I ate the yams from the land where brother bled to death.
And then I heard,
In their nightly gossips,
When sluggish shadows of occultic old men with yellow eyes,
Owning thick histories,
Spoke a strident Igbo.
They camped about a single hurricane lamp,
And a wash hand bowl on a low table.
He was a skeletal thing,
They said, of this brother of mine.
A wild animal,
His very likeness they saw in my
Oily face, in —
My righteous spells,
My sandbox gallantry,
My talent for a guava tree.
He was a lover of roast corn and
Odd things he killed by hand.
When the weather was ripe,
He was a wife-beater,
An altar boy,
A soul brother.
He was many things to the few.
Until his head, an open gash,
From a warning shot,
From a strange coppery bullet,
Set memories flying.
His blood was raked up with the topsoil,
Into an earthen pot of clay,
All that he came to,
All that was left,
Mama stuffed in a box,
And lodged in a ditch,
At the foot of an Ube tree.
But this was done fast.
The only powerful ceremony,
At the hour of his death,
Was the forward-march of the Nigerian troops.
The village assassins.
And then there was the —
The lengthy exodus of dogs and old men,
The quick arrival of sweaty young men and shiny machetes.
Nzogbu nzogbu! Eyimba, eyim,
Left, right! Left, right!
There was the anarchy of gone kids,
The cries for a deaf god,
The echoes of other Negro spiritual songs,
The mother who had to gather the fragments of her offspring
With her heart on sleeves.
And a father who for the sake of fathering,
Swallowed and grunted,
And died a little.
Thirty years later,
A family feud was ignited,
Because baby girl took a blameless shit right there,
On his head,
Right beneath that very Ube tree.
The poor thing,
No rest for the dead.
As a man,
These feats, I have come to learn,
Are as jarring,
As they are trite,
They should wrinkle your humanity,
You should go blind.
They should make you curse god and die.
A man will abide such great sums of evil before he checks out,
But his eyes will not bleed,
Try as you may.
Like in the wilderness,
The demise of another animal is —
A clarion call to audacity,
A sigh of a private reprieve,
A grand plan by some white god,
A table set before your enemies,
A shining example,
A near miss.
I have become one of such,
A war reciter,
The semen that carries,
Carries the spirit force of this impressive oppression to
Another public viewing in Los Angeles,
Another rotten poem,
Another gathering of researchers,
And their theoretical frameworks.
Another horrid paperback,
Another NYT bestseller.
Another reason why my shit stinks worse,
So regard me sensibly,
For I have been through absolute hell.
It is this very event that made me the narrator of a genocide I did not taste.
The one who makes a living telling of mass dying,
And stick kids with large guts,
And big skulls,
And dead black eyes,
And a commander-in-chief with a lush fro who with a finger point,
Directed a synchronized pogrom.
But with a heavy heart —
I have become the very thing that killed my father.
And like many animals,
I was born when the sirens had rusted,
When the strafing had ceased,
When the Brits and Soviets stopped the gun donation,
And Nixon’s poker face was forgiven,
When De Gaulle’s B-26 Marauders rested in museums,
When there was no victor,
And the emblems of Red Crosses on boxes had faded,
When bullets became pendants,
And drunkards became war heroes,
And the field of dead boots became cassava groves,
When the thick stench of hate had gone into our clothes,
And Gowon’s radio had silenced,
And the fliers of an Ojukwu-headed snake had been painted over,
All stories recast in official reports,
And poetry slams,
And diasporic forums.
“The Igbo and their ilk,
Vermin and snakes,
To be trod underfoot,
Dogs to be killed”.
These sins were held against compatriots,
Seedlings of a great nation,
Quenched for the capital sin of free enterprise.
A nation, bound in vanilla liberty.
When this was in season — of course.
Freedom is not for cowards.
You should never know the smell of a sister who died at midnight,
You should never know the taste of another man’s piss.
Sister was a measeled girl in bright pants wondering why the water tasted like kerosene.
No reason my child,
She was told.
You are just shit out of luck.
Heaven awash with strange Igbo souls owning thick dialects and facial marks neighboring the eyes.
They came hungry,
They came ready to run again.
They came broken in transit.
This quiet bubble we will now abide.
There is always gain when cows behave,
When freedom sprouts and is crushed afoot,
When the magic wand of the Von Bismarck types sketch a thin line,
On a PowerPoint slide,
Snatching a billion dialects,
A herd of a million souls,
Onto a small playground.
Dance, you idiots, dance.
Alas, our new sons and new daughters and new gods,
And higher education,
And vitamin supplements,
Would have us believe that we are now gods ourselves.
We have become amnesic,
Our fingers itch for an occupation,
This lion’s heart we must give something to do,
We have learned some Queen’s English
And would like to now show the world that we are no-nonsense men.
Biafra was not a disease cured,
It was a symptom buried well,
So before you put another idea in your breast pocket,
Or spit into another mic the lies that killed your fathers,
Think Nwanne m nwoke,
Ponder Nwanne m nwanyị,
Seek the breasts of old women,
Ojukwu was a great god,
He was crowned,
But before you tickle this lion,
Before you take off pants,
To desecrate that forgotten grave under the Ube tree,
Remember that this Land of the Rising Sun you yet seek,
Will sooner be the applause of another tragedy.
For there are, indeed,
Many ways to catch a rat.
And so it begins,
The rat catching.