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What does a butterfly and a penis have to do with God, the universe, and the secrets of creation? Perhaps the Bible and quantum mechanics, Satan and Pythagoras, time and the tarantula aren’t such different things. Perhaps when brought in relation they hold the key to the power of poetry.

The Testament of Sand by Nigerian poet, Umar Sidi, explores these quirky and titillating ideas.  In 290 lines of poetry that enchants the open-hearted reader, Sidi explores the thread that runs through the cosmos from man to God and back.

Testaments of Sand is that weird moment when prayer and invocation slips into an erotic love song. Braze yourself because the poem will take you through winding pathways of ideas about time, history, the body, and divinity. 

Warning: DO NOT read this poem like a textbook, meaning don’t try to figure it out. Imagine a question that has lost its answer or a puzzle that has lost its key. If you trying to figure it out, the poem will close itself to you and you’ll leave it having gained nothing. If it’s only a word here, an image there, or a sound, a sentence that speaks to you, hold on to it. 

I am so pleased to begin the year with Umar Sidi’s Testaments of Sand. 



Testaments of Sand (Genesis or Book of God)


Al- Arshad poet of sand

Al- Arshad poet of dust

Al -Arshad poet of the testaments

AL – AR – SHAD poet of mud


Al- ARSHAD poet of sand
poet of the ocean of sand
where sand particles are consumed
like fine grains of milk

Al- ARSHAD poet of dust
poet of the waterfalls of dust
poet of the expanding worlds which are swirling
over infinite space as  floating quarks of dust

Al -ARSHAD poet of the testaments
the Tall tambourine of the family of drums
the accursed poet, the black sheep,
a tarantula, who testified against the tentacles of time

AL – A  R  S H A D poet of mud;


they said you were there when God moulded mud to make man in the image of Man

they said you were there when God breathed into Man the immortal Breath of God

they said it was you who scribbled the destiny of Man on the bare Soul of Life

they said it was you who implanted the Fall in the Scroll of Life, as metaphor for twist of fate

they said you are Eve, or the aromatic curves of Eve

Some said you are the vituperative fangs of the Serpent

Some said No! You are the bushy valley of life, the forbidden fruit tucked between the mighty thighs of Eve

they said it was You who created mythos to distract Man from deciphering the original face of God hidden  behind palisades of clouds

they said it was You who carved out logos from the left ear of God

they said it was You who created the alphabet and encrypted it with metaphors


and when God said let there be light, You were there, as the Form of the photon,

the tiniest quark of dust

 and when God peeped into the void, You were there as the shadow of darkness

omnipresent in the nothingness of things

and when God said let the universe be, You were there as the big that banged, the bang

that bigged

and when God said let us shape the destiny of Man, You were there as the  pen and

the scroll, the scribbles and the scribe


A L – A R S H A D  poet of many colors

–  the purple mare of paradise
–  the chlorophyll in the garden of red
–  the red arakarabura
  the yellow hissing flames of hell


A         L          –           A         R         S          H         A         D

 the many seasons of songs:


To the Angels
You are the Serpent, the venomous viper filled with bile

To Eve
You are the blessed rod, the pathway to endless bliss,
the  monstrous delicious member of Man

To Man
You are vinegar, the white water, crystal drops
the sacred elixir of lust

To Words
You are the emptiness between the letters,
the very gap separating E & O, V & L
to words, You are the neutrinos, the photons, protons of language,
the central atom of speech

To God
always the FORCE
the pestle that stirred the cosmic soup
when God said LET’S MAKE LIFE


A         L          –           A





D             –           poet of dust

You are A L – A R S H A D poet of dust
the ? that begets question
the lofty permanence absent from the fields
the codex
the invisible secret
the custodians of codes?

al-arshad ? What is the meaning of A L – A R S H A D? :


ALIF:  The letter of sand, the invisible
time keeper of the cosmic clock

LAM:  The letter of Ram, the sacrificial shards of meat
blood and veins slain at the base of mount arafat,
the clinical tree which extends to heaven to strangulate the jugular of God

AYN:  The consonant of light, the eastern duck
that flaps the wings of emerald, the Butterfly,
the Unicorn, the nebula of the horse; the ancient
labor room of stars

RA:     dust. The consonant of dust. The brown gazelle gazing
at (mim) the island of frogs & the constellation of Ba

SIN:     Sack. The alphabet of the cordage. Strands. Web.
The stellar net, the escape point of earth, Saturn, Pluto & Mars
from the barricading sheets circling the dungeon of God

HA:     Heat. The letter of Heat.

