THERE WERE once seven brothers from Sokoto who were in everything contrary. They were of contrary mentality and of contrary belief. And, returning from worship on a Sunday morning to find their family home raided and burned yet again in another stab of religious violence, they finally yielded to the plea of their dying father to leave him there in their ancestral land and move south to a place where they could build safe lives for themselves.

Being contrary as they were, the brothers decided that this was the best opportunity to actualise a dream they had always borne deep within their hearts. They decided to find the sea. This was a monumental decision, for the desire to get to the sea had long been the professed desire of many a soul from their corner of the country, for all kinds of different reasons. Now they decided to find it and get to understand this mysterious pull. They knelt down solemnly before the dying Namah, their father, he blessed them with the sign of the cross; and then after one last tearful embrace with Awabe, their gracefully ageing mother, the seven brothers from Sokoto left the large rocky hills and wide arid plains of their homeland behind them as they set off southwards to find the sea.


They journeyed for a long time. They passed towns and villages and towns again, then came one evening to a village which at first seemed to be empty. Curiously they made their way towards the village square where they found the entire community sitting around a storyteller. The storyteller was an old man who in his youth had travlled far and wide, seen many wonders, survived many adventures and accumulated many memories in his soul. Having arrived, in his travels, the twilight of his life, he parted generously with these memories, cloaked as stories, sharing them with grateful listeners who repaid him with money, clothes, food and, most precious of all, smiles. His old age thus became too a beautiful experience of which he would one day tell, cloaked as a new story, in a new life when he came back to the earth.

The seven brothers from Sokoto were welcomed into the audience and listened to what the storyteller had to say today. Was it providence? For upon this special evening, the old storyteller was telling the village folk about the sea, the immeasurably great sea at the other end of this large country. Magnificent was the sea, he said, and powerful, surging like the roaring of angry giants.

The diminutive, bald-headed chronicler sighed, looked far into the distance of his memory, and added in his surprisingly strong voice that the sea was close to indescribable. It needed to be seen in order to be understood, believed. It was vast, vaster then minds could grasp, and at its outermost boundary, far beyond reach, shone the line of God’s light.

Nor was the sea empty. It was bordered by strange hollow stones called sea-shells and populated with creatures of all types and sizes – he tried to describe fish ten times as large as human beings, and multiple-limbed creatures, and beastial hunters more ferocious than lions. The pictures he painted were gripping. In colourful language he tried and tried to describe the character of the sea, in perpetual motion, never still, water coming and going forever, rocking back and forth.

The listeners were mesmerized. What kind of water was this?

But that was not all, said the wizened old storyteller; there was more, much more to be said about the sea, but it was getting late… he would continue the story the next day. With great effort he stood up, his folded skin, stubborn like old brown leather, reluctantly stretching into its imitation of an upright form. The people were disappointed, they groaned, yet nobody complained. They all loved the storyteller and followed him at his pace.

The seven brothers prepared to travel on before the sun set completely. But Kerma, the first of the seven, was suddenly seized by a contrary ambition. He was a student, a learner, by nature, and had been gripped the deepest by the words of the storyteller. Solemnly Kerma announced to his brothers that he was going to stay here with these villagers and listen to this glorious storyteller who unveiled the sea to him. He could not understand why the others were travelling on. Did they not know that here they would realise their longing of finding the sea?

Nothing that any of the others told him could make him change his mind. Bluntly Kerma blocked his ears to their words and maintained his stand: Here he had found the sea! –


So his six brothers turned their eyes to the road and sojourned on, hungry for the sea, their appetite whetted by the storyteller’s tales. Further south they travelled, seeking the sea. They crossed boundaries and hills and then one day they came upon a mighty river, the grand River Niger!

How were they going to cross it? They thought and searched, but saw neither boat nor bridge. They then set off down the banks of the river until finally they saw some of the inhabitants of a rustic little village. To them they revealed their mission, explained their present predicament – they did not know how to cross the river.

There were indeed a few bridges across the river, answered the very curious villagers, but they were few and far between. The next one was further yet down the river. Together they all walked along until they got there. As they were then about to cross the bridge, taking their departure from the helpful villagers, whom they had however also paid for their services, one of the villagers mentioned in passing that this river actually eventually flowed into the sea.

Into the sea?, cried Bandi, the second of the seven brothers.

Yes, the villagers said.

Bandi was a true adventurer by nature. Having understood that this river flowed into the sea, he made the decision to buy a boat and navigate the flowing river to its end, the sea. This he revealed to his brothers.

They reflected upon his words individually. His ambition made sense. And yet…! – they had set off to find the sea, and by walking south they would arrive at the sea. This here was a river, not the sea; nor were they trained mariners.

They bade their restless brother farewell and continued towards the sea. Let Bandi be content in his belief that in the river lay his possibility of finding the sea. Every man has his free will, let each man be free. –


The remaining five brothers journeyed on. On their path they met many a city, each full of attractions new and interesting. Unable to resist the temptation to explore, they lingered a little in each new place before they moved on. It was not long before they, upon entering a certain city, found themselves in a marketplace of arts and craft. There they came across a group of people admiring a giant-sized painting… a painting of the sea!

The five brothers halted in wonder and gazed at this beautiful painting of such extraordinary beauty. This was their first time of ever seeing the sea, albeit a painting of it. The sight stunned them! It seemed as if they were standing at a mighty window, gazing out into eternity. And as they stared at it in awe and wonder, the third of the seven made his own decision.

Azeka was a quiet person, he did not talk much. Opening his wallet, he extracted the exact amount of money demanded and bought the masterpiece. When his brothers asked him what he was doing, he told them that with this painting his ambition had been fulfilled. How glorious… could they not see it?

They could not. Silently shaking his head to himself, Azeka walked away from them to build a quiet house for himself away from crowds, and hung his painting on the wall where he could see it everyday. Now he would forever have the sea with him. For the quiet, introspective Azeka, the painting was the sea. –


Four brothers were left. They progressed on, further south. The vegetation, climate, landscape changed as they plunged deeper into the tropics.

Eventually they got into the city that was the gateway to the last western stretch of the south, leading to the sea. Soon they came upon a place they learned to be something called a club. The name plastered upon it was what arrested their attention – “Big Sea!”

They stopped, their eyes thoughtful, and looked in. It was a recreational establishment with a very large swimming pool in which many children and adults swam and made a lot of noise. The most impressive thing about this water was that, for some strange reason, it was actually in motion, rocking back and forth the whole time, like the storyteller had once described. How was that possible? Was this the sea?

