Two Poems by Echezonachukwu Nduka

INSIGNIA

(for Christopher Okigbo)

The first is Okigbo’s pipe.

His puffs were verses and songs

rendered con spirito.

 

Idoto’s son dropped his pen,

closed the piano, and picked a gun.

 

At Opi, bullets cut short

a poet’s verse, leaving his pipe

and pages as witnesses.

 

Spilt bloods are death’s signposts

but a dead poet’s blood is history

gasping for air, turning into thunder

and striking erring thrones.

 

He has found his way to Heavensgate

where he writes for breakfast,

smokes for lunch, and fires three shots

for dinner. But his pipe is still here,

like a loyal pet, waiting.

 

GRIEF IN TWO MOVEMENTS

 

I

On the train to Newark Station,

a girl stares at her shoes as though

she is seeing them for the first time.

I feel the urge to call her attention

to my jacket which has no name,

my shoes that do nothing but make

me feel both hyper and lost.

 

I have often lost myself in the first verses

of songs I detest, in the midst of girls with

doll-like faces and weird eyebrows,

and the tenth attempt at playing a page

of Chopin’s polonaises.

 

We all disembark at Newark Station

and she limps towards Greyhound Bus Terminal

with her bag of books and whatnots.

This is the day I name my shoes.

 

 

II

You ask if he hears the voice of God

and he answers with a whisper.

He reaches down into himself to pluck

a voice he never owned, hold it against the light,

examining stories from Sunday school of yesteryear.

He speaks of the day he learnt to worship:

a man cycling down the road dropped two coins

and he heard God’s laughter for the first time.

He tore off the book of Job from his Bible,

wore no shirt for days, starved and named it fasting,

until his ribs threatened to tear his skin

and call for one more coin.

His eyes see nothing but passing days that pay no heed.

How does a child say his name when he doesn’t know he’s got a voice?

For to say one’s name to a stranger is to say you are alive.

It is to say you have a voice.

It is to say your whispers are yours too.

I know how language shrinks spaces between strangers.

But what language does hunger speak?

Does God sing in monotones to a boy on an empty stomach?

For now, he counts the feet of passersby till they become bread,

become wine, become sleep that stifles the whisper left in him

 

 

Echezonachukwu Nduka’s poems have appeared in Saraba, Jalada, Bakwa, River River, Bombay Review, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, African Writer, Brittle Paper, and some anthologies of note including A Thousand Voices Rising: An Anthology of Contemporary African Poetry, From Here to There: A Cross Cultural Anthology, among others. A member of South Jersey Poets Collective, he writes from New Jersey, USA.

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