plausibility stretched  a bit in one or two instances. The section also contains a criticism of the new Christianity in Nigeria. This criticism of the “new Christian theologies” (poverty or prosperity) overflows with sarcasm, bathos and pathos! The sudden and abrupt changes and somersaults in the image and model of God in Ifemelu’s mother’s imagination – from the benign easy going God, then to an austere one and then to one that deals in prosperity are presented with a lot of deliberate mischief by Adichie. As we read, we find that the lady roves and roams from one church to another in search of God and an assured route to Him and these unending spiritual peregrinations are described in a manner that evokes a mixture of pity and some contempt from the reader. The feeling of contempt arises because Adichie cleverly manages to make us sense the absence of consistency in her faith and her actions, especially towards Uju and her affair with the General. But still, the reader is steered into sympathising with this troubled woman who is such an easy prey for fakes and false men of God. And all of this because Ifemelu’s dad had lost his job for failing to display the right level of obsequiousness! – We are told that “He was fired for refusing to call his new boss Mummy”.

The relationship between Uju and the General, in all its immorality and necessity, is also presented to the reader and we are led through Ifemelu’s eyes to judge it since she, Ifemelu, judges it harshly. However in doing this, Ifemelu herself is guilty of some “bad faith” since she benefits from a relationship she looks down on. Incidentally, relationships such as those flourished in Nigeria during the military dispensation and still thrive in our new democratic structure. These are relationship driven by need and greed – the need by young ladies for  life styles their salaries can ill afford and the need by aging males for younger female flesh. The men exploit the wants of the young women and the young women in turn exploit the cravings and libidos of the aging males. Morality becomes a luxury and parents, uncles and aunties find it convenient to look away and pretend that they do not see what is happening. Most times, they accept the gifts which flow from such commerce-driven relationships and pretend that these are simply a reflection of the benevolence of an overgenerous male. Adichie manages the narrative here well and achieves a large degree of plausibility in many parts of it. However, I think that Chapters 6 and 7 contain the narrative flaw of plausibility in both dialogue and characterisation. In an effort to portray Uju’s moral bankruptcy in her role as the General’s mistress, Adichie occasionally over does things. Uju, a medical doctor, often lapses and speaks like a cheap “Mgbeke” and worse still asks Ifemelu to help her shave her pubic hair in readiness for a weekend of delight with the General, conveniently overlooking the moral danger she is exposing her younger cousin to. Also, it is very unusual for an Igbo lady to openly speak of such things as sex and extra marital escapades to her younger ones or to elders and yet Uju does this regularly in chapters 6 and 7. The General’s death in a plane crash appears to be too hastily contrived and tends to create the impression that the character had played role sketched out for him and needed to be quickly exited from the scene. Apart from these tiny narrative challenges, Adichie’s language still flows effortlessly with astounding effects even though here and there in this part  one comes away feeling that the story line as well the principal characters have lost some depth and some essential “vraisemblance”.  The reaction by Obinze’s mum to the pregnancy false alarm is one case in point and her remarks to Obinze and Ifemelu on the management of their relationship and sexuality read like a straight lifting from the speech of characters in a play written to promote responsible sexuality for young people! Not too convincing, even if earlier characterisation had sought to cast her as a liberal educated mother!

Chapters 8-11 focus on the unending strikes in Nigeria tertiary education and Ifemelu’s eventual relocation to America. Adichie succeeds very well in conveying to the reader Ifemelu’s initial disappointment with Brooklyn and the harsh existence that life is for Nigerian students there. The frost in her relationship with Aunty Uju, who is struggling to pass her qualifying examinations and living a life marked by privations, frightens and disturbs her. These chapters bristle with flashes of inspired prose, beautiful yet crisp and sometimes cutting – Bartholomew who comes courting Aunty Uju is described as an “exaggerated caricature” who actively pursued “airless arguments”. A line like “the strange naivety with which Aunty Uju had covered herself like a blanket” is simply beautiful and powerful as prose. “Bartholomew…spoke with an American accent filled with holes, mangling words until they were impossible to understand” is another one – biting and hard hitting. Chapter 12-16 take us further into Ifemelu’s journey into America. Her reunion with Ginika, her struggles to find some employment, her numerous disappointments, her growing frustration and desperation are all presented in a manner that has both sociological depth and sympathy. The presentation of Ifemelu’s humiliating encounter with the tennis coach is understandable as is the sense of guilt and uncleanness that chokes her afterwards but the prolonged grief and depression appear overdone.