For the first time, all four brothers were confused. Then the fourth, Diri, a somewhat physically fragile, but fun-loving and sociable character, wearied from the long march across the land, suddenly made his decision. Yes, this was the sea!

Buying a pair of swim trunks, Diri happily jumped in and joined the people playing in the pool. –


The last three brothers, however, remained doubtful that this was the sea, however much like the sea it looked, and silently they journeyed on… until they arrived at a land of which they soon learned that it bordered the sea, and which called itself a land of aquatic spleandour.

It was not long and they began to intermittently happen upon strange hollow stones which they were told were sea shells. Lots and lots of them. And laughing triumphantly, Senchi, the fifth of the seven, a brilliant-minded man full of scientific curiousity, picked up the shells and began to study them, declaring:

“Look! I have found the sea.”

Without saying any further word to his brothers, he walked away, picking shells.

Had Senchi gone mad? –


His brothers could not wait to find out… the sea was too close. They left him and hurried ahead.

Now there were only two left. They walked and walked, walked and walked, tirelessly. Finally they got to the edge of the mainland and gazed across the lagoon at the island. Or rather, the seventh gazed across the lagoon. The sixth only gazed at the lagoon itself..

Chonoko’s senses swirled. Joy erupted within him like a volcano. He could smell the ocean very strongly… he saw shells everywhere… he felt the soft sand… marveled at the sight of the lagoon, water everywhere… and he began to weep with deep emotion. Were these not the promised signs and wonders?

After all these months of traveling, of seeking and persevering in faithfulness, at last he had found the sea. Gratitude welled up in him, gratitude to God. Chonoko, a deeply religious fellow, sank down to his knees and in a trembling whisper uttered words and songs of praise to his faithful God. Then, full of a mixture of trepidation and excitement, he dived into the lagoon and happily began to splash about. –


But the seventh… he looked at his brother for a long time and he looked at the lagoon. Everything seemed so right. Then his eyes arose and he gazed in quiet curiousity at the little bridge that stretched over the lagoon, from the mainland to the island…

What if?…

And quietly Peni began to climb the bridge, and he walked across the lagoon and stepped upon the island.

Gradually he progressed.

As Peni moved forward, his thoughts travelled backwards in time, back to his arid northern homeland of few trees and fewer rivers, the thick bushes that crowded around his father’s household well. He remembered the mixed emotions with which the seven brothers impressed upon their memory for the last time the old faces of Namah and Awabe, their father and mother, as they took their leave. He remembered their determination to find the sea, the cameraderie which had united them as they set forth upon their way. And he remembered his six brothers who were now no longer with him:

The first, the knowledge-hungry Kerma, who joined the listeners of a story…; the second, the wild and adventurous Bandi, who began to sail a river…; the third, the dreamy introspective Azeka, who bought a man-made painting…; the fourth, the fun-loving Diri, who joined sunny pool-swimmers…; the fifth, the brilliant man of science Senchi, who started picking shells…; the sixth, the gratefully believing and religious Chonoko, who dived into a lagoon… –

And he the seventh, Peni, he knew there was, there must be, something more. So he kept on walking. He stopped not, looked neither left nor right, just kept on walking… walking… walking…

On and on.

First he heard the roar… and then, rounding a corner as he emerged from inner streets… suddenly… he saw the Sea.

For a long time Peni stood still, breathless, and looked at it. The sea was glorious, more magnificent in real life than any story or painting could depict, grander than any river or pool.

He breathed out and at once the shock of the attainment of his goal, of the encountering of the sheer size of it, fell away. He inhaled the rough sea wind sharply and let it out again as a cry of joy that pierced crudely the loud shout of the ocean. A silent, wordless prayer of gratitude fortified his heart.

And then Peni put his quivering little boat upon the sea and set sail towards the Horizon.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.
From my book, available on all Amazon stores: THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING MORE.
amazon cover copy there is always something more 2015


ONCE UPON a time, a man woke up and gazed upon a thought hanging in the air above his bed.

And the longer he looked at it, the more it confused him. And when he looked away, he forgot it.

Through the day it disturbed him, a memory he was trying to remember, but could not remember what he was trying to remember. But this he remembered: I am not who I think I am.

So this thought – I am not who I think I am – stayed with him for many hours, each as long as a decade, as he tried to fathom its meaning. Verily, it became his very name. His very aim.

Many hearts. In which one lies the answer? So he broke them open and left them behind, ravaged, the sought unfound.

He is written about in the books of men. His character has been copied and reproduced in stories down the ages – the raging, ravaging beast that consumes hearts and upturns nations. In truth he is a tireless seeker, and always giving. In shrouded truth. Love and peace cloaked in battle and tears. Shredding hearts to pieces with merciless thirst. How many times has he altered history, chasing the mirror? Thus has his troublesome picture been painted before him repeatedly. Thus too does he see himself, hours later.

But all I want is to find the key. Burning Flame, you are not who you THINK you are. This thought nags in him. Remember.

I am a warrior. No.

I am a lover. No.

You are a bridge. Just be.

Just be.

There! There it is again, the morning-thought, hanging once more in the sky above his mind. Hard to grasp:

Just be.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.


EARLY IN the morning Anosike practised the minor chords on his box guitar, his best friend, whom he called Freedom. His soul was full and empty. He gripped the strings with his heart and gradually played, first arpeggio-style, then a-strumming, slowly changing from one chord to the other, one key to the higher.

Each time he caused the strings to vibrate, each time there arose sound from the instrument, a breath of calm seemed to sink into his soul. He did not want to stop.

By the time it began to grow bright outside, he had gone through only a third of the exercise. With a sigh he dropped Freedom lightly on his sparse, rough bed and arose.

For a few moments he remained motionless on his feet. His chest rose and fell, lightly. A look of gentle, dreamy reflection was trapped upon his face, a hard, rocky face with full lips and a strong, pugnacious forehead. He had an angular skull, radiated an intense and awkward, almost overpowering crude handsomeness. His observant grey-black eyes were turned inwards, his profile was angled towards the window.

It dawned on him again, like it did every once in a while, that destiny is like a skin. It wrapped itself around you even ere you arrived. It encapsules, encloses, protects and undermines you. Captures you. Teleguides you. It limits you. It links you to your world. It is hard to shed and hard to change. It lasts a lifetime.

