AN EARLY RECOGNITION ON RESISTANCE

When I was a little boy – 6 or 7 – I watched a film on the Holocaust, in the sitting room with my parents. One question nagged at me then: why did they follow so quietly and obediently to their own deaths? Why did they not resist?

That question has since then detached itself from that film and that story and has followed me everywhere in life to this day, in many forms and contexts. In truth it was not a question – it was a Resolution.

Always resist.

Never give up, unjustly, what belongs to you, and is valuable to you, without a fight. It’s either you win, or you lose with pride.

All that’s left is for you to decide what your valuable possessions are.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije

YOUNG AND OLD

Suffer not the young with belief in their ignorance
Thinking only the old can with wisdom be soaked
Watch: and see kids give to hidden truths substance
For what is a child but an adult cloaked

And seek not in the old for the seat of all staleness
Sure that, with youth passed, all vigour is lost
Look past the frame at a quicker, higher freshness
For what is an adult but a child unveiled

The child is the parent of the out-born adult
The adult is the parent of the in-born child
For up looks the earthling and up looks the moonling
And each sees nothing but the other in the skies

So suffer not greatness with the label of complexity
Nor suffer ordinariness with the verdict of the rejected
For where the great and the ordinary meet, simplicity
Is born, adult and child unite, and Perfection is reflected.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

CONSTANT CRY

He lived with us very briefly
When I was still a child
My father’s elder brother

When we prayed before our meals
And made the sign of the cross
He teased us, Protestants, about having gone Catholic

When he shaved in the morning
He explained to us the mysterious science
Of shaving stick, cream and blade

Other than that he didn’t talk much
A quiet quiet quiet man
Hurt no-one, thoughtfully kept to himself

Very different from the others
Never preached, never argued, never moralised
Never scolded, just silently observed

Three decades have passed
Rarely our paths ever crossed again
A short Hello each time, nothing more

I’m still trying to understand
The pain I’ve felt all morning today
Since I heard of Uncle Joe’s death

It doesn’t make sense
Someone I hardly knew
Just a few childhood memories

Just a few memories
That remind me of a time
Rich in memories and childlike insight

And a few memories
Of a quiet adult who never found a voice
In a culture of big egos, loud voices and aggression

His silence was louder, calmer, more lasting
So deep that only his death
Would open the deep wound of memory in my heart

His middle name was Ahamefula
Meaning “May my name not get lost” –
No, dear Uncle, it will not.

In loving memory of
Joseph Ahamefula Chukwumerije
1935 – 2013

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

THE WAY OF THE DRAGON

What was strange to others, was ordinary to us. When other kids went for children’s parties, we went for training and competition in martial arts and swimming. That was our father’s way – and it was the only way we knew; and looking back now, God bless that man. He was just unapologetically himself. He gave us a different world in which to live because it was the only world he was convinced of. A world of discipline, simplicity, hardwork, scholarship, modesty, frugality, brotherhood and fraternity. This is the root of our bond today – my siblings and I.

The most horrible thing that can happen to any person, to any family, to any society, is to think that there is something wrong in being different. For, then, there will neither be change nor progress. Just be yourself, even if it is different – nay, especially if it is different. Earth thrives on diversity. And diversity is only guaranteed when each person has the courage to be himself/herself. Thus, courage is the protector of our future as a human species. People, BE BRAVE.

Our father wanted to strengthen bravery in us, so he threw us into the martial arts, where you are alone in the ring and only your own fearlessness will see you through – and, win or lose, will cement your character and your legend. Just fight fearlessly. That was his message: Let fearlessness be your blood; that is all I ask of you. Win or lose, please my child just fight to the end.

When we turned it against him, though, it caught him unawares. Maybe he unconsciously hoped everybody was burning to be a public servant, or a socialist, and things like that, like himself. But I just wanted to be myself, to answer the call of life in another context – and he had taught me the courage to do so. But myself, at least in that period, was everything different from what he wanted for and from me. The irony and riddle of doing what is expected of you and thereby going against what is expected of you. The split was unpreventable, unavoidable and – for many decades it seemed – unhealable.

But Time, that great Mender, was Merciful. And Love pushed its stubborn head through and I will forever be grateful for the three beautiful years we had until he died.

Well, what on earth is this life all about? Who really knows? Is it politics? – Not everyone can be a politician. Is it the professions? – Not everyone can pursue one. Is it family? – Not everyone will make one. Is it ideology? – Not everyone will feel inclined to one. So what on earth is this earthlife all about?

In the end, it is simply whatever is in you that has to come out of you. And all you need to do, to make that happen, is simply to BE BRAVE. Brave enough to follow your innermost voice, no matter what!

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

PLAYGROUNDS

There is evil in the air
It chokes your breath in unexpected places
A playground, full of hard adult eyes
Watching, and avoiding, each other
While playing children loudly try
To shout the intruders merrily out –

One by one each parent
Picks up its child and hurries home
Away from this place
And no-one can say really why
The world became like this
Or when. It’s the future, and we’re there.

CHE CHIDI CHUKWUMERIJE.

