LIFE’S BOOK OF REVELATIONS

If you want to know people
Observe how they are
When they don’t have to be kind
To get what they want

When they don’t need to be nice
To secure their existence
When they don’t have to put up a show
Of strength or weakness
To protect their safety and preserve their advantage

When they have you in their power
Within the boundaries of their Circle of influence
On their sovereign soil
At their mercy

This is when you know a people
This is when you know a human being
When they have the opportunity to do anything with you
And get away with it

This is when you know yourself –
When you have the opportunity to do something
And get away with it.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije

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GOODBYE – WELCOME

ONCE UPON A time three ants ran across a wall. They all got crushed by the same hand and died. The hand put itself into food and fed the mouth, and the owner of hand and mouth died because the ants were rare and poisonous. Those who buried the corpse fell ill and died too because the poison was spreading. Nobody buried them. Birds of prey fed on them and later fell down dead from the sky. Goats and cows fed on the grass near the dead birds and, before they died, men drank of their milk; the goats and cows died and the disease was back in the lives of men.

People were dying left and right everyday. From where had this unknown disease come? Where was it headed? Would it move on and leave us alone or would it stay or would it take us along?

But there was a breed of people who did not die, against whom the poison held no sting, in whose land the power of the disease was broken. And all those who knew, or found, and walked the way into their land, this inner state of being, overcame the death that lives through our folly.

Goodbye.

Welcome.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

THE GIRL WHO SAW TRUTH

There was a girl
Who read the story of the Wild-Horse Mountain
And who then went to find
The writer of the story
And question him thus:

GIRL:
Is this story true, of the lady who went to the Island of Wild-Horse Mountain and found the winged horses?

POET:
Yes, it is true.

GIRL:
Really?

POET:
Truly.

GIRL:
How do you know?

POET:
Because after the lady had visited the Land of Tomorrow awhile with Sram, he flew her in the night back home to our land again, and the next morning she told us the story…

GIRL:
What happened next?

POET:
Well, nobody believed her… except I. I did.

GIRL:
But why?

POET:
Why did I believe her?

GIRL:
No. Why did nobody else believe her?

POET:
Well… because they searched for proofs… and found none, at least none that made any sense to our minds. Upon hearing her story, we all sailed over to the Island of Wild-Horse Mountain, to see if we could corroborate her story. Also the other six people were still missing and we wanted to find them. But we found Nothing. No horses, no green valley, no horse-prints in the ground, anywhere, and no bodies… not the bodies of the six missing people, or bones, clothes, shoes, bags, articles, anything! All we saw, on the shore of the desolate, rocky island, was a beached boat. So, the people said she was mad. They came up with the theory that she had run mad and killed her friends at sea, or she had lost her friends at sea, which in turn had driven her crazy…

GIRL:
What?!

POET:
Yes, indeed. In the end, they put her in an asylum, where she finally died…

GIRL (sobbing):
What country is this wicked place?

POET:
Oh, it’s the country in which I live. My country.

GIRL:
What’s the name of your country then?

POET:
It is called “The Land of Modern Minds”.

GIRL:
The Land of Modern Minds? I have never heard of this country.

POET:
When you grow up, you will ear a lot of it. You will live there too.

GIRL:
Never! Never!

POET:
(smiles and says nothing)

GIRL (still weeping):
Oh, that poor lady! Killed for saying the truth; such an exhilarating, new, promising truth too. But… but… but is there a possibility that… that she maybe just had a dream?…

POET (smiling):
The same possibility that, right now, you are also dreaming.

GIRL:
But I am not dreaming!

POET:
You can only assume that until you Awake…

GIRL (after a pause… thoughtfully):
Thank you, Poet, for talking to me.

POET:
Don’t you want to know what happened to the lady after she died?

GIRL?
After? But no. It does not matter, does it?

POET:
But, yes, it does matter. When people die, they start to live…

GIRL:
Is this the truth?

POET:
Yes, dear Lady, it is.

GIRL:
So, are we dead now?

POET:
We are Partly Asleep.

GIRL:
I believe you, Sram. Please, forsake me not…

POET:
That I will Never do!!!

Then they embraced, and did weep
And woke up each
Gently from their deep sleep
On opposite sides of the world.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

CURRICULUM VITAE

I SIT upon my couch and wonder what to write about, what to lie about.

My CV. What on earth am I going to write on it? Certainly not the truth! You don’t land the job by telling the truth. You get it by evading the truth. Retaining just enough of it to escape the justified accusation of deliberate falsification.

So I write.

Name: Udo, Jeremiah Anosike. No, that’s too much. Just: Udo, Jeremiah.

That’s close, pretty close, to it. That way they’ll never know who I am. They’ll have, however, a voiceable sound with which to refer to me. An urban approximation, the result of western colonisation and foreign religion. I think I will enjoy this game, of using my own self as my camouflage. I can hardly contain my laughter.

Slowly they begin to see me, to know me. What’s your name? Jeremiah Udo. Call me Jerry, or Miah. Call me Miah. Everyone calls me Miah. Nice to meet you, Miah. Miah? From where? You mean, where I come from or where I’m coming from? – No, stop, wrong reply – Answer: From here. Yes, from here. Good Answer! Here. Where’s here? Who cares. Hey guys, meet Miah. He’s from here too. Cool, nice to meet you. Catch ya later.

I was born, like everyone else, alone. What I like most when I look out the window are green plants, some sprouting from the ground, some growing in pots, some clinging to trees or walls, or hanging down upsideup.

Were a day to pass by without my seeing them, how would I go on? All these shades of green. All this nature. God’s Work.

I once used to know an artist. Actually he was a sculptor, he sculpted with wood. I mean, he was an artist.

A good fellow, brown as wood and green as leaves. A hardy, earthy, earthen character and a depth as soulful as a wishing well.

I wish him well…

We did not grow up together. We met after we had grown up and together we grew back into children.

The second child is the wiser here.

Whenever he gripped with his hands a piece of wood and set his knife to it, his shoulders broad, his eyes brooding, his eyes at peace, I am happy we met.

I write this story for him. If you look carefully, you will see that I write in the second hand and not in the first. The first went with him.
Words, of late, tire me.

Certainly I could have prevented his death, of that I am certain. But his death prevented me.

The little things I cannot write about – the swinging twine, swaying in the evening breeze, hanging down from the banana tree –

I am inside, you are outside. Lie. You are inside. I am outside.

The uncountable leaves, each with a design of its own, differently carved, differently coloured with its own green and changing green.

Are you so many? Are you not one? Are all these you? All these thoughts and thoughts of you. You grow, you branch out, more and more everyday.

Your kindness undid you. A profusion of ever flourishing and emerging leaves, emergent, that was your kindness.

And even as they fade away, they come again.

I remember the reclining chair you carved.

I sat on it and felt the strong fingers of your steady hand encapsule me, gently, gently, I had no fear.

The little wooden combs you carved. They line the window, a prelude to the world without, the world within, brown and green, and deeply through the greenery, an understanding of blue. You combed their hearts all through.

I bring that world into my house, like the second gas equation was dragged into the first, and I arrive at an unfaltering constancy. The world is constant.

Friends float away. They forget the poems they shared and the light they saw, a step away.

They stepped aside.

Sometimes I remember. Sometimes.

I only remember when I remember. Else I know not that I forgot. I’m filled only with a strange sorrow, and I know that something is gone. But what?

It can’t be just you. These final memories.

Why on earth did you join the demonstration? I told you not to, not to believe these promisers of change. But you told me this was our time and this was our calling and all the rest of that jargon which I now wish I had never put into your mind in the first place when we first met. I really should learn to hold my tongue. Well, the price of fuel was slightly brought back down again, finally. The union had a closed door meeting with the government and the ‘industry stakeholders’, and then the strike was called off.

The soldier who pulled the trigger was never identified. People have gone on with their lives. There were a few newspaper articles about your ‘martyrical’ (who comes up with such words?) death, but other news have sort of replaced you now. But don’t worry, I’ll correct that some day, hero. What still hurts me the most is that someone took your watch off your wrist before I got to you. Remember that watch? We bought two of them, an identical pair, at the same time, one for you and one for me. Now it feels like I’m just here, marking time. My hero is gone.