Once again a wry smile was his reaction to this ever-recurring moment of recognition. A wry and sad smile. Yet it was a smile of amusement. No wonder snakes shed their skin. His humour was sometimes dark, sometimes light. He suddenly remembered that he had written something into his diary sometime in the middle of the night, something about train tracks, cocoon and the birth of butterfly. He remembered the feeling of the struggling butterfly. He reached across his bed, lifted his diary, opened it and read it again. Everything came back, the nocturnal stab of clarity that subsequent sleep had temporarily blotted out. It was the same recognition that had just come back again in the skin analogy. Now he felt calmer.
He emerged, composed, out of his reflection and went into the bathroom. A normal prelude to another abnormal day.

This was how it always started – with music, unfinished, and a startling recognition that would fill him all day long. This was the cycle of his life.

An awakening musician.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.


THE BEGINNING is the end.

Dawn is just about to break, I awaken from a deep sleep. The sleep was dark, I dreamt of demons and devils running after me. My life is at its lowest ebb. I am unhappy.

Tired I rise to my feet, slowly limp out of my hut, into the little dirt track dragging its way across the outer hamlets far away from the nearest, secluded, village. Dim twilight prevails. My head hangs and the story of my life briefly replays itself in my memory.

I remember the child, carefree, sanguine. The happy family that was its home, the humble abode that housed their love. The carefreeness.

I remember standing up like an impatient tree into manhood, searching for the sun, but my crown got lost in the dizzying clouds, pregnant with temptation. Then came the fall.

It was not the bacteria that killed my wife, it was the aching heart that closed its eyes to me, full of regret and disappointment. It was not the whispers of untrue friends that led my children astray, but the missing guidance of a self-absorbed father. It was not my friends who abandoned me, but I who abandoned what I could have been. Even my foes deserted me, they have nothing left to shame. Twenty years later, I emerge, destitute, beggar, soulless, lifeless, into the cool dark morning before the sun…

Dawn is for new beginnings. The hour before dawn shall be my coronation. Death. And should dawn come before, then let me start anew on the other side. These are my thoughts this morning, dark fruits of that dream. For once in your life be a man, and put an end to it.

Wearily I return into the hut. For some reason I wait until I smell it. Then I re-emerge into the slow brightening twilight of fore-dawn, a dagger in my hand. Why exactly have I come out into the open to do it? I do not know. Maybe simply because I want to die facing the sky, the big all-seeing eye.
Poised and ready, one last time scenes from my life rush like a highspeed freight-train across the charred landscape of my memory, then I raise my blade, firm, gripping with both hands… point it towards my innards… I close my eyes.

No last prayer awakens in my soul. No final thought. No closure. All I want is the deep dark plunge, the sharp pain, the flowing warmth of exit, the blurred eternity of death.

That moment when you are about to say goodbye to a familiar place, when you stand on the hilltop like Lot’s wife, knowing you should hurry on, don’t look back, yet unable to resist the last goodbye. It is the moment of betrayal that brings about the reversal of fortune. How long did I perch on the brink of that moment, looking at the end of my life?
Everything drew itself into one spot, like a raincloud, and suddenly it was time. I bend my knees, steel myself for the hard, fast plunge into the lightless waterfall. Did I breathe in or out? …

Dimly, as though from far away, I hear footsteps.


Footsteps? I have never heard footsteps down in these deserted outlands, at such an early hour, before. Am I sure? Have I heard right? I wish to set off on my journey into solitude… in solitude.

I listen. For a long time I hear nothing. My resolve is not brittle, it turns around again and refocuses on its way. But, softly, I hear them again – slightly louder. Footsteps. Yes. Frozen like a statue, I manage to blink a few moments later when he appears… an old man with a walking rod, his head completely bald. I recognise him. It is the hermit.

My knees are still bent, the cold steel still points to me, the sacrifice, when he reaches me. He stops. He looks at me in the grey twilight. I see a look of surprise grow on his face.

Son?…” he asks, starled. “What are you doing?”

I look into his eyes. Within me something akin to emotion refuses to stir. Serenely I say:

“I am about to kill myself, oh hermit…”

“To kill yourself?” I hear the surprise also in his voice. “But why”

Serenely still, I reply:

“My life is empty, meaningless. I have lost it all, wife, family, everything. Friends, money, life’s work. With them went my will to work too. Now I too must depart.”

It is an odd feeling to speak into eyes that steadily grow softer the harder your words become. It is quite distracting, because you begin to wonder why.
“My son, are you satisfied with this decision?”

“Indeed, oh hermit, I am.”

He smiled, as though he were the keeper of a secret.

“But child – “

“You have lived twice the length of my life, it is true, yet call me not child, for I do know what I am doing.”

“It is not knowing what you are doing that matters, my son, but knowing why you are doing what you are doing.”

Thought is the enemy of blind resolve. Why is he talking to me? Obligating me to a logical answer. A trap. I cannot kill myself until I free myself from it. For conviction, standing on irrefutable clarity, is my justifier. This proud I am, and he knows it. I see it in his amused eyes watching mine, challenging me to convince him too. I mustn’t, I know. But it seems to me the last duty I owe a failed life. I want to die proudly. Nobody had ever asked me this question. I want to find the answer to it before I go, not for him but for me, that I may go in peace. Everybody might plain know what he is doing – but the deeper reason? Did I not know it?

I am a bit irritated by the fact that no clear-cut answer jumps out of my observant soul immediately, and that I have to think it out. It makes me a bit uneasy, such a simple statement.

My arms lower under the weight of thought, I raise them up again, reposition the blade. I wish I had not done that, for he notices everything, down to my thoughts and the movement in my heart. I can see it in his curious eyes.
“But I know very well why I am doing what I am doing, oh hermit.”

“Why, child?”

“I have already said it all to you, but I will flesh it out now, father. You see, I had a beautiful childhood, a quiet youth, the journey of manhood began well. I married a beautiful woman. I had no reason to stray from the path. But I did. In the beginning I had life, now I have lifelessness. I have heard that the beginning is the end, but not in my life. My life ends in nothing. My beloved wife is dead, she died from the inner loneliness and pain into which I thrust her. My sons and daughters are monsters and thieves. My people have ostracized me, my friends deserted me, my wealth squandered, my fame evaporated.

“Even enemies… Hermit, do you know what it means when enemies no longer concern themselves with one? That is the ultimate mark of meaninglessness.”
“Don’t you think you can start all over again?” asks the hermit tenderly. “Start afresh? Pick up the threads? Build anew?” His tone, though tender, is conversational, as if we were talking about the weather.

I shake my head, I’m not sure if wearily or angrily.

“No, hermit, there are no threads to pick up. There is no foundation upon which to build anew. I must go. These reasons suffice.”

“Life is a gift, my friend,” says the hermit. “Measure it not according to what happens on the outside, but by the forces within your soul. And there is so much life in your soul, my son. This I see.”

