Poetry

 

A House is not a Home

They adorn these walls as ugly ornaments:
Invisible trails of vermin
Painted with the bile of bitterness
for all to see.

The roof is a dome of cobwebs
Spun with entangled filial threads
that trap the sun’s warmth
Plunging the enclave in perpetual cold.

Its fragile foundation,
quaked by a split along maternal lines
that displaced brethren into separate camps,
still records intrigues and suspicions as
after-shocks.

The patriarch wears a mask of anger
to scare off domestic intruders
and hide the wrinkles of frustrations
Etched so deeply on his forehead.

His smiles are as rare as comets.
They brighten this chasm of darkness in a flash
then disappear into oblivion
with a furious blaze.

The pain of deprivation sears like hot knife
threatening to rend soul and spirit
Hurting relationships with peers
Dulling the senses to learning.

The wind howls in sympathy
to mournful tales of vineyard trees:
Wilted leaves and gaunt branches
Yearning for the refreshments of fertile soils.
 

January 2005©
Chukuemeka Akpe

 

Africa

A patchwork of decorated combatant lords
Stitched together with diverse fragile cords
Into a tapestry of nations hung on frail words.

A pariah of immense but modest beauty
Ogled from afar for her acclaimed booty
Yet shunned by peers for being naughty.

Heavily burdened with debt as rocks
She totters in a race with global jocks
Weeping as Poverty tirelessly mocks.

Verdant carpets that wrap her massive girth
Are denuded by green hands to horrid mirth
Exposing her to warmth and wanton dearth.

The stallions of hatred stir up still genocidal dusts
Blinding riders to decimate with long cruel thrusts
Their Rivers of Blood washing out brotherly trusts.

This corner of the orb is plagues’ haven
Rushing the children untimely to heaven
Hair-raising populations crudely shaven.

Fledglings trained not for construction
But to caress weaponry of destruction
Maim and kill to General’s instruction.

The shackles of slavery loudly gabble
Peals of progress to the young and able
Lured away to strange lands with a fable.

Subjects serve masters in pinions
Gagged to imprison their opinions
They toil day and night as minions.
.
The ruler extends his span sipping founts of greed
Voted out of office only by death as nature’s creed
His worn throne then bequeathed to a similar breed.

Africa!


February 2005
Chukuemeka Akpe

 

Jungle Justice

The young man lay still;
entombed in a wall of legs.
A mask of blood
his shroud of secrecy.


The young man lay still
as Judges wielded crude gavels
and macabre chants pierced the air
to arouse famished gods.


The young man twitched,
clubs descended in ominous thuds
with the verdict ‘guilty, guilty, guilty…………..’
voices of objection drowning in the sea of blows.


The young man lay still, still.
 

March 2003©
Chukuemeka Akpe

 

O, What a City!

Kilimanjaros!
refuse heaps dot the skyline
obstructing nature’s lights.
Rags-to-Riches mountaineers
trampling mangled metals with jagged teeth,
picks and sacks in tow, dig their way to the summit.

Miasmas!
rotting filth
stale sweat
mingle at the market place
as feet caked in mire
come and go.

Chaos!
crammed bodies
lurch like drunkards
as
Moving Violations
snake through a plethora of craters.

Bedlam!
chariots
wait endlessly to inhale:
horns blaring
nerves frayed.

Cacophony!
chortling machines
spewing smoke into the air
light up ‘rich’ neighbourhoods.

The not-so-rich neighbourhoods?

semblance of hamlets:
half-clad bodies
seeking refuge from their sweltering rooms
fill up dimly lit streets,
marauding mosquitoes combated with impotent slaps.

Lagos.
O, What a City!


March 2003©
Chukuemeka Akpe

 

Reminisces

Lacerations!
Scourge of Tongues
Seared Soul and Spirit
Fetid welts buried deep within.

Trophies of biannual fiestas:
Garlands of Thorns
Crowd the Mantelpiece,
Pantheon to a triumvirate.

Winsome smiles of princely serfs
Spark up nights of melancholy
Scouring the Land,
Treasures for the Lord of the Manor.

Pigeonholes with dated labels
Gleam still in cerebral recesses
Memorializing the noble
Condemning the common.

Fragrance of Amity
Waft through the air
Masking the stench of festering wounds,
scars of insidious battles for honour.

Seasons of Harvest:
Bated breaths suffocate labourers
Castles on tethers of hope sink as
Imminent hopes are slain on the altar of regrets.

Immured in a strange persona
Shackled to a multitude of prejudices,
The Mind groped in solitary confinement
Seeking an escape from a dungeon of Unknowns.

March 2004©
Chukuemeka Akpe

Sots of Sorts

Vagrants
filing out of night shelters
converge at sheds all over town
to imbibe morning elixirs,
night tales exchanged with raucous laughter.
Now inured to shame,
amble along to collect day’s takings.

Workers
trooping out of offices
meet at alfrescos scattered all over the city
to soak in the night air
and guzzle chilled frothy drinks with kebabs.
Now inebriated and emboldened,
stagger home to vent their frustration.

Executives and Politicians
are at home in smoke filled, air conditioned rooms.
The aroma of rich cognacs heavy and potent.
No barflies this ilk!
They sip into the wee hours
swapping expensive banters
concocting intrigues.
Now satiated,
chauffeured away to sleep it off.
 

Chukuemeka Akpe
March 2003©

 

 

The Castaway

Out of sight
from prying dignitaries
this sprawling estate of corrugated huts and floating
bamboo mansions
epitomizes our miniaturized Soul.


In its foetid waterways
children splash uncaring
and gondolas slither across with commuters
to and fro the other side of town


where rows of opulence
compliment another across fresh bitumen
their splendour shielded from gawking eyes by mammoth
concrete veils.
Beautiful lawns are manicured by callused hands


of labourers
bred in squalid quarters of harshness
who, impervious to nature’s whims
daily toil to eke out with smidgens.


The night’s
aglow with eruptions, seething anger and frustration,
poured out as street brawls
for urchins to prey on wearied spectators


greeted at home
by a farrago of strident music
dark cubicles
empty pots and pans.
 

March 2003©
Chukuemeka Akpe

 

The Man Died…

Thistle strewn path
cobbled at the dawn of time
for immortal man to tread, his spoor
mortal man to follow.

A twinkling star
peering through celestial curtains
heralded the surreptitious entrance
with a cryptic message for the sages

but drew the ire of a simpleton-king:
innocent souls
shepherded to early graves
defending an earthly throne from a suckling.

The land of oppression of yore
offered solace with open arms,
the boy-king shielded from mayhem
and royal wrath assuaged.

His mission, embedded in worn parchments,
was incongruous to a bewildered people
who sought a warrior-king
but found a martyr.

Night and Day
colluded to destroy innocence:
A gracious kiss from a friendly foe
earning filthy lucre its reward.

Despised and Disparaged.
Stripped and Striped.
The heavens winced
as his halo was bartered with a crown of thorns.

The Man died…

March 2003©
Chukuemeka Akpe

 

 

Act 2, Scene 1

Long before the curtains parted
machinations and assassinations
heralded the much vaunted drama.

The prelude,
a vapid display
devoid of any real significance

crystallized

into a charade
cloaked as a franchise
to a bemused audience

who watched
the rehash of a tragicomedy
purloined from ancient masters.

A trite and ignominious show
foisted on bleary eyed spectators
circumspect of long dreary martial plays

parading pompous
actors sans scripts
as agonizing interlude.

A duet:
The old puppet
The wily ventriloquist

for a finale,
barked strange speeches
that grated all ears.

But,

the claque clapped
hoisting heroes and heroines
on rigged bloodied platforms.


May 2003©
Chukuemeka Akpe

August 24

A Tuesday
ushered in with a beguiling sunny smile
its forlorn message concealed.

Aroused by hope,
the hope to see a brother well again.

A cruel connivance:
The dark night
Its Sleuth
The morning hope whisked away.

A vigil with hope,
the hope of resurrection.


March 2003
Chukuemeka Akpe

 

 

Casks of Our Life

I.

Dawn to Dusk
they chase after buses
reminiscent of Olympians.
Success then rewarded with platforms
on dilapidated contraptions trammeled by cargo.

Distinguished Citizens
breeze through roads choc-a-block
with a throng eager to resume daily chores.
A confetti of glass shards spread for the VIPs
as motorists struggle to lay red carpet on asphalt.

II.

Ill-tempered friends
exhibiting obsolete Kalashnikovs
collared by a bizarre assortment of strands
camp along highways and byways of the community.

They rankle
wayfarers with myriad inanities,
cajoling to augment strangled lifestyles
with cupped hands – intransigence oft met with salvos.

III.

Silhouettes
float out like wraiths
sending dreadful palpitations
resounding far into the still night.

Importunate vultures
perch on hapless victims.
They scavenge with diabolical glee
distributing anguish and sorrow all the way.


April 2003©
Chukuemeka Akpe

 

 

 

 

Militrocracy

Quadrennial rituals
of avowals and disavowals
all too soon forgotten.

This clime
is a placid observer
of the endless parades of recycled faces

attired in costumes
locals treated as yokels
are accustomed to:

overflowing garbs
concealing rotund parts
ill-fitted khakis brazenly exposed.

Men of yore
who seek relevance today
to dull our memories of

all the yesterdays
bungled with ineptitude
ridden slipshod on avarice.

Insatiable folks
disguised as crusaders
in wedlock with the tyrants of old:

a hybrid
of gluttonous minds
atop putrid thrones

ravaged
by cankers
of ethnic schisms.


April 2003©
Chukuemeka Akpe

 

 

OMOLARA (From Heaