There was a country

(I share my review of Chinua Achebe’s book – There was a country TWAC – a review I wrote so many years back.)

Chinua Achebe’s new book “There was a country, a personal history of Biafra” (TWAC, for short in the rest of this essay) has stirred up and continues to stir up considerable furore in Nigeria. Reactions to the book cover a broad spectrum of emotions – from over-enthusiastic reception at one end to outright rejection and even condemnation of the author and his book at the other. We are a nation with unique proneness for extreme positions on some matters. My purpose in this essay is to attempt a review of this book as objectively as I can and in the process identify whatever utility the book possesses for Nigeria in its efforts to manage its challenged present and chart its future in the current haze of colossal national dysfunctions. Any effective charting of such a future must, in my view, depend on a proper understanding and acceptance of her troubled past.

Let me start by presenting the structure of the book.  TWAC is in four unequal parts with a postscript (on the example of Nelson Mandela as an icon of leadership in Africa) and an appendix – Brigadier Banjo’s Broadcast to Mid-West. Achebe claims he is writing the book for the sake of the future of Nigeria, for our children and our grandchildren. Let me then attempt a synopsis of this book.

Part 1 recounts Achebe’s early days, his education from primary school days, his secondary school experience at Umuahia, his days at Ibadan, the beginning of his literary career and his meeting with Christie Achebe, his wife. Part 1 also examines the January 1966 coup, the army, the counter-coup, the reprisals, the pogrom, the worsening tensions, attempts at peace, the failed Aburi accord, ethnic tensions, and resentment. It ends with a sub-section titled “the nightmare begins” where we learn of the creation of states by the Gowon led Federal Administration on the 27th May and the proclamation of Biafran Independence by Ojukwu on the 30th May, 1967. There is a lot of nostalgia for the good old days in some portions of part 1 and some of the sections here are teasingly brief and telegraphic, especially his meeting, courtship and marriage to Christie!

Part 2 deals with the Nigeria-Biafra war. It presents a fairly detailed account of the war, Achebe’s wartime activities and his role in the Biafran struggle. We also get to learn of his association with Chris Okigbo and the death of this great poet. Achebe’s narration of this death is so subdued. Part 2 also provides glimpses into life in Biafra, starvation, death, air raids, war casualties, Biafran ingenuity, the Ogbunigwe, the war efforts and theatres,  the role of external parties in the conflict,  the Uli airstrip, the airlift operations and a host of other details.

Part 3 narrates the economic starvation and blockade, the vicissitudes of the fighting and takes the reader through to the eventual collapse of Biafra.  It also addresses the very sensitive issues concerning the use of hunger and starvation during the war and some economic decisions taken by the federal authorities both during the war and at its end. This is the part that has caused most offense in some quarters in Nigeria and also provoked a torrent of ethnic driven and emotive responses.

Part 4 looks at Nigeria in the present and the writer’s hopes and aspirations for a renewed Nigeria shine through. The prose in each of these parts is interspersed with his poems, two of the most haunting being Refugee mother and child and the vultures!

I am Igbo, lived through the war and may therefore not be in a good position to be neutral about TWAC. But I think that Achebe has written a fine book, a book in which he makes every effort to be factual to the point of adopting what I call a flat clinically detached narrative voice in much of parts 1 and 2! One of the strengths of TWAC is the detailed historical referencing and openness to a diversity of sources! The creative writer in Achebe cedes place in major portions of parts 1 and 2 to the cold and detached historian. This is not Achebe that we know, the animated storyteller who knows how to make words come alive, dance and sing with the same virtuosity one would ascribe to Obika in his Ogbazulu obodo role. Not only does he subdue personal voice in large portions of TWAC, Achebe also succeeds fairly well in managing any biases. For instance, he does not spare either Ojukwu or Gowon in his judgments, laying the blame for the conflict on the pride and personal jousts between these two colonels. For someone who served Biafra in such elevated and personal levels to achieve this level of objectivity in a personal war memoir is commendable