His words are getting too close to home. I am trying to block them out, but it is not easy. They are penetrant, threatening to inject into me a dose of reflection. Seeds of new life, warmth, vitality. But I don’t want the pain that comes with the warmth. I don’t want the exertion that the vitality demands. I don’t want the new thoughts of reflection that a fresh lease of life would bring. I am afraid.

Afraid. Surprised I gaze at this recognition, almost amused, wondering how and why I missed that point all along. Quickly following upon the trite amusement is seriousness, as I feel my consciousness slip into the pool of fear in which my subconscious has been drowning all along. I am afraid. I had all these things before and I wandered away, into the darkness. No. Let me alone. I don’t want life that will remind me of my sins, and demand that I atone, and put me back on the crossroad where I fell before, demanding that I choose again.

Oh, no. I fear.

Leave me alone in my pitifulness and self-pity. Leave me in my dejection and self-pity. I don’t want responsibility. My inner life is weak. I don’t want to take another shot at life. I might lose again. I want to die.

Like bolts of lightning, flashes of clarity, these thoughts, these intuitive perceptions surge through me, shaking me. Goodbye and welcome. He is smiling, the hermit! I have to face him one last time.

“Let me be, Hermit,” I breathe out wearily. “I am a nobody, a nothing, life has passed me by, I am finished. Depression and despair are all I have now. The deep clear confusion of seeing no way forward. “

“If you see no way forward, then stand still… but don’t plunge into the abyss.”

I shake my head. “I am tired… of life.”

Now he shakes his head. “I would put it differently. I would say that you have merely decided that you are tired of life. Is that not so?”

For a moment our eyes remained locked on each other. Then, without warning, he turns back to the road and begins to walk away, continuing on his journey. The sun is pushing up from the valley, the hermit reaches the hill’s zenith and then quickly begins to descend. I watch him disappear, the sun appear.

Now I look down at the knife which I still hold in my hand. Curious, but I’m suddenly wandering why exactly I picked it up in the first place.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije..


I SOUGHT MY daughter whom I had not seen for hours now. It was already at the start of that unfailing daily event called Sunset. I sat down outside the little bungalow; well, I call it a bungalow, I’m sure there are some who’ll call it a hut. I was happy, but a certain restlessness stirred in my soul. Maybe she was playing in the woods downhill; I could imagine her admiring and memorizing the shapes and colours of all the wild flowers and little insects in the bushes, her enduring passion. She would soon be back.

The sun, setting, was beautiful. I saw him playing with the clouds lazily travelling by. The wind tickled the whispering grasses, and I was alone.

I liked this new bungalow of mine, perched on this hilltop, giving me a true view of the entire countryside, the village, and those ancient forbidden caves in the distance of which all kinds of impossible tales are still told even until today; yes, this hilltop and this bungalow up here had a strong hold on me, unlike the old hut further down in the valley where I had been born, where I had grown up.

I missed my wife and longed for her return. She had travelled a hundred kilometers away to care for her sick mother for a few days, leaving our daughter and me alone until she would return.

My mind slipped to my childhood back in the old hut. To my brothers and sisters, my parents and old friends. Everybody was gone now. The old ones had died. The young ones had grown up and moved away. Only I had remained here on these hilly south-eastern plains. Now I lived with my wife and daughter in a new bungalow, well to be honest, a big hut really, on a hill, not far from the old one, the last keeper of our culture. For some reason, my heart just could not detach from these environs. Born freely to farm my village lands, I did just that everyday, walking down into the village, then beyond it, to our ancestral farmlands. This week had been a quiet week, though, as I stayed at home with my daughter and waited for my wife to return from her mother.

It started to grow dark. My thoughts came back to the present. I began to worry. Where was my daughter?

Then she was there…

I saw dimly her fragile lithe form slowly mounting the gentle slope, a small basket clutched to her side. Normally she ran, hopped and skipped. I hoped she was not feeling ill.

I let her come to me. I heard her footsteps. Then I saw her face – drawn… her eyes wide, starring… – something was wrong.

“Neanya!” I gasped, springing up.

She walked on straight towards me, her widened eyes never leaving mine, as though searching for answers, a hold, something. What? And then suddenly, a few paces away from me, she abruptly stopped. I walked quickly up to her, bent down, held her; just eight years old; she stood stiffly; her eyes were white.

“Neanya,” I whispered, “What’s wrong? Did something happen? What happened? Tell me!”

She took a deep breath, swallowed. Still these questioning eyes gripping mine. An uneasy apprehension began to grow within me. With a quick glance I briefly scanned the declining grassland behind her; saw nothing, nobody.

“Neanya…” I began again. Her lips parted.

She spoke. A whisper:

“I saw… a… strange man – ”

“Who? Where?

“Down the hill, near the old hut, behind the forest… on that other path that leads to the farmlands…”

“What were you looking for there? I thought you were on the edge of the forest.”

“After playing with the flowers in the forest, I went to the other side, to the giant ụdara tree, I was hoping to pick some ripe and fallen ụdara berries… for you.”

I looked into her basket, expecting it to be empty. It was full of ụdara. I stretched out my hands, one reaching for the basket, the other her shoulder. She veered away, but remained standing where she was, her basket of wild berries still pressed against her body.


“And what happened?

“He was very sad, father. He was crying.”

“A strange man? Crying? Where?”

“By the woods, downhill, near the old hut… he was not an old man… he was crying…”

Her answers came in phrases. Her eyes still gripped mine. Something had happened. But what?

“So I held his hand – ”

“You what? Neanya! Who was he? What did he do to you?”
But she simply continued as though I had not interrupted her.

“ – and asked him why he was crying. He looked at me, father, and he was sad. And then… he smiled a little. He said… he said…”

“What did he say?”

“He said that I looked familiar – ”

“And have you seen him before?”

For the first time the starry look in Neanya’s eyes dispersed somewhat. I could see she was thinking. Eight years old; what was she thinking about?

“I don’t know, father… but he looked very familiar too – ”

All at once I felt very uncomfortable, psychically and physically, as if I was subject to a strange, invisible pressure. My throat went dry. I swallowed, took a deep breath and said slowly to my daughter:

“Now Neanya, just tell me everything! What happened? What did this stranger tell you?”

Standing as though rooted to the spot, my daughter looked at me for a few seconds with that thoughtful, questioning glow in her eyes again, and then, after what seemed like a moment of consideration, nodded and slowly began to speak.