The exploration of race, culture, enculturation, resistance and identity is done with mature sensitivity such that we feel the tensions, the patronizing condescension of the persons like Laura, the poorly concealed uncertainty of a Kimberley who employs Ifemelu as baby sitter, as well as the well-meaning paternalism of American NGOs working in Africa. Ifemelu’s gradual “Americanisation” in her speech is also convincingly narrated

We are also introduced to the tensions that exists between African Americans and African students in the lively exchanges that followed the viewing of the film Roots in one of Ifemelu’s classes. An interesting distinction is the one of “African American” and “American African” we meet in one of the chapters. Some winning lines crop up here and there “Professor Moore, a tiny tentative woman with the emotionally malnourished look of someone who did not have friends”. And of our unfailing relapse into self-criticism and castigation of our countries once we are abroad, Adichie observed with great insight – “And they themselves mocked Africa, trading stories of absurdity, of stupidity, and they felt safe to mock because it was a mockery born of longing, and of a heartbroken desire to see a place made whole again”. Wow!

In some chapters in part 2, especially the parts that deal with Ifemelu’s baby-sitting role and her relationship with Morgan and Taylor (Kimberley’s children) and her amazement at the American child rearing practices, the flow and energy stall, the story becoming insipid, and then in another, vitality, elegant prose and depth return. I found the relationship with Curt as a bit unnecessary, a bit contrived, a bit forced and one which contributes very little to the structure of the novel and to the characterization. Perhaps it is useful in the sense that it affords Adichie an opportunity to explore mixed race relationships and the tensions and adjustments that come with them.

After a lull towards the end of part 2, the novel comes alive again in part 3 with the treatment of life, race and immigration in the UK – after Obinze fails to get a visa to the USA. This part is done with sensitivity, commendable awareness of the inner working of the minds of characters, their fears and their pretensions and their coping strategies. The murky realities of the life of the illegal immigrant – working with fake papers, the extortion of shylocks who loan their identity cards to desperate immigrants, the humiliation of menial work, the pretended superiority of natives, the frustrations, the fake visa driven marriages,  all of these are painted with a healthy dose of realism and sympathy. This section also bristles with superb prose. “He was, by turns, inflamed by anger, twisted by confusion, withered by sadness”. Of Emenike, Obinze’s school mate, Adichie says – “His was the coiled, urgent restlessness of a person who believed that fate had mistakenly allotted him a place below his true destiny”. Of Emenike’s attitude towards his wife she talks of “a mockery coloured by respect” and describes his dinner manners as reflecting “a careful but calibrated charm”. Immigrants and asylum seekers are described as people with a “need to escape from the oppressive lethargy of choicelessness” – Beautiful! Things end badly for Obinze and he is deported in the end.

Part 4 – examines race and how race conditions most interactions in the USA. Whereas the relationship with Curt enabled the author to examine the challenges and stresses of mixed race relationships, the relationship with Blaine is used to examine the various shades of race and blackness – an examination that is helped in many ways through the instrumentality of Ifemelu’s blog. It also allows her to take a stroll through history and present from the eyes a witness the tensions and joys that were the Obama march to the White House. Dike’s suicide attempt at the end of this chapter is a bit jarring and does not fit very neatly into the core of the narrative. Is this a technical fault? I am inclined to think so.

Part 5 is brief and the story shifts to Obinze and to the destabilizing potential a relink with Ifemelu is bound to have on his stable family life. As Kosi says and very perceptively –  Obinze’s mind “is not here”

Part 6 – is shortest part of the novel and deliberately so to prepare the reader for ifemelu’s imminent return to Nigeria.

Part 7 – Narrates Ifemelu’s settling back to life in Nigeria and the reunion with Obinze. Nigeria is presented first through the eyes of Ifemelu and later through Dike’s innocent eyes. The X-ray is piercing, and alternates between empathic commentary and biting sarcasm.  The claim of universality of corruption in Nigeria, the rent seeking behaviour of officials – all these come out in the conversation between Okwudiba, Olu and Obinze. Eventually the lovers come together, their physicality still as intense (“their bodies remembered and did not remember…but lying next to him afterwards…her body suffused with peace”) but the consequences are sad for third parties. The pains of love, the jealousy, the irritability of the mistress, the pettiness of women in love – all of these are depicted with great sensitivity in this last part.