SHE WAS A WEIGHTLIFTER

She was a weightlifter
They found it unseemly
But she was a shape-shifter
Their disdain was a lighter burden to bear
Than her fate.

Slum lady. Carried mud and bricks
Bore stones and sticks
Firewood, rusted water in weeping baskets
The stretch marks of impatient thirsty men
Bunched up her muscles.

Owned by all, never owned a thing
The madams’ slaps, the masters’ secrets
Nothing was too heavy a load to carry
To snatch, to clean, to jerk off –
Each jerk. Very ordinary.

Today, when she steps out unto the mat
Under the lights, there you see
Sunset in one eye, sunrise in the other –
It’s not heavy weights she’s lifting
She’s carrying hope.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

BABY

He’s lying in the midst of his toys
And what language do they speak
To one another? They seem to understand
Each other. It’s his smile
That makes me strong.

I’m glad he can’t interpret my frown
When I look out of the window
Into the world, into the times –
Yes I’m glad for him
Let him store happiness in his heart today.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije..

THE SILENT THINGS IN OUR HEARTS

THEY HAD always had an eye for each other, ever since their primary school days. Naturally, neither had ever given even a hint of this to the other, but each had carried his and her own slumbering love silently, unspoken, unsubstantiated, deep within each heart.

The primary school days ended and they separated, each going to a different secondary school. Six years of separation and in that time neither had any idea where the other was. And yet their love continued to grow, to wax soft and strong, tender and untouched and sacred, in those recesses of the heart of which even the mind itself is barely conscious.

Every once in a while she would float into his thoughts and he would remember and vaguely yearn and long… then forget again and continue, like other youths, with the demanding task of growing up – until the next bout of longing.

Nor did she ever completely forget him either. And being genuinely of the deep female gender, her ability to call forth his memory in her heart was even stronger. Often she wandered where he was; was he still alive? Was he fine? Was he in love? Would they ever meet again? Would he recognize her? Did he ever think of her? There was no reason why he should; he had hardly ever looked at her in their childhood days. Foolish me, she would think, dreaming hopelessly…

Thus did the years pass by.

He grew up into a young man at the tail end of his youth, matured by love affairs, ideological battles and heartbreaks come and gone.

She grew up similarwise, and if he had loved deeply, she had loved twice as deeply… and if he had believed blindly, she had believed even more fiercely… and if his heart had been broken, hers had been dispersed, ground, into the winds.

Thus did they suddenly meet again in the university.

Who recognized whom? Who was more – or less – eager to let show the fact that silent, unconfessed love had long smouldered in fiercely hidden embers deep within the heart?

Often he would visit her in her room in the evenings and they would crack many jokes, and slowly came they to also like one another. But if he was seeking company with which to cure his loneliness and erase the memories and after-effects of earlier heartbreaks, then she for similar reasons was reluctant to unite again too quickly with a member of the male gender. It was a subtle cat and mouse affair, nothing ever actually spoken, yet both being fully aware of exactly what was going on – and while these things were happening silently in their hearts, outwardly they continued to crack their friendly jokes.

But tensions build and pressures mount and something somewhere must always finally give. And, for hesitation, the tide untaken at the flood, it sort of wilted and softly broke, the potential lost its momentum, the attraction lost its orientation, and it died between the two of them. Gradually they began to see less and less of one another…

One year then passed, during which their paths did not once cross.

She had meanwhile exchanged her room for a new one which she shared with another female student with whom she had quickly become good friends. But never had she voiced it to anyone, not even to her good friend and roommate, that there was someone whom she silently, painfully, loved. –

And no-one could have prepared her for the shock she got when she one evening opened the door of her room upon a visitor’s knock and saw him standing there. They stared at one another with bewildered looks of surprise on their faces.

And then, from behind her, from deeper inside the room they shared, the happy voice of her room mate called out loudly, brightly:

“Oh, Zubi – hi! Finally… you’ve come.” And, bounding forward with barely suppressed excitement, her roommate turned to her of whom this story is about and, taking Zubi’s hand, said:

“Efe, meet the guy I’ve been telling you about… and, Zubi, meet Efe, my room mate.” –

With pain almost impossible to bear, Efe watched her roommate Awa hug, and be hugged, tightly, by him, Zubi, the silent owner of her heart.

Over the next couple of weeks it became clear to her that Zubi and Awa were in a serious relationship and loved each other deeply.

Nor was there anything for her room mate Awa to know or ever suspect in connection with the two childhood friends, Zubi and Efe, for there was nothing that existed or ever had existed between them, was there?

They were just , as always, two casual acquaintants who happened to have known each other in their childhood days and who, today, whenever they met in Awa and Efe’s room would, as usual, aye, as they had always done, simply crack light friendly jokes with one another.

And if they felt anything else, anything deeper, for one another perhaps, then it spoke not, nor loudly, but remained, silent, as it continued to reside in the deep quiet places within their hearts.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

REMEMBER YOUR DREAM

You’ll never be a better man
Than the boy you once were
So, when you lose your way
The answer you seek is not far:
Remember the dream you once had
Between child- and adulthood
When the boy you once were
Had just awakened from his dream
And the man you now are
Had not yet forgotten that dream.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.