“He said he was trapped there, that he could not move on… that’s what he said… because, he said, he said that he had been torn by guilt, he had…” She paused a while, breathe deeply once, then continued. “He had… killed himself when he was on earth, that’s what he said, that he rejected the gift of earthlife God gave him…” She paused, took another deep breath, quietly exhaled. She seemed to be thinking, yet for a second I almost had the impression… that she was listening.

Then, with a sigh, and a slight nod, she continued:

“And… and he said that amongst other things he did not stay to take care of his only child… and that now he is torn by even greater guilt… that’s exactly what he said, father… – he said he wants me to go to his child today, right away, Father, to tell his child that… that…,” she choked, stopped.

What?” I whispered. Was this a dream? Had the imaginative powers of her mind gone too far?

“He told me to go to his child – ”

I shook my head and held Neanya’s shoulders.

“Ssssh. Sssshh. Ssssshhh. You’ve had a bad day-dream, that’s – ”

“He even told me his child’s name, father, and where I could go to find him this evening,” Neanya whispered, interrupting me gently and raising her eyes to the sky. Her eyes were suddenly old. The sky was a deep dark blue and, all around us, the night crickets were chirping.

“What is his child’s name?”

“Norondu – “

My heart stopped beating.

“Is that not your name, Father?” whispered Neanya, her eyes coming back down from distant skies and reclaiming mine. “Is that not what Mummy calls you?”

My heart had still not started beating.

… My biological father had died when I was a baby. I had grown up with my mother and stepfather and their children, my half-brothers and -sisters. I had never known what my original father died of. I only knew he had been some kind of restless adventurer travelling through the lands. I always assumed he died by some kind of accident. People did not like speaking much about him…

“What did the man want you to tell Norondu?” I whispered to Neanya.

“That the old Book of Knowledge which his grandfather had given to his father, and his father had given to him, and which he would like to give his son … is buried exactly beneath the spot on which I am now standing… – ”

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.


ONCE UPON a time, here beside your heart, I waited.

I waited and waited, but you did not open up. Why? I thought you said you loved me. Finally I knocked on the door, but the door did not open up. So I knocked on the window, but the window remained shut. Then I peered in through the glass-pane of the window. The curtains were drawn aside, I had a clear view into your heart.

You were lying on a couch, a soft couch, you were sleeping. What were you dreaming of? I did not know. Whom were you dreaming of? I did not know. Your eyes were closed, just like your door and your window, there was a peaceful look on your face.

You looked so restful that I did not want to disturb you. I would gladly have remained outside rather than disturb the serene sleep of your heart. But, you see, it’s cold outside and it’s getting dark, and strange figures approach me and call me by strange names to which I know that I must never answer or I’ll be caught and I’ll be dead.

Won’t you open up the door? Won’t you awaken from your sleep?

So I began to sing. It was a song that I had never sung before, a new song that arose unbidden from my heart. The song entered into your sleep and entered into your dream and showed you the way out of your subconsciousness, and led you out of the hall of dreams… and, as your eyes opened, you saw me at the window and I saw the love and the fear in your eyes. Love because you love me. Fear because the monster is standing over me.

But if you rush to the door on time and open it quickly, I will escape the monster and you and I will become one heart.

Hurry up, dear, I’m almost dead.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.


amazon cover copy there is always something more 2015

THE OLD poet stood silently upon the highest peak of the Jos plateau and sensed, for the first time in his long life, that it was time to finally put into words the yearnings, the stirrings and the recognitions that had ravaged his heart through the course of his life’s wanderings.

His eyes were raised to the sky, but he saw sky not, nor cloud, nor bird, nay, nor sun, for he was blind. As blind as blind can be. So who shall write down his poems on his behalf? – With a heavy heart he descended the Shere hills, his faithful brown mongrel, leashed, leading him into the valley.

It was two long unbearable weeks later that he encountered Bingel, a young boy, stout of body and heart and perpetually serious, strolling, eyes hooded, in these savannah fields. He stopped. He stopped too:

“I see you not, yet know I that you but a child still are: Your step, though slow, is untempered… your breathing, though measured, is free. Yes, though I see not, indeed I know that though you be young, at heart are you a man; for your step, though untempered, is slow, and your breathing, though free, is measured.”

The young wanderer looked at this old poet who said things he almost understood.

“And what do you want from me?” queried Bingel.

“Once I was a youth like you, wandering through these very same fields, pondering true over those very same questions that course right now through your heart! The answers I found, I did not understand; the answers I would have understood, I did not find. Thus had I to journey through life, learning through experiencing, finding not by thinking but by acting. And now that I, aged and blinded by life, stand before you today, it is with the ironic recognition that I have learnt nothing new in my old age which I did not already silently know in my youth, but now the knowledge I have, I understand, because the knowledge I would understand, I have. And yet the strange gap remains: I am still not complete.

“Above that, a certain peace eludes me still for I yet must ink into readable words the river of thoughts flowing in my soul; but how can a blind man write when he cannot see what he once could see when he could not write? Thus has destiny brought you to me today, my friend, to be my hand and to be my eyes, to write down on my behalf what I shall dictate to you, all I have to give, which is nought but that already in your own ancient heart, my son! This might sound strange to you now, but I am the answer you came here seeking today, for there are no accidents in life.”

Now the youth Bingel gazed long and hard, long at the old poet and hard at the ground, and then slowly began to speak:

“I fathom not one word which you have spoken, yes, not one. And since you say that all you know, already I know too, and yet I experience thus that I understand not what you say, then truly you have erred and I am not the one you seek! A blind man cannot see and so cannot see me! I cannot write down words which are alien to me and which will perhaps render me just as blind as you are, hobbling askance in lonely fields day and night, speaking double-sided words unconstruable to all but you.”

And so saying, the young philosopher walked off and walked away, the tremulous pleas of the old poet dying away unheeded behind his upright retreating form.

The blind old poet found no-one to write down his heart’s poems on his behalf and, just as he had lived with them, died with them veiled, untilled, still deep within his lonely heart.

Jos 2

The young boy grew up, still trying to understand those same strange, vague longings that took him into those lonely savannah fields in his youth. However, like the old poet, he found answers which were no answers, but only newer questions. And so, just like the oldman-poet, he experienced a very turbulent earthlife – one in which violence, bigotry and lack of understanding among the peoples grew from generation to generation. A life which, by its end, had made a poet of Bingel and rendered him blind too – full of the urge to write in words the poems weighing bright in his heart, but hoping for a willing hand to be his needed tool.

This morning he stood upon the very same peak on which, eighty years ago, the old poet had once also stood, and understood the very same strange and simple things the old poet had once grasped, for he had also become a blind old poet. For him too, the gaps remain and he is conscious of his incompletion.