Part 7 also allows the author to explore and expose some of the development and urban anomalies in Lagos – power outages, crater filled roads, expensive housing, the disguised prostitution of the working lady who is clearly living beyond her salary and who is being maintained by a lover or lovers, the growing culture of marital infidelity, the tartness and irritating competition amongst urbanised middle class Lagos women, the invasion of the gloss gossip magazine full of pictures, over brimming with titillating gossip but containing nothing of real value  (existing mainly to pander to the vanities of the rich in my opinion), the meetings of returnees and been-tos  from the UK and USA, doubly annoying by their empty pretentiousness, the growing intolerance in churches where bridesmaid are kept out of the church for skimpy dressing, the obsession with marriage by the likes of Ranyianyindu – these are all there and very expertly described.  Indeed on a good day, these  could actually provide material for another novel. The author demonstrates her ability to touch at the heart of one the drivers of Nigeria’s malaise when she comments through her characters of the mentality of scarcity that pervades Nigerian society and the Nigerian psyche, a mentality which makes rush and scramble for things even when there is no scarcity!

In all of these chapters, Chimamanda finds time to criticise most of the characters she creates – for their pettiness, for their ambitions, for the sale” of their persons and souls in their pursuits of life and living, for their cockiness, their failings, their foibles, their vanity – Blaine, Curt, Ginika, Ranyianyindu, Shan, Uju, Emenike – no one escapes.

The only persons who escape her mild tongue lashings, surprisingly or not surprisingly, are Dike, Ifemelu and Obinze. She is so benign in her treatment of their inadequacies, in their failings and in their betrayals and one wonders why. Ifemelu’s “self-sabotager” fling (Ginika’s expression) that ended the relationship with Curt is presented as irrational but is really not judged. She is mild in presenting the very damaging consequences of the relink between Ifemelu and Obinze and how the pursuit of pleasures from their pasts is going to destroy the delicate life that Kosisochukwu has built for herself and her young family

The whole story is told from the eyes of Obinze and Ifemelu and the fact that Ifemelu’s portion of the story telling has more space would also betray not just the sex of the writer but also her gender and her romance with feminism. But it is an unequal narrative. The flash back technique and non-linear disrupted sequence are maximally exploited to bind the story and also to glue the reader’s interest to the unfolding narrative and events. The blog inserts allow her to comment on a number of key issues, especially race and here,  Adichie walks a fine line and walks it finely, talking about race as a black without being racist in the process.

Let me end by sharing my opinion on the main characters- Ifemelu and Obinze. They are human but not very moral characters. It could be said of them that “when they are good, they are very very good” and when they are bad, they are horrid! And do not ask me why! Which character am I most drawn to in Americanah? Kosi!. a beauty queen who loves her husband, dotes on him but who was never really loved by him and who gets such a raw deal in the end! The plight of this poor girl, this poor victim of two selfish lovers in an imperfect world makes me sad – but perhaps, I am over-reacting – but in life as in this book, my sympathies always go the unfairly treated.

Americanah is great book – great in the quantity of themes it treats and also great in the depth and quality with which it treats them. It weaves a story of love, lust and romance and uses it to examine issues of race, relations and the feeling of exile that one feels in a foreign land. It is also a critique of the Nigeria’s developmental challenges – a country where basic social services have long gone extinct and the story and the critique and handled by a writer with a great sensitivity to details and feelings.

Uncoupling

By Noel A. Ihebuzor

 

Remember,

When we signed and swore

to soar,

 

for better, for worse,

the moons have now since faded, dimmed

stars twinkle less bright,

 

on a sky blanketed by our  mutual misery

our nights now filled by this burgeoning void

that is us

 

the flames died slowly,

smoke filled our empty eyes, red blank

our tongues broken, wooden

our ears drowned by the din of our inner voices

 

And us two in tow,

now sour and bitter

bride and groom no more

rather through your assured lenses –

pride and groom,

through my lenses, clean and clear –

bride and gloom

 

We now dance to blame songs

two souls in discord

dancing to drumbeats of doom, singing

“your fault not mine, my love, your lust;

My trust, your rust;  my care, your tear”

we sing so well, nourished

by a slow low constant flame of pain
our emotions lame and crippled,
bitterness slowly freezing

frying our insides, as enlarging cold rage
fractures our world and hardens

borders and boundaries

 

We match and trade barbs of mutual hurt

And we march forward backwards,

bent and bitten,

weary and wary

on a broken road,

saddled, burdened

with loads and worries

not love, on our broken battered shoulders

and souls


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