In much of TWAC, what we therefore see is the subdued artist surrendering his impulses to the discipline of facts and available evidence. So great is this surrender to the demands of objective historiography that the personal comments one expects are not delivered. Rather the writer presents the views of others even when these challenge the Biafran position! This historical disciplining appears to have been lost on the writers of some reviews who have tried to fault TWAC on grounds of faulty historical methods. One reviewer even went as far as accusing Achebe of Awophobia whilst another accused him of senility! These are good glimpses of how serious minded some of our reviewers in Nigeria are! Incidentally, one also wonders whether some of these reviewers really read the book! I suspect some did not,  given the timing and content of their reviews.  But this suspicion does not in any way reduce my admiration for such gifted folks who can review a book without ever reading it! They are proof of the abundance of paranormal capacities in Nigeria!

Achebe’s voice returns from p.222 through to part 4 of TWAC. With the return of voice, the book then comes more alive. TWAC is inconvenient though useful as we grapple with nation building. It forces us to think of our past.  To move into the future on firmer footing, the present must go back and catch up with our troubled past and learn from it. We cannot deny the reality of the pogrom.  We cannot say that children did not die of hunger and starvation during the war. It is also unproductive to seek through convoluted sophistry to exonerate certain persons from the consequences of their actions or inactions. We need to confront our past, accept our mistakes and learn from them and move on.  This is the inconvenient message of TWAC, its beauty and its social utility. Truth is bitter but it heals!

Incidentally, some of the issues in TWAC had already been touched upon in part in Achebe’s earlier works notably – “The Education of a British Protected child”, “Home and Exile” and “The Trouble with Nigeria” books which overflow with wit, sarcasm, erudition, intellectual energy and boldness! Yet the reception to these books was not as hostile as the one accorded TWAC. A discerning reader noting the focus and thrusts of the hostile reactions will easily know why!

But beyond providing a history of a piece of our troubled past, TWAC, especially pp39-61, represents an important contribution to African aesthetics. It therefore extends Achebe’s thinking presented in his books “Home and Exile” and “The Education of a British protected child” on the role of literature and the artist in reclaiming the past, understanding the present and building the future. I find the notion of beneficent fiction in TWAC (p57) to represent a useful African position on the role of literature and writers in social engagement! For Achebe, the writer must be engaged as a moral obligation and must not “ally oneself with power against the powerless” or run the risk of producing “elegantly tired fiction” TWAC p.59

But TWAC is not only about criticisms, social or literary. Achebe addresses current issues including corruption and Boko Haram. He laments our cult of mediocrity which he believes is at the base of our present malaise. He argues for checks and balances to reduce the decadence, corruption and debauchery of the past several decades (p252) He argues for a strengthening of democratic institutions and for free and fair elections and looks forward to the emergence of a leader humbled by the trust people place on him/her and who is willing to use “the power given him for the good of the people?” p253. Achebe has been prophetic in the past. I hope GEJ and JEGA are listening to him. The successes of Edo and Ondo already encourage and challenge.

Noel Ihebuzor

@naitwt

 

Advertisements

On bathos and pathos, a reflection on the on-going boju-boju in Nigeria

By
Noel Ihebuzor
When an ever enlarging comedy has the effect of overwhelming you with sadness,
it is no longer a comedy, no matter how innately talented the actors are in the art of the comic.
When tragedy slips out of control and verges towards the ludicrous,
it loses its capacity to inspire pity.
Soon bathos and pathos will converge.
And before long, the audience finds itself unable to feel either pity or compassion.
Rather, it finds itself increasingly burdened by the weight of ineptitude on display,
and irked by the profound shallowness and triviality with which serious matters are being treated by clumsy clods.
Clumsy clods are at their most farcical when they take themselves seriously,…..
and when sick souls in pursuit of selfish agendas sequester a sick man,
putting him out of reach of his constituency and out of touch with reality,
preferring to put utterances in his mouth,
when a group of elected officials go off at public expense for empty photo shoots with the hale and hearty
and return home with excess baggage of shopping
full of hackneyed expressions,
unconscionable and empty
they also reveal the depth of their own sicknesses and their burgeoning moral bankruptcy,
their very hollownesses.
Cry, the beloved country. Cry for that country where the rich and privileged go abroad to visit the sick.
Cry, the beloved country, cry for that country because the trips of the privileged sick abroad
to seek medical care speak of the deep sickness of our health delivery system.
Cry since the sick medical system, victim of neglect by the privileged now takes its revenge
on those who supervised and benefitted from her neglect!
Pathos and bathos now reunite.