Slowly he descended the Shere hills of the Jos plateau with his dog, his only companion; silvery tears glistened in his sightless eyes as he painfully remembered a friend he met, decades ago, on these very same rustic, primeval planes.

And so did I meet him, broken, upon his knees, blinded and in tears – the old poet. I stopped… And then made to continue, but he held me with his trembling old hand. And…

“What do you want from me!?” I demanded.

Gently Bingel began:

“Once I was a youth like you, wandering through these very same fields, pondering true over those very same questions that course right now through your heart! The answers I found, I did not understand…”

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.
Buy the full collection of stories here: “There Is Always Something More.”


I STAND upon a cloud, detached and unnoticed, and look down at the gentle green hillocks of Isuochi, those last scattered foothills of the Udi hillrange in south-eastern Nigeria. On one of the most secluded and hidden hinter knolls is a hut. No, a cave. Masterfully blended into the mounded cocoon of the hummock with that subtle touch of which only nature is capable, it bears on its rough back an assembly of wild-haired ụdara trees huddled as though in conference about the destiny of the old man in the cave beneath their roots, one who has for decades made this removed grotto his home. Around the cave, all is still. Nothing stirs; nobody in sight. But I know he is there, in the cave, silent, communing with himself, the old man in the hills. I know it well, feel it deep, for once upon a time, I was he.

But that was long ago, before love seized his heart and ground it to bits, scattering the gold-dust of his longings into the gathering arms of the wind who collected them greedily only to scatter then again with childish abandon, hoping he would never again find them. He blew them to the ends of the earth… where they simply re-gathered, recollected, his love and pain, his yearning heart, glued together by remorse; like phoenix, arising anew. Slowly, with time, they found their way back to him, their origin, as though pulled by a memory magnet. Like a guardian they float above his cave in the harmattan sunset of his life now, steering him… even though he does not know that I do so. Yes, once upon a time we were one.

But now he is much wiser. The substance of his life and the love that purified him, purified his inmost soul in excrutiating pain, had been so powerful that when it was over he had been freed of passion and pain, desire and death, reduced in the crucible of experiencing into a wise man. While I, his passion and pain, the living form of his invisible regret, watch now over him from above his head, yearning for release and dissolution even as much as I yearn for him, the lonely old man. No, not lonely, only alone. The wise man in the hills. A long story of love and pain brought him to this place and this state of being, a long story that cleansed his heart and then poured runes of recognition from the vials of Solomon into the emptied coffers.

As I stand upon the cloud today I feel more heavily than ever the pain of all the experiences we went through, the ache of glaring clarity. Oh, could this agony but ease off a little… a moment of teaching mediated to another wanderer at the crossroads where we too once stood. What is the essence of love? When it has conquered you, you understand.

Dusk approaches, the sun sets, the beautiful sun. I watch him silently depart into the graveyard of night. Always, he keeps his thoughts to himself. The sun has just disappeared… night has fallen. Riding atop my cloud, I descend lower, closer to the cool night earth. The warmth of the buried sun’s radiance still permeates my being like the memory of a delicious meal. I sense that tonight there’ll be a difference. I sense movement within the cave. The old man stirs, awakens, seeking fulfilment.

And then he appears. Tall, firm. Strong, erect. He holds his head up like the noon sun, but cocked slightly to one side. He walks slowly, with easy deliberation, like a king, away from the trees, into the open. His eyes look into the distance, filled with a searching look that arose out of his vast heart. When a man has sinned and in the process set a wrong precedence, maybe through his children or grandchildren an opportunity will one day present itself through which he may atone. Like tonight. I see it coming and I wait. Years have passed since he made the grave mistake that gave birth to me, his love and pain juxtaposed. Will I finally dissolve again tonight? I wait.

And then I see from far away a figure, a shadow of light, approaching, ascending the gradient.


It is Kulie, walking slowly, but resolutely. It takes him almost an hour. But finally, he arrives the tor. He looks up at me, but he sees only the cloud. Me he sees not. I am higher than eyes can see.

I study Kulie as he stoically traces the tracks of the lonesome wise man in the foothills. I observe Kulie. A handsome, young man. Spitting image of his great-grand-father, the mad man in the foothills.

A moment of silence… then Kulie comes upon the wise man, my wise man, standing iroko-erect, backing the world.

Kulie stands still. He speaks not. All his life he has heard of the madman in the foothills, his great-grandfather, unseen by human eyes now for almost two decades, fuelling speculation that he had finally died. But Kulie’s inner voice had told him that he lived yet. And now he saw him here standing before him. Why have I come?, Kulie thinks to himself. He cannot answer himself. Yet he knows that he acted right.

Slowly the wise man turns. His eyes, burning like the red hot coal in the bowels of these ancient hill-range, pierce Kulie’s soul. Kulie yields not, stares back. Before him he sees a tall, thin, very dark complexioned and very old man. His shirtless torso hangs thinly on his proud skeleton above half-trousers that reach down to just below his knees. His feet are bare. His cheek bones stick out like hard balls upon an impassive face. Only the eyes burn.

“Kulie…” begins the wise man, “Gwam! Tell me. Why have you risked your life and reputation by coming here?” Kulie is at first taken aback by the old man’s directness which leaves no room for a proper traditional greeting. And how come the man knows his name?? All this shoots through his mind as he takes in this voice which seems to spread out, as though trying to permeate the world. “You want people to castigate you for communing with an outcasted, mad, man?” His igbo is refined, royal.

Kulie bows his head for a second. Still he shifts not. Promptly he raises his eyes again.

Nna anyị… our father,” says Kulie in a strong voice, “I am confused.”

“And what confuses you?” asks the wise man softly.

“Love, sir…” replies Kulie, “Only love. Ịhụnanya.”

Calm, like the closing of an umbrella when the rain is done, descends anew upon the wise man. Yes, now he is sure. Kulie is the promised one.

“Speak your heart, son,” says the wise man, “Simply your heart.”

Kulie decides to say it simply, the best way to say some things.

“It is the Cause, father, the one that was first started by you. It has awakened in my heart too. It has landed on the table of my destiny and I don’t know what to do. A great love for the people has seized my heart. It has become my cause, like it once was yours. I am ready to work just for the people, to live and die for them. I have proven this to them many times. They know my love, and they have loved me back.