Al HamZa :
The letter of light (at the very beginning),
the pointed beak of the paragon of birds,
the bright blackness of the black Madonna, the luminous bulbs
atop the forecastle of the Tall Ships of Sand


    Da:   t       h          e                      D         a          r           k

l       e          t           t           e          r

Da. The thick black bush of the intercrural valley
Da. The scent.             That scent.   Cunt.      Fuck.


AL – ARSHAD who witnessed the wedding
between  sky and God?
Angels? Satan? Black holes? The stars?

Al- ARSHAD –  poet of light where can we find the
rare ring of GOD?

is it on his thumb in the arch-horn of Leo
far in the seventy seventh realm?
is it on his magisterial seat in the black hole of miria
where the sacred sound: Om, Om, Om Om is being
continuously fertilized?

is it in the Circular Zone of Flames at the wormhole tak
or is it a string floating in cosmic  (un)consciousness or

is it lying flat on al-arsh, the inscrutable throne of God?


AL- ARSHAD did God impregnate the sky to give birth to the universe and dhuljoom?

AL-ARSHAD did the universe impregnate space to give birth to planets and stars?

AL-ARSHAD did the earth impregnate the ocean to give birth to Dinosaurs and Djinns?

AL-ARSHAD did the Dinosaurs impregnate dust to give birth to grass, the green gorilla,
genomes and genes?

AL-ARSHAD how did God impregnate the Sky
if Andromeda is the clean cleavage, and dhuljoom the navel &
milky way the intercrural valley, the garden of the thick black forest,
where the holy apple is grown?

AL-ARSHAD is it the original sin for the phallus to veer through
the intercrural valley, the thick black forest, to seek & taste
the holy apple of life?


how did God mate with Sky
is it with droplets of words, did he say BE and Sky CAME?

and when God said LET THERE BE LIGHT,
and there was light,  was that an affectionate smile
from a love struck couple longing for a kiss?

or did God use the Omniscient Force
the ungraspable power of thought?


To Vandals, inhabitants of Androgassos
You painted the face of God

To Zoks citizens of Kazok, the belt of rocks,
You can perceive the fluorescence of God

To Zelinians of ZHUL
You hold the key to the gallery of truth,
where the invisible portrait of God is kept


is God the big old man with silver beard smiling in the sky?

is God the Integer, the perfect number of Pythagoras and his ilk?

is God the invisible energy of Socrates & the unmoved mover of Plato?

is God the Lord of the Kaaba, and did he instruct the Bedouins to kill, to cast sacred
stones against his arch enemy iblis?

is God the solar disc of the Aztecs
the Osiris of Egypt &
the total Force of the old African sage?

AL-ARSHAD is God the One, the Oneness of the mystic,
the unity of oneness & the whirling dance of a dervish in a lodge?

A         L           –          A         R        S          H        A    D


The accompanying images are quite remarkable. They are the work of Algerian artist Sid El Houari, Wahran. You can find his work HERE.

Umar Abubakar Sidi lives in Lagos. “Testament of Sand” is part of a longer work being published by Saraba Magazine. Sidi also has a collection of poem titled “Striking the Strings” that will be released by Origami ( Parresia) sometime this year. 


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Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

19 Responses to ““The Poet of Dust” — Testaments of Sand By Umar Sidi | A Brittle Paper Poet” Subscribe

  1. Linus January 6, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

    Oh my God, Sidi, this is wonderful. this is just beautiful.

  2. Joe Ugi January 7, 2014 at 7:07 am #

    Amazingly puzzling. Never thought of a piece of poetry that summarises as much as it distills the mighty rhetoric of cosmogenetic origins in a manner that intersects religious, philosophical and scientific postulation. Like all cosmological theories known to me, AL-ARSAHAD raises more questions than ‘He’ answers like life itself often does. It provokes thought and elicits a multiplicity of opinions, not answers. Here is one instance where cosmic questions are more important than the myriad of answers human faith, logic and science could ever offer.
    ‘AL-ARSAHAD, the unending interpolation of cosmogenetic origins’.