There are rumours that the price of fuel will be raised again before the end of the year. Should I join the protest, wear a t-shirt with your face printed on it? How many soldiers and policemen on the bulleting this time before they hold the next closed door meeting?

Let’s talk of other things, undying things.

Apropos –

Once it rained so heavily that the roofs began to leak. Only then did we realise the limitations of our roof. Who repaired it? Was it you or I?

Sculptor, sculptor, you or I?

I wish I were a sculptor: so I could sculpt all those pieces you described to me, pieces you planned to sculpt, if you had not died.

Who died? I think it was I. Died when I started believing you had died. Who died?

My heart is heavy, I will not lie, I need a break –

I’ve had my break, my big break, but I refused to break. Break even.

I’m not like you. I have to suffer, I know not why. Nobody likes the things I write, it seems. In the second hand. My hand. Not like you. But I know what you would say to me, like always: You write for the deep, so don’t expect accolade on the surface; it would be an insult; and I would have nothing to inspire me. The seriousness in your eyes was my greatest reward, each time you spoke.

They loved your sculptures, they bought them and took them home with them into their homes. Can you imagine that? Do you remember? Into their homes. They will always love you. Never ask me again if I am jealous of you.

The keys are lying on the table. This is the moment. The almighty present. Still I write in the second hand.

Am I denying myself? Am I living a lie? Whose lie? Your lie? You had your lies too. You lied too.

But is the night not the day’s lie? And what a beautiful lie, full of mystery. A deep lie, above all. Because, actually, there is always light in the centre.

The stronger the sound, the louder the echo. Live well, dear friend, live well.

Before the sun tells another lie, before the day gives way to night, before we part let’s meet again, you and I.

The house is cool tonight. Cool and quiet. It’s taken me a long time and a hard struggle to get here, far from my goal. I would have arrived here sooner if I had not listened to her. But you told me to listen to her and she sent me down the wrong lane.

There I lost everything, including myself. So I guess in the end it was worth it. And it’s all because of you. You carved this out too. You were a carver too.

There is no knock on the door tonight. She’s gone away. The phone will not ring, my postbox shall stay empty, I will not receive any email or text message.

All I’ll ever have is what I have. All I want is this: The ability to move on. One day, I know, I’ll find the real one.

When the sun was setting on the picture of the thoughtful woman, you said:

Mm mm mm.

Sweet delight.

Recently I thought of you again. The thought hurt me. I wished you were around. I rarely do so, because it doesn’t matter. But this time it did, this time I did. Wishing it made me stronger. I knew you for less than a year. I knew you.

The way you walk, the way you work. The way you pause and consider the cut, the last cut and the one approaching your hand. You cut.

You carve.

You sculpt. Woodcarver. Woodsculptor. Stonewood. Artist. Art ist Art. Gleichart.

This by the way is a new day. Something like a new page in an unending old book. They call it a new leaf. Green leaf swelling.

The leaves are still new outside. They are not overly loud now. The sun sinks. Night falls. For some reason I suddenly remember the story you told me about your crazy grandfather, or was it greatgrandfather, living alone on some wild hill somewhere in your village. I almost envy him now.

The thought that crossed my mind is almost gone. Yes. The thought of you. But the deepinnerfeelings remain where they always were before they were sounded by an ever returning thought, a comet, it will recur, re-occur. You, my star.

There was a time when I did not know you. There was a time when I could not have known you. Then we met. That day on the street. On the road. The road.

Now I’m struggling on without you. You were my friend. I met you at the end, the sweetest time to meet. The hardest time to part. There is nothing so traumatic as the end. Never meet at the end, nor part ever there too. Whatever you want to do, do it in the beginning; be it meeting or parting, uniting or departing or working together, do it in the beginning if you cannot bear the pain.

But if you can bear the pain, and if you love life like I do, then do it also at the end. Then will it change your life. I love, above all, the end. For there is none.

It was short, our time. Our song. Is this truly the end? Our end of the rainbow.

Your carvings surround me everywhere. The chair on which I sit was carved by you, I call it my couch. How then do I forget you? The table on which I write was carved by you – there is none better – how then could I forget you?

Your style whiles away my loneliness.

