HUMAN HEART

Santa and Satan are spelled with the same letters.
I just noticed it, please don’t crucify me.
Just know there’s a thin line between the two.
Sometimes when you think you’re looking out through a window, you’re actually looking at a mirror.

Saw this picture and liked it.
Something is buried in your heart and it could be anything. It’s probably everything.
Some pains will stay forever – well, probably not forever. Until you change and forgive and let go. Or until you die, I mean really die. Even when you forget, still you feel the pain and don’t know why. And then you remember – but you still don’t know why you took that first wrong step into the future.

But when you look at the serpent well, sometimes it seems as if it’s rising up to strike or writhing in treachery and deception. And sometimes it feels as if it’s begging for help and crying for forgiveness and looking for redemption. But some unsuspecting fool will pass by and think they’re looking at a heart. But you know better. You know you’re looking at a warning.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije

img_3577

BONDING

You know those walks we took
Down untarred streets and red
And brown was sand and book by book
We discussed all we’d read

You know those suns that set
As quietly we’d gaze
With hearts that knew to not forget
The orange tempered rays

You know those thoughts we thought
And knew not their origin
Yet marvelled side by side at what
Hearts bonded could be given

Nations will rise and fall
Sages will come and go
But Friendship will outlast them all
Through you, this I now know.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

A POET’S HEART

SOMETIMES THE night is so incredibly beautiful, I wish it would last a little longer tonight. Everywhere, everything is so soft. The night air is cool, soft. The vibration of the world, of my neighbourhood, has lost its harshness and it seems as though everybody loves everybody tonight. And I am glad again that I was born a poet.

I will live a poet and when I die, the world will say: a poet is gone. And if the world mourns, then I will be glad I disappointed the world and became a poet instead of a lawyer, engineer, banker, doctor, scientist, professor emeritus.

The poem that I wanted to write on the day I took the decision and forsook the world, I have now forgotten. Forgotten if I even wrote it at all or whether I kept it back in, bolted up in the hall of silence in my soul, where I continued to nourish it, and perhaps only wrote it another day in another poem, or maybe I’ve not even written it yet.

And yet, for its sake, and for the sake of a thousand and more poems yet unwritten, I disobeyed, ignored and disappointed the world, I dropped out of school, forsook a supposedly great destiny and became just a poet struggling to get by.

And yet I know, when I die they will say wistfully, with wet eyes: a poet is gone…

And they will feel it in their hearts. –

So poets are special afterall.

Sometimes the night is so beautiful and I wish it would last a little longer tonight, and I’m glad I was born a poet. Even when I’m dead and gone I’ll leave behind upon the sad earth a few lines that will forever move human hearts and they will nod thoughtfully and say: once upon a time, a poet was born… he lived on earth, he wrote poems and he died…
They will say this because poems don’t die and, in truth, poets too are immortal. None is so immortal as they that cook with letters, build with words and touch us not with fingers or lips, pictures or songs, as precious as these are, for who can live without love and kindness, music and art, but there is a special quality of perception that works wonders and magic within us when language, this device we so casually misuse and abuse everyday, is made into the container and preserver for generations to come of something that goes right into our core and makes us glad that the poet did not fail to write once upon a time.

And last night it was so beautiful. I was all alone and only once was I called upon, in the night, by the rain… it was at my window, poetic, heavenly, cold, sweet and temporary… it passed away, and took with it the last traces of the receding harmattan.

And I hoped the night would for once last a little longer last night, yet knew my hope was folly. Twice I slept anew, twice awoke, and the night was still with us and still so soft, and I thought of you, in the night.

And I slept again and when I opened my eyes the sun was shinning, the night is gone and I began to write this story of all that happens and happens never, but remembered ever by the works of the poetic spirit.

Birds are chirping. People are yapping outside my window too. Lagos is beautiful only at night when NEPA provides us with electricity and the fan or A/C is working, or else it needs must rain and the roof better not be leaking. But if you are lucky, you have a generator. Or a guitar. Best of all of course is the cooling cooling rain.

That is when Lagos is most beautiful. When the Water falls…

I thirst after you
Waterfall
I want to
Drink you up

I am
The quivering starving lake
Underneath the Souls of
Your feet

Step on me
I will carry you to your river
I am your horizon
You are my ocean.

The reading is taking place next Saturday. Who will be there? Nobody I know, naturally. Of course they will all think I know them and they know me. We will shake hands and call one another by our names and remember some incidents from the populous empty past.

