Where the Road Leads (1)

The First Road

I

Death is a journey of many goodbyes, but tears dry before the dead
begin their voyage. Last night, candles burnt wishes and prayers,
their flames sending heaven one last voicemail. Our hearts have opened up
as roads where dead men walk and talk about the folly of mortals.

II

In my sleep, I see tenements rented by men whose feet wear histories
of distances, of landmarks and wars fought on transit.
There are no deaths here, only dreams and candle-flames hoisted like flags,
seeking to create a path for mortals to cross over and rest awhile, or forever.

III

In my sleep, I wish to be in this dream that I don’t own
to find God and ask him if death snatches life ex cathedra
to share mulled wine and laughter with levitating men
whose eyes bear marks of a thousand roads crossed in milliseconds.

IV

I will awake only to the tolling of bells from St. Benedict’s belfry,
to find my way to the church cemetery where bones of saints speak
through black ants processing on tombs, through the scents of flowers decorating
the dead, or through the gentle passing breeze that whistles a sad tune.

 

The Second Road

I

There are three cities in my head, following me everywhere
like a bodyguard paid to die in my place. Each city’s map is drawn
with the tears of a poet abandoned by his muse to the torturous
hands of a blank page. Each city is a road that leads to my birthplace.

II

I travel this road to arrive at memories that speak my name
as though I’m lost, seeking to take me back to years of childhood
when I played in the sand and bore a thousand names in a day—
giggling at the slightest of jokes and looking horror in the face.

III

My name is memory, an alleyway to my mother’s
voice when she said words that hugged me, gave me chills,
and followed me home to watch her die first in my sleep.
At her funeral, grief wore many shades of black gowns.

IV

This is the day I say no to voices of drunken men
caterwauling on my street—inviting me to taste their liquor,
poking fun at who I was before I went to bed two nights ago.
I’d love to pay more attention to silence, but sanity is a vice on this street.

 

The Third Road

I

Grandma says love begins with a smile or death.
She has watched me battle with smiles that quickly became tears
flowing and flowing and flowing on faces that have seen death one on one,
shook hands with it and asked it how it manages to walk the same path with love.

II

There’s a club on my street where love is shared in bottles, shared in songs,
shared in smokes and smooches while emotions find their way to new rhythms.
If Grandma ever visits this place, she would look me in the eyes and declare
that love found on dance floors are defiant like the sun that shines while it rains.

III

I am learning to die many times in my sleep, holding a memento
and singing that I come from a place where love germinates like a seed,
grows into a tree, bears fruits, and is besieged by sharp axes seeking to end
its life as an act of love too. Death is where love meets itself the second time.

IV

I have seen a groom throw his vows in the face of his bride, turn his back
on the love they would make, hang himself in a lonely room to end a journey
that has barely begun. But here I am, searching for a woman that will let me travel
her road many times and not lock me out of the two boroughs beneath her shoulders.

 

*********

Post image adapted from an image by Sara via Flickr.

About the Author:

Portrait - NdukaEchezonachukwu Nduka is a poet, fiction writer, and music scholar. He is the 2016 Winner of the Korea-Nigeria Poetry Feast Prize. He tweets @echenduka

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

4 Responses to “Where the Road Leads | by Echezonachukwu Nduka | African Poetry” Subscribe

  1. Osuchukwu Mark Anthony 2016/06/25 at 08:09 #

    Eche Is at it again! Engaging, thrilling and lovely. “… Love is shared in bottles…”

  2. kate ohakwem 2016/06/28 at 09:41 #

    Wow……….. I love the passion in this poem. Eche, u are Good!!!

  3. Mimi 2016/07/10 at 17:23 #

    Beauty

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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