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!

House with many rooms

By

Noel Ihebuzor

 

In Baba’s house are many rooms

Kitchen, bedrooms, sitting room and

no room for doubt since Baba said so

 

each room with clear functions

with defined assignees…..

all who enter know the rules and their roles

though some daintily feign ignorance

 

room access is defined by gender

walls though thin are not permeable,

partitions incapable of shatter

 

room for roaming arguments

for roaming hands rejoicing

at successful negotiation and fresh possession

 

room for seasoning, for sliced rumps,

for tenderizing thighs and breasts

room for romps

 

No room for reasoning, these

function rooms with known functions

mixing or ignoring functions amounts to treason

 

In Baba’s house,

there are rooms for men only,

women only rooms

and unisex rooms for celebrating new acquisitions

strategic additions

 

we and all must respect….

 

rooms for duty bearers and service providers,

rooms for husbands, rights holders,

where lambs yield passage,

sob and go, broken,

rapture almost for one,

rupture for the other

 

All appears well

for and between two bodies,

strangers in one room,

on one bed

 

Almost, except that after exchange 1

hungers now elongate in one,

fatigue grows in the other,

meal share now a fatigue

 

for the first meals in this room

(shearing for one,

cheering for the other)

are not cooked

in the kitchen but

in this same room, the other room

the leveler room

Notes posing as poetry at 65

by 

Noel Ihebuzor

 

If the road be straight

not all who walk
on it at this hour are
each year on it
adds  a lead weight
even flowery ribbons too
are not without weight.
The road is rugged
Ije uwa, ije enu
The road is sweet
Taste buds say sh*#
Tongues whisper – ashi, karia, iro…
tread the smooth road
with care roars the sage
flat surfaces are often twisted
and can derail
Ije enu, ije uwa
hate love, counsels the one
wounded by love
Love, not hate, advises the poet
for though love may hurt,
hate corrodes and kills
Give me a clean slate
to state that which
pains, gains and baffles
Life makes little distinction
Between 65 and 56
At this age
rage as you fit
strong is soft
and weak is strong
At your won’t and life’s will
Each year is gold
even those with ear and nose
dripping blue cold
howling hoarse, breathing hot
like the exhaust hose
of a cooling system
Years are measured
not on even scales
nor days by perfect metrics
Some years weigh like uke
some like butterflies
unevenness marks the even,
even some days are often 25 hours
and longer
numbers are not
always what they seem
nor do figures always say
what is on their minds.
figures with juicy curves,
you may soon learn to distrust
for when you embrace them
they are often dry and wrinkled
ages with repeated numbers
are no good either.
The mind is an alchemist,
with time it makes gold
and silver of the coldest years
when we shivered the most
eyes may receive and deceive,
deceiving more, “screeded” surfaces
give up multiple sectors
looking twice in  the old gives
double vision, so look
once only but with eyes open
for if dead fish
keep their eyes open,
why not you who choose life
struggling as feet grow heavy,
some eyes grew weary and watery
while the mind rebels, soars and floats

Silence as guilt

By

Noel Ihebuzor

They grabbed him by his collar

dragged him to the ocean front

shouting, gesturing and swearing,

He was boxed on both ears,

his jaws, his chin, his ribs

were bashed, bruised, some broken

all the sins of the world,

all the failures were

heaped on him,

the “sealed” wombs,

every wasted wave,

all sterile flowers

all failed erections,

every flop, all power failures,

any incontinence….

they blamed on him

At the ocean front

The sky for their witness

They screamed at him,

they cursed him, they beat him

for their own weaknesses,

their failings and his

and yet he said nothing

and his silence

soon was their proof

For silence is guilt

Silence is complicity

was his silence smart?