“But… hurtful has been their love, father. They have often turned away at decisive crossroads; often reciprocated my sacrifices, now with gratitude, now with scorn; often chosen empty promisers of illusion over me, until their hopes were dashed, and then come running back to me… until the next liar showed up again. This has been the cycle for years now, such that now… now… I do not know any longer whether or not this Cause and I really belong together. Maybe I am not the right one for it, nor it the right one for me. And yet I cannot abandon it. I just cannot stop trying to get the people to wholeheartedly follow the path of development and growth. They say yes to me with their lips, sometimes with their eyes too… yet the harder I pull, the more lukewarm they seem to become. From afar they cheer me on. But none wants to walk the path with me. I doubt that they really appreciate the effort, yet my love is so great, I keep on accommodating their lukewarmness.

“And I ask myself: This thing that sits so uneasy in my hand, is it really mine, or am I just forcing the whole issue, pushed by selfish ambition? It obsesses me, but I can’t seem to make any headway. Do you understand? I want it, but does it want me?”

A moon appears from behind a cloud and brightly illuminates the wise man’s face… briefly. The sharp, burning, deepset eyes… the flared, angry nose… the rugged lines of fate running down his forehead, knifing their way into the bridge of his nose… the rocky cheek bones… his glowing countenance was an ebonine wood-carving hung on eternity’s canvas.

And his voice says something very simple. Something he once read but did not understand when he needed it the most, something he has always wanted to plant, like a seed, into the heart of someone who stands too at the crossroad but, unlike he, will understand:

“Kulie… when you love something, set it free,” his voice rises, trembles, his eyes look up, “If it comes back to you, son, then it is yours. But if it does not, then it never was.”

For long, long moments, as silence whistles through his heart, Kulie stands looking at a man who has turned round again, backing the earth afresh. In Kulie’s heart he understands. But it’s so painful, too difficult… letting go. He opens his mouth to complain, to quest further –

But the voice of the wise man suddenly rips through the hilltop anew.
Ngwa, Kulie! Go… and be a man! Free yourself.”

And as though the words were a presence by themselves, a force propels Kulie away. He hurries down the incline, his heart burning for his cause.

When you love something, set it free!

Higher climbs the moon, full. Midnight approaches. Maybe Kulie will do the right things. The words were sparse, but the wise man knows that they are exactly what Kulie needs, that he will understand the message at the heart of them. The wise man is free of half of his burden.

Now the other approaches. He bounces up and down the foothills, slowly mounting up the gradient. I look into his face – I see selfishness and inconsideration. I feel a pang of pain stab through me. I seek for the gentleness and love of Kulie in his soul, find them not. Finally, he arrives the hummock.

Again, like Kulie, his eyes first seek the cloud upon which I stand, detached and unnoticed. His name is Jideofor. I know him well, the absolute reflection of that which I used to be. If Kulie is the wise man, then Jideofor is me.

He charges straight for the wise man who faces the moon. I notice an air of reluctance hanging around him.

“Yes?” Tersely. “Ọ gịnị?” Without turning around.

“I knew that I had to come here. So I did.”

Now the wise man turns, looks. Yes, it is he.

“And what is your problem?”

Jideofor grimaces. “It is the people, your people! I love them but I am tired of it all. Why do they complain all the time? Why do they demand all the time. I give and give all I can, yet they never stop demanding, like a bunch of greedy, ungrateful children. They are always irritable. I have outwitted all their enemies, all our enemies, and brought development to the community, and yet they keep demanding, demanding. In other places, people would worship me if I gave them just half of what I have given this people, our people, your people! Fighting your lost cause. But they remain unsatisfied. Truly, I have come to the end of this road!”

The wise man’s voice is cold as ice:

“Jideofor! Gee ntị. Listen very carefully, I will say this only once. When you love something, cherish it. Keep it close to your heart. Cherish it. Do not even slightly ease up your hold on it… or it will fly away and never come back back!

“Do you understand?”

Like a thunderclap his voice slams into Jideofor’s soul, sending him careening down the hill like a dislodged boulder, seeking his fate.

When you love something, hold it tight!

The wise man sighs. His life is over. He has atoned. The two faces of love have been voiced and released into two hearts and into the ether, never to die again. He walks back to his cave. The fire in his eyes, it has died. His body lets out its last breath. His spirit flies away. Home. His remains will have his hill for a grave, his cave for a gravestone. The wild arms of his beloved ụdara trees wave him goodbye in the harmattan wind.

In the sky above the ghostly silhouette of trees on the knoll there glows a lovely fullbloomed moon; riding beneath it on his cloud, slowly dispersing at last, is my pacified self; the shadow of the wise man’s heart; his regret; his remorse; his longing to atone; his burning desire to make good, thawing at last. Reflecting these two so different explanations to love, seemingly contradictory – to let go, or to hold on.

Two views, two songs, two sides.

And the people, trapped in the cause, understand not as Kulie and Jideofor relate and act out the differing messages they each claimed to have received from their great-grandfather in the same night. It seems like a contradiction to the people, another evidence of that old outcast’s state of mind. The different voices of this one simple truth told by the wise man elicit divergent responses from various souls.

Some call it insanity. A few dub it amnesia. Others call it agony, pain.

But I, I call it the Understanding.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije.
amazon cover copy there is always something more 2015


niger bridg 5

THERE IS a bridge across the River Niger. A cold, old steel bridge across the long-travelling river. It is to this busy bridge that once the painter came everyday, every evening – oblivious, as one drugged, to the noise of the hawkers around, and the cars behind, her – as she stared into the hurrying water, and tried to exchange her sorrow for joy.

Unfortunately she was rarely ever able to achieve this, but just as she had come with her sorrow, she would depart with it as well.

Life is especially uncomfortable for artists, living as they do in their two worlds – the tangible world we normal people see and the other, invisible, one seemingly perceivable only by the inner eyes of artists. They cannot help it. It is their destiny, their perpetual calling, their fate. It seems as though the Divine has assigned to them the painful task of bridging for mankind groping blindfolded on earth the gap of the river of sightlessness which flows between that which was, that which is and that which will be, the perceived and unseen.This, they say, is why artists suffer, torn in different directions by irrenconciliable forces.

Ijeoma the painter had had quite a happy childhood on the other side of the river, in a small town called Obosi. She played with her brothers and sisters and was all but completely unconscious of the adult life around her. Her most insistent love manifested itself in the urge to gaze upon pictures – in books or in nature or even upon the faces of her fellow human beings. To paint however she had never attempted, never contemplated. Neither the urge nor the idea had ever occurred to her.

Until she became an adolescent and the strange, irresistible longing and pain gripped her and forced her to spread out upon plain, empty waiting sheets the pictures of the secret knowledge which she found that she already, unaccountably, bore inside her mysterious soul. And she painted…
Painting made Ijeoma happy. Gave her release and, simultaneously, gripped her inexorably. A caged, skyfree bird. The bane of artists, their incentive, their riddle, their sorrow, their reward.