Yet I know them not and they know me not. We are all strangers to one another. This is the city, where neighbours and friends and strangers are all strangers to one another, and the city is the strangest one of all amongst us, the laughing, mute, cunning, open, mocking, sorrowing city. Community of strangers and, maybe, one friend for a little while, once in a while. Baby, are you still my friend? Friendship dies in the night when no-one is looking and no-one can say later exactly what went wrong.

Why are people always staring? In the bus, on the streets, everywhere. They point their eyes at one and STARE! Walking with her, she said I’ve learnt to ignore them. Well, I haven’t.

I remember, many years ago, when I was a teenager, someone said to me: you’ve got to learn to either soften the look in your eyes or desist from looking too strongly into girl’s eyes. You confuse them. You make them think you’re in love with them. You invite them to fall in love with you. You seem to promise them eternal, warm, caring love with your eyes.

I smiled, slightly confused. But I knew she must know what she was saying. She was my cousin and knew my eyes and what lies ever behind them.

We went to the library, to check up on the progress and make final arrangements. I got there first. Everything, like almost always in Nigeria, is being rushed through in the last moments. The reading is on Saturday. Yesterday was Monday, full of freshly awakened poetry. Everybody full of new lines, composed in their hearts over the weekend, strutting upon the stage, playing their parts, artistically, as though it wasn’t all an act. Yesterday was Monday.

Monday, some say, is a slow day. Others say it is a fast day, hectic, with everything happening too fast for them to follow. It is, for some, a hard day, for others a dreamy one. Monday is an okay day, I guess. Afterall Monday is Sunday’s child. Beautiful, deep Sunday. Land of answers.

She looked charged full of energy, as always. We collected the requisite material, first from the library, then from the publisher, then picked up a part of the decoration and headed for the venue. We spoke of this and that along the way, but said more with silence and thought thoughts than with words, spoken words. We really are close, a closeness many people would not understand. They would think of other things, as usual. And miss the very point.

We separate along the way, and meet again at the sponsors’ and then return to the venue for the press conference.

Flow up and be free and be happy forever.

– che chidi chukwumerije.
from THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING MORE, by Che Chidi Chukwumerije

MAY SONG

The children come out to play
And all is happy and gay
In the month of May.

The farmers make their hay
In the shinning sun’s ray.

Hand in hand as they go their way
Young lovers whisper what they have to say
On their way to hear the new priest pray.

And following the song of the stock-bird jay
Gentle old couples of yesterday
Quietly remember their youth today.

The essentials will stay
When all else goes away.

This is the song in the heart of May.

– che chidi chukwumerije.

GREATNESS AND SMALLNESS

How great
Is the greatest man
If he cannot even carry a bucket of water
To his thirsty friend?
If he cannot even put a broom in his hand
And sweep the dustied driveway
With humility of heart?

How great
Is the greatest woman
If she cannot even say hello
To a person she deems to be a class lower?
If she cannot ignore the supposed mockery
Of soceity for the sake of a moment
Of truthfulness to herself?

How great is greatness
If it has no humility?

Even smallness
Is greater
Than such greatness.

– che chidi chukwumerije.

BECAUSE THE CROSS IS LOST

Never look too deep into another person’s eyes
Never follow far the trade another person plies
Never question hard the words another person says
Never study long the games another person plays

Never think a king has all it takes to be a king
Never think a singer always has a song to sing
Never think a warrior has a warrior-heart in him
Never think a woman has true purity within

Never expect that your friend considers you their friend
Never expect that your guard will guard you to the end
Never expect that your secrets will be safe with me
Never expect that you can honour your vows truly

Because, my brother, man has turned into a beast of late
Because, my sister, yesterday we wandered out a gate
Because, my dear friend, there’s a new colour surrounding us
Because, my friend, people of planet earth have lost the Cross.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije

THE HEART WILL GROW

When, blinding,
The sun’s rays, binding,
The sun’s gaze, finding its way
Through a window, minding
Your business for you, a dazzling hello
Like a friend’s caring
Like a friend’s sharing a heart
You shut tight your eyes tight
A moment –

When love won’t wane, won’t dim, won’t fall
When all you get is love, love, love
You bite back the tears of incomprehension
And open wide your soul –
What your eyes can’t bear, the heart can hold
The heart will grow, the heart will grow!

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

ROW YOUR BOAT

image

Do you see
Those two boats
On the river?
Two brothers
Will row, side by side
Into the sunset.

One will dock
On the golden banks
While the other
Will row on
And they will wave
Goodbye to each other.

This is the way
Of the world
Of love and loss
Of meeting and parting
Of friendship and memory
Of life and death.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

Picture:
My brother Kwame and I
University of Ibadan, Nigeria
1995