Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 3,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

Makoko, Lagos. Image from Myguidenigeria.com.

Twelve Sins

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

promises.

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?

Makoko

Listen.

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.

Tags:

3 Responses to “Twelve Sins & Makoko | Two Poems by Othuke Umukoro” Subscribe

  1. Moses Stephen 2018/07/06 at 09:42 #

    I love the two poems. They are both beautiful. I like the picture of mokoko that you presented to the world; the hope which is of course the truth. The colours are are so captivating and your tone is filled with energy flowing from a source of abundance. Keep it up brother, your wings will soon be ripe enough to lift you above your expectations.

  2. Tyheykins 2018/07/06 at 12:58 #

    The poems are really nice. Keep it up.

  3. John 2018/07/13 at 07:07 #

    “but since there are no graves here,

    we refuse to bury our dreams.”

    Hallaloo!
    Bless you Othuke!

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

Teju Cole Joins Harvard’s Department of English as Gore Vidal Professor of Creative Writing

teju cole sydney morning herald

Teju Cole has joined Harvard University’s Department of English as the Gore Vidal Professor of the Practice of Creative Writing. […]

Always Another Country | Sisonke Msimang’s North America Book Tour

sisonke msimang

Last October, Sisonke Msimang’s debut memoir Always Another Country was published by Jonathan Ball Publishers in South Africa. The account of […]

Chimamanda Adichie Adds Her Voice to Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis

anglophone crisis - image from actu cameroun

Chimamanda Adichie has added her voice to Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis, following efforts by Cameroonian novelists Imbolo Mbue and Patrice Nganang. […]

Deji Olukotun’s Novels, Nigerians In Space and After The Flare, Optioned by Major Film Company

Image from ASU Events.

Deji Olukotun’s novels Nigerians in Space and After the Flare have been optioned by major film company. The crime novelist shared this […]

Petina Gappah Is Working on a Rhodesia Trilogy Comprising a Comedy, a Tragedy, and an Epic

petina gappah

Petina Gappah is working on a series, what she calls the Rhodesia Trilogy. The Zimbabwean writer and novelist, whose short […]

Nnedi Okorafor Announces New Project Due in December, Set in the Universe of Binti and Lagoon

Nnedi okorafor - la guardia

Fresh from her trending appearance at the Emmys with Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martins, Nnedi Okorafor has announced […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.