Broken jaws lead to silence

The heavens remain silent

on the secrets of peoples

plants and planets

Does this silence,

then make them guilty,

complicit in our pains?

in this troubled world,

some plans are so twisted,

the waves sweep them

for safe keeping

to echoless silent chambers

where ageless mammy waters

moan day time half sated

when fortune hungry fishermen visit

and to whence they retire

to sleep all night

surrounded by winking periwinkles

when worn out,

without the hoped for fortune

and overworked

fooled fishermen return home to rest

their secrets carefully wrapped in silence

and concealed from their caring wives.

A mine-field of an alcoholic’s ticking emotions

By

Natasha Sebunya
For her love is the unshed tear
The hushed cry of a strangled soul
As he strikes her
With the palm that once stroked her cheek
The mark of his, no their, wedding ring scarring her blush painted face
Her mascara veiled eyes clouded by the frozen pain of tears iced into anger
Search for their, no her, two year old son
As her decaying soul howls a lullaby in prayer
To the Jesus that is supposed to live in her so that
The blows of her husband’s blows do not wake her child
Happy –anniversary-
For once,
Their love was of passion
For love was loving and his love was her living
Their love was of moon-bathed nights
Little black dresses, rouge lips and coal-lined eyes
Her stiletto raised legs, planted onto virgin hips
As she was swayed by the rugged palm of her tall-dark-and handsome
For love was the promise strum
By that passion-driven scum
For his promise was of security, not this mine-field of an alcoholic’s ticking emotions.
Now her emotions hold her hostage to this monster, this phantom,
This parasite that nourishes on her insecurities.

 

***I met this young poet two days ago. She has just completed her IB exams and is waiting to proceed to university in September this year in the USA. Her poetry blew my mind. Here is one of her poems.

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

V is for Violence and Violation

By Noel Ihebuzor and Susan Daniels

 

 

You return always to your ritual
Of force, foaming like fits of fury
Heart of steel, to stages of stone, long assumed gone,
Dormant but dominant
Clenched fists of metal rusting
Behind its lustre of polished calm
Simmering tension running subterranean
Ever willing, trigger happy, happy pugilist,

It is a lottery won by 7 out of 10 women,
With prizes of broken bones, torn souls;
Whose mouths swallow knocked-out teeth
And bitten tongues.  She says
She ran into a door, and a door
Fell on me once, but how many doors
Can one woman run into
Before she says she ran
Into a fist?  

You pound the rib
You gave into shapeless broken fragments
The call of the residual is strong
Damming and diverting rivers uphill
To flow in impossible unceasing eddies
And tiring sterile circles

He does not always hide
In bushes or haunt alleys
Like a cat hunting mice:
We know our attackers
Two-thirds of the time.
Numbers do not lie.
The strangers we were warned off
Are not as dangerous as friends
38% of the time, or men
We think we know, 73%
Of them our rapists without masks.

And behind the smile, the polish
The beast lurks, ready to
Pounce and pound flesh to prove the power
Of the mighty proud to a lamb

We ask for it, old women
Dressed in housecoats

And young ones in sweatpants
Who jog bike paths,
Or women who look
At their husbands
Without the right balance of fear.
We are always asking for it,
Simply by breathing.

And we breathe the fear of the brawn breed
Trapped in culture’s cages,
Bent, stooped, stopped and stumped by glass ceilings
And your febrile insecure masculinity
It is your fear that chokes you
As you choke me, break me and break us,
Your false potency creates tsunamis of true impotency
And you forget that the truly strong
Are not afraid of being weak
And that only the weak
Embrace violence to prove power.

***As always, a pleasure to collaborate with my friend and duet partner Susan especially for International Women’s Day.  Susan’s words pierce and her statistics call attention to the disturbing pattern and spread of gender based violence. They challenge us to act, to act fast and NOW. My words are in regular typeface. Susan’s are italicized.

Tristesse