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Title: Courtyard. Image by Josue Armando Serrano via Flickr.

There’s always an old man in every castle.

Sometimes, when he’s not the king’s physician,

he goes about collecting the king’s dues.

_

I belong under the king’s reign, in the storyteller’s house,

outside the great walls among those appealing for lesser taxes,

the ones not needed in the king’s armed service.

_

The king’s old man is making a round today;

and he stands at the door, asking for the bits—

thirty pieces of silver from Judas’ field—that make here a household.

_

There’s a horde of weariness on the street: the evicted folk,

grappling with uncertainty, like people escaping a battle through

an underground channel, imagining the fighting above them.

_

A child sitting on the mother’s thighs looks up to her:

Will it fester, his bile? Mother will it fester?

_

O child! I’d rather smother you 

or my heart of furs and feathers.

_

People speak of a slow death, sores and the thick smell of an unwashed body.

But the king reigns over us, mighty, and after many years

climbs onto his bed and sleeps.

_

They speak in the morning, of a man who upset the life of many

and escaped into the arms of death; not with his physician by his side,

but with the cactus tree he groomed through his reign.

 

 

 

About the Author:

Ebenezer Agu is a poet and nonfiction writer. He grew up in the market city of Onitsha, Nigeria.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, an academic, and Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review ("Mulumba," 2016), Transition ("A Tenderer Blessing," 2015), and in an anthology of the Gerald Kraak Award for which he was shortlisted ("You Sing of a Longing," 2017). His work has further been shortlisted for the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship in 2016 and a Pushcart Prize in 2015. He attended the 2018 Miles Morland Foundation Creative Writing Workshop. He is the curator of the ART NAIJA SERIES, a sequence of themed e-anthologies of writing and visual art exploring different aspects of Nigerianness. The first, ENTER NAIJA: THE BOOK OF PLACES (October, 2016), focuses on cities in Nigeria. The second, WORK NAIJA: THE BOOK OF VOCATIONS (June, 2017), focuses on professions in Nigeria. He studied History and Literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is currently completing a postgraduate programme in African Studies and Pop Culture, and teaches English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, and is working on a novel. He is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. When bored, he just Googles Rihanna.

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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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