THOSE THOUGHTS DON’T DISAPPEAR

Those thoughts don’t disappear
They keep living somewhere
In you… in me… in someone far away
From here…

Those thoughts don’t disappear
They keep working somewhere
In your world… in my world… or in a far away world
You don’t see and you don’t hear…

Oh, those quiet thoughts
That you’re thinking
Somebody’s picking
Round and round it goes, nothing’s new
And nothing’s hidden and nothing’s lost
Reap the sower must

Those thoughts, they don’t just disappear
They keep on growing somewhere
And one day… when you least expect it…
Oh oh oh, they’re back again in your life
Oh oh oh, they’re back again with their maker.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

MY FRIENDS

My friends are the improbable people
The ones you wouldn’t expect
Who never visit or party with me
Yet always show me respect

Who hide in the faceless crowd
And put in a good word for me
Who demand of me not company
But that I walk the path before me

Who even when we quarrel
Still never will betray me
Who tell me my failings to my face
But keep my secrets safely

Because I do the same for them
It is the way of friendship
The friends you rarely see me with
Are the ones you shouldn’t mess with.

– 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.

BRAVE ONE

Your secrets
Give them power over you
When you lose your fear of your secrets
They lose their power over you

No-one is feared more
Than one who says yes I did it, so what?
You can break a warrior’s shell
But you cannot make the warrior fear you as well.

Breathe out, brave one, and live some more
Your weaknesses and your strengths are all you’ve got.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.

SURVIVAL

What don’t I know
About you is what
I silently ask myself
Each time you ask me
What I’m thinking
As I think about you

How many wars
Have you fought, won and lost?
How many lives have
You taken, how many given?
How much hunger did you endure
To nourish so much anger?

How many loves have pierced you?
How many wounds are
Dripping a trail back to
How many acts of survival?
All I see is the smile in your eyes
And the hope in your heart.

– 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.

SECRETS AND MATURITY

The trauma of her upbringing
Shook her soul awake
Like a rough wind in a sudden spring
Rids bare branches of snow and brake

With a shock, with a shock, she thawed stood
A girl with the wisdom of womanhood.

What secrets does she hide inside
Behind her smile, behind her mask?
Her classmates many times have tried
But somehow just not dared to ask.

Whatever their sorrows, she holds their hands
And all can sense that she understands.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.