Your works sell well. What should I do with the money? I don’t want to squander it on day-to-day survival.

I want to use it for something great. That’s why I’m applying for this job. It’s an oil company, by the way. Yes I know, I can almost hear your horrified voice: Et tu, Brute? But please forgive me. I know it might look like treachery, but I really really need the dough. I want to make my own money. Then I can use yours to do something you always wanted. It has to do with her. She’s okay, really. I just didn’t understand her really.

Don’t laugh, I’m serious.

What on earth should I write on my CV.? I have no idea, I don’t know where to start, it’s all too much. My life feels like an old book, forever unfinished, whose chapters keep on changing, whose pages keep on rewriting and redefining themselves as ever new ones appear. I think I’ll just keep it simple. Very simple. I’ll tell them the name on my birth certificate. I won’t even tell them my name, the one you gave me. I’ll tell them the date on my birth certificate, but I won’t tell them the day I was born, the day we awakened the real in one another, our birthday, my most recent history.

I’ll tell them the schools and institutions I attended, the subjects and courses I did there. But I won’t tell them the things you and I discovered. The real things. I’ll tell them the places I’ve worked. But I won’t tell them the things we worked at. I’ll never tell them all that we worked at. Those are ours alone. You and I.

Yes, I’ll only tell them lies, the world’s global superficial lies. The lies that make up our lives. That’s what I’ll write into my CV. The truth I’ll keep to us. In my first hand.

It will follow me to the grave, and rise one day with me to there where you, hopefully, already are.

– CHE CHIDI CHUKWUMERIJE.

YOUR NUMBER

WHAT ARE YOU thinking about at this very moment?

It is hardest to know yourself. Before you know yourself you will first come to know many other people. And when it is time to know yourself, you will not see or discover yourself by yourself, but somebody else will show you yourself.

Then you will really know yourself as you are.

If I told you how this train of thought was set off in my mind, you might find it strange, but I learn from little things and I let the little things show me the big things. Big things expose themselves in little things.

It was my mobile phone. My first. I have had it for almost a year now and I use it several times everyday. My little handy. But I never succeeded in memorising the number. I have seen this number several times, having stored it myself on my phone’s own address book, and I have read it out many times to many people. But I have never memorised it.

No, the problem is not with my memory. I have other people’s landline and mobile numbers in my head. I can reel them all off anytime. But to give you my number I would have had to, even until yesterday evening, look it up first in my address book. For the umpteenth time! Even after almost a year.

Yesterday a friend pointed his phone at me and said, What’s your number? Oh stop, I have it here, don’t I?…

And he thumbed his handset severally and said 08037220738…?

Even before he finished I spoke the last four digits with him, mouthing them at half-volume zero seven three eight…

It was my number. Painted before my mind’s eye, recognised instantly by an internal antennae, consciously reactivated. Suddenly it awoke within me like youth awakening into manhood and remembering the code stored within its soul even before birth. Like memory returning of an old book for long forgotten. Now it’s at the tips of my fingers, re-echoing in the hallrooms of my head.

I know it off the top of my head. No, I know it now. How? Somebody told it to me. Gave it back to me. It came home, for good. It stuck. His voice. The words. Visual digits. Awakening. Recognition. My own is now mine. For it has come back to me.

Earlier, when I told him about my life, he sat up straight and, pinning me with an incredulous look, said, Man, you have some wild stories to tell.

In my mind I thought, Yes, to tell one day. You haven’t heard anything yet. We all have the same thing, and then I’ve got something more.

The day is dawning well today. The sun is not too bright. I couldn’t stand that just now.

What do you know about yourself? Your father told you your name. Your country preset your status. The world showed you your race. Society put you in your place. A stranger read your mind. Your lover undid your heart. Your superior told you your job. And the owners of your ear have pointed out to you your style.

In the midst of all this, you want something. But by the time you figure out what it is, you’ve probably become something else already. Your hopes you exchange for regret. Don’t be bitter. Could be worse. Might be better, if you laugh. Truth is, you have never stopped being yourself, the same person I always knew, through it all. We are now even as we were then, at our beginning. But do you remember?

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

From my collection of thoughts and short stories: THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING MORE.
amazon cover copy there is always something more 2015