Two Poems by Bola Opaleke

TALKING ABOUT CREMATION

             Ede, Nigeria 1966

 

as their hair fly in all directions in the restless wind,

white, almost wool-like (not greying), they float

like deities, their stainless skin glittering like snake’s,

who, then, would not think of them as gods? what man

 

would shut his eyes to such divinity? they said they read it

in books that we’re slow to understand, so they’ll talk

slowly. their lips red like goat’s blood, like the truth

after its head is cut off. not knowing we were only warned

 

never to say a word; never to raise a finger

while the “gods” speak to us in their pristine “wisdom”.

they said we should not bury our dead like we used to.

our ears flapped in disbelief “what did you just say?”

 

we that pride ourselves in feeding the yellowing earth

our most sumptuous meat, the delicacies, whetting

our weeded appetite with earth’s return benediction.

our life, corpulent in the excess harvest of what we sowed.

 

for in blessing, the earth must also be blessed, must also be fed.

but they said we should not bury our dead like we used to. and

we interpreted that to mean “our dead deserve no single luxury”.

because these gods’ mouths would not stop moving, saying

 

again and again: “to burn them is to not make them burn“.

we heard even things not said: “rub their bodies with branded fire,

make the resultant ashes glitter from inside the gourds housing it“.

they said all these without, once, praising the god of the earth.

 

though, the books say we were slow to understand,

we were only warned never to say a word,

never to raise a finger of doubts – for who questions god?

who dares a god to explain what we know is inexplicable?

 

we left with our questions stuck to our throats.

they left with their smiles tucked in their unknowing of us.

but who would teach these “gods” the lessons of the finality

of fire? who would show them the way of our fathers? who

 

would tell them: only things despised, condemned and judged are burnt?

 

A METAPHOR FOR DARKNESS

 

A people seized the sun, somewhere

in Africa. They sprinkle it into the sea

 

& there, let it simmer into ordinary sizzles,

coiled with bones of broken men;

these men who refused to be boiled.

 

The sweat & the green tears of cuffed women,

at dawn, rise & roar into different colors

not known to the purple sky above. They become

 

Niger & Nile. So it seems: the sun that left never left.

 

 

Bola is a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. His poems have appeared or forthcoming in a few Journals like Frontier Poetry, Rising Phoenix Review, Writers Resist, Rattle, Cleaver, One, The Nottingham Review, The Puritan, The Literary Review of Canada, Sierra Nevada Review, Dissident Voice, Poetry Quarterly, The Indianapolis Review, Canadian Literature, Empty Mirror, Poetry Pacific, Drunk Monkeys, Temz Review, St. Peters College(University of Saskatchewan) Anthology (Society 2013 Vol. 10), Pastiche Magazine, and others. He holds a degree in City Planning and lives in Winnipeg MB.  www.bolaopaleke.com

1 Comment

  • Pamilerin Jacob January 20, 2019 at 9:16 pm

    Amazing pieces! 🖤

    Reply

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