But then she fathomed the world no more. And in return the world fathomed her no more too, gradually proceeding to pin such labels upon her as queer… funny… disturbed… unbalanced… mad. She however, she knew that those labels fit not her but the world which sought to stick them on her. Like they also say, in the society of mad people, the sane one becomes crazy.

river niger 2

Ijeoma drew away from people and drew herself into art. Loneliness became her companion. She tried to understand herself. Was her heart a running stream that flowed into the sea? Was her heart a sky upon which angels had painted since forever? Or was it a universe, a meeting place of forces, a tended garden, blended carefully? Or just another ordinary human heart?
Then arrived the time in which she had to begin to fend for herself, for as childhood becomes youth, so becomes youth adulthood. And adulthood must hold its head high, and be self-dependent.

She had learned no other trade but the trade of images, illustrated moods and pictures. So she began to frame and sell her paintings. But nobody bought them; nobody bought these paintings which one day in the future would suddenly become masterpieces. But artists, who see well humanity’s future, are notoriously incapable of seeing their own.

Life became to Ijeoma like an empty desert. If she could eat once a day, she was lucky. She moved to the other side of the river, to a town called Asaba where she lived alone, away from home. But somebody once said that home is inside.

Her family, although they did not understand her, continued to communicate with her every now and then however, as families like to do. And to offer help, if…
She did not always reply, as offsprings and artists are wont to do. But whenever she did she never dwelled upon the fact of her poor financial and living conditions, but deliberately insisted she was fine. Ijeoma sent home tiny pretty parcels every once in a while, parcels she had bought with her few small savings, not because she wanted to buy them, but because her pride would not let her project any other but this picture of herself to those from whom she wanted no pity.

And then things came to a peak. In order to be able to hang on, it turned out that she would have to open her heart to the well-meant charity of a certain man who had met her and who could not help but love her with his whole wide soul.

It was not that she did not want to, or that she felt it would be wrong to do so with regards to this particular man in whose eyes she saw distant, radiant things that made her heart jump, for then her compulsive resistance would have been understandable. It was just that she did not want to let go of her tenacious pride.

She was sad, angry, bewildered and embittered by the fact that her paintings were not loved, sought after, bought. It hurt her deep within her soul.
She took to visiting the bridge across the river every evening, standing on its central spot and staring into the non-chalant waters, like many lonely people do.

And one day as she stood there, under a humid sun, a lurid idea with which she had long toyed gripped her anew with near ineludible force.
Her head swam, she became dizzy. She was aware of herself toppling over the railing into the river of blindness, but she made no effort to arrest her fall; silently she gave herself up to that fate which she had decided would be hers. The water rushed up fast.

She fell voluntarily into the river and drowned and died so that everything would at last come to an end…

river niger 1

And this is where the story begins. I have spoken to many a native who hawks upon this bridge or casts the net from his fishing boat into the waters of River Niger, and they all swear that this is true.

Ijeoma was very surprised, after she dumped herself into the river, to experience that everything did not come to an end. Although her body died, she herself continued to drown in the watching water, drown but not die, drown and yet not die, unremittingly.

Meanwhile Okeke, that man with the distant, radiant things in his eyes who loved her more than he had ever believed one human being could love another, came to look for her at the old bridge, her bridge of sighs, seized of a sudden and inexplicable apprehension. Amidst the agitation of the crowd that had gathered on the bridge, pointing in consternation into the river, he saw her scarf hanging from the railing, but her he saw no more…

Decades later, Ijeoma watches an old man emerge from a parked car by the side of the road and slowly limp his way up the bridge. The hawkers, peddling everything from smart phones to impotency-curing ointments, seem to know him well, they make way for him. He takes no notice of them, or of the hustle and bustle of traffic and trade, the stench of sweat and exhaust fumes. In one hand he holds a scarf, faded yellow, with his other hand he rubs his tired old eyes wearily. Finally he gets to where Ijeoma is standing, in the middle of the bridge, peers briefly at her with a confused, introspective look in his eyes, blinks, then turns and stares quietly down into the river.

niger bridge 1

Standing beside him, she watches him, says nothing, so as not to disturb the solemnity of this ever-recurring magic moment. She drinks in the love that emanates like waves with his thoughts. After a while, he lets out a soft long sigh, straightens up, rubs his thigh where the old shrapnel is still embedded, and looks at the sky. This is her cue; she decides to try again. Taking a deep breath, she raises her hand, places it on his shoulder and says gently:


He does not stir, does not react.

She shakes his shoulder again, and again; her voice is laced with resignation as she utters his name. She knows he will not hear, yet she can’t help but try. Each time. Each evening. The same words…

“Okeke… thank you… but move on. My burden is mine alone to bear… to make good.”

… she reads in his thoughts that the few finished works she left behind on earth are now masterpieces. In his heart she sees his memories of a proud and beautiful eighteen year old lady from decades ago when he was just a young eager man of twenty.

Before he walks away, he looks at the river again, an introspective, philosophic look on his face, softening the longing in his eyes. As always the last thing he does before he goes is to whisper her name…

“Ijeoma…” Safe journey.

Then he turns and limps away, a phlegmatic old man. With tears in her eyes, she watches him walk away, wants to follow, to try one more time. In vain she looks around again for the invisible chain that holds her to this spot, this spot to which she has cumbersomely dragged herself after decades of struggle, of laboriously climbing out of the water and struggling up the bridge.

They have been decades of cavernous emotion. Unnoticed by any, she watched the civil war that brought down the old bridge and catapulted the souls of the many massacred out of the realm of flesh and bone. She was there when the bridge was rebuilt and the war survivors, walking reservoirs of devastated trust and defiant hope, slowly repopulated the bridge.

And still, the longing to fulfil her art burns in her heart. Often has she tried to turn around and return to some distant luminous home… but she cannot. She is held here as by an invisible chain. Destiny unfulfilled, she must cross the bridge again, one day.

niger bridge 2

And soon she will be born anew into the earth as a baby. She will grow into a deep dreamy teenager and then mature into a restless and intense artist. Perhaps she will cross your path. Attract you with her art, intrigue you with her nature and remain incomprehensible. If she does, do meet her with understanding. She is a bridge. She paints for you and me.

– Che Chidi Chukwumerije

For more stories and thoughts that touch on the deeper threads that run through our lives, read my book “There Is Always Something More”.
amazon cover copy there is always something more 2015