  3. Dirionyenma January 8, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

    Umar, I have waited a long time for this to come. It is a classic. That’s all I will say.

  4. Dirionyenma January 8, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

    Umar, I have waited a long time for this to come. It is a classic. That’s all I will say for now.

  5. Poyaya January 9, 2014 at 7:46 pm #


  6. James January 10, 2014 at 10:57 am #

    A poetry with many sides……….in dept wisdom needed to break open its meanings. Nice one.

  7. Windy January 10, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

    The Testaments of Sand is a deeply cryptic piece of poetry. On second reading, you’ll discover there are hidden meanings. This poetry disceptively made me believe it is about the writer.

    AL- Arshad poet of Sand
    AL- Arshad poet of Dust
    AL – Arshad poet of the Testaments
    AL – AR – SHAD poet of mud.

    In reality it is about us, the reader! And to put it in Ben Okri’s words,” The best writing is not about the writer, the best writing is absolutely not about the writer, it’s about us. It’s about the reader.

    This piece dissects the complexity of rational and irrational contemplations of divine and cosmic metaphors by man.

    Indeed, Umar Sidi is one of those poets whom everybody (well, everybody in the literary world should know but whom few have read or at least few have read in depth. He shares Ben Okri’s reputation as a poet’s poet. And like Shoyinka, his appeal is beyond just this category.

    He is a master of allusions, expecting from his readers a certain acquaintance with other literatures and with other forms of art, and even science. However, the aim is never never that of excluding unfit readers. We are rather all invited to partake in the same cultured but convivial conversation, spanning epochs and continents, and even linking this world with the next one. He is certainly not willfully obscure in his allusions.

  8. Ainehi Edoro January 10, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

    Thanks for all your comments. When Sidi sent me the poem and I read it, I knew right away that it was brilliant and significant. Your comments definitely validates my belief in the work.

    Especially when I read the comments left by Windy and Joe, how they go beyond saying they like the poem but express something of how they are processing the ideas in the poem, I’m overjoyed.

    Merci 🙂

  9. Pearl January 10, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

    I am so proud. This is fantastic and everyone should be reading Sidi.

  10. MaiG January 11, 2014 at 5:26 pm #

    This is indeed a very beautiful and articulate poem that is overwhelmed with reason and logic. Well done Poet!!!

  11. Madu Ibrahim January 22, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

    This amazingly amazing…..

    • Ainehi Edoro January 24, 2014 at 3:48 pm #

      I know. I still marvel at how smart, and pretty, and amazing this poem is.

  12. Yakubu Babangida January 25, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

    I read this piece and my imaginations went bizarre, I have known this writer and his piece long before the poets society came to know that there are those of us born out of the very catalyst of elite poets. Weldone my friend, brother and boss. Let the world come to appreciate our gifts, as they are enlightened by the remarkable inspiration of your thought provoking piece.. Cheers

  13. Mohammed January 26, 2014 at 5:39 pm #

    Wow!!! This is awesome. Great piece of work from this great guy. From the very first time I read ” the withered flower” I knew there are more great works coming from Abubakar Sidi. Pls keep it up.

  14. Gaddafi May 2, 2014 at 2:44 am #

    Cryptically mysterious… I got lost as I perused in between the lines but I found myself in the very last end of the poem… Beautiful! “Testaments of Sand”

  15. Sara Perkins May 3, 2014 at 11:47 am #

    What a deep, shimmering voice Umar Sidi has. I’m off to be impressed by more of his work! His poetry is gorgeous and I am in love by the sheer vocality in one of his other poems, “Love Song”.

  16. Faith Ihotu June 23, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

    I have always known you ar a good writer sidi thums up i love the poem and the poet,ur poems inspires me.


  1. This is Not a Poem, This is Not a Prayer | by Umar Abubakar Sidi | Brittle Paper - August 13, 2014

    […] Read “Testaments of Sand” by Umar Sidi. HERE.  […]

  2. Why We Love Saraba Magazine’s The Poet of Sand by Umar sidi | Brittle Paper - November 14, 2014

    […] Testament of Sand,” originally published here on Brittle Paper is the longest poem in Umar Sidi’s poetry chapbook titled The Poet of Sand, recently published […]

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