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

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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—

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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.