janvier, 1990: name and claim. At least that is how it
begins with boys like me who entered the world backward.
février, 2020: in my father’s house my mother
wears fear round her neck like a golden bell
and with each step my father’s thunderous tolling on
her skin—like that time she shaved her
pubic hair without his permission.
mars, 2050: started work at a mortuary. Cosmic encounters.
avril, 2080: nights of strange stars and labyrinths
of famished love. I tried falling in love (heard
it was what all mad people do) but found
the potion too potent.
mai, 2110: hope can be a dangerous thing—
subtle, sublime slump. But I am recharged.
juin, 2140: locusts.
juillet, 2170: nothing. Languid illumination. Opaque.
août, 2200: come August rains. Pour
septembre, 2230: got drunk on a
bottle of diluted dreams!
octobre, 2260: read Shakespeare’s sonorous sonnets.
Winner: Nobel Prize in fermented literature (alleged).
novembre, 2290: all I ask for is that you give me
an oasis where my pregnant dreams can drink their fill.
décembre, 2320: read the biographies of dead poets—
found myself in the moon with solitude on my brows.
What really happens to a poor poet’s fights?
Do they grow magical wings and fly to a lost world
to reload or lie fallow in servitude
like my grandmother’s pestle?
In Makoko, our children
first learn to swim before they walk.
Our ways are not your ways.
When to your pomp mansions you ebb,
our houses are built on air suspended
by staggering stilts: the glorious lagoon
sprawled before us like a harlot.
It is the anthem of murky waters—
it is the sun closing her eyelids as
life—a patient executioner of dreams—
caresses old men.
Lagos laughs to her bloom and we
laugh in the gloom it has cast on us.
We do not close our eyes fully
when we sleep—our eyes are always open
to the gods above like those of an astrologer
investigating a celestial constellation—wait,
change is coming.
The best photograph of our lives
is in the image of a boy and his sister
wading their way to a floating school.
Keep this image. Don’t let it die.
It is hard to believe anything can bloom
here but since there are no graves here,
we refuse to bury our dreams.
We have decided to hold them
tight to the crevices in our hearts
until they are nurtured and old enough to
walk out of this place.
About the Writer:
Othuke I. Umukoro is a budding poet and a graduate of Theatre Arts from the University of Ibadan. He is currently a fellow at Teach for Nigeria, a Leadership and Non-Governmental Organization that places young graduates in undeserved primary schools in Nigeria. While teaching the future leaders of Nigeria he finds time to write poems and fiction. Othuke is a social commentator and a great fan of dark comedies. He writes from Abeokuta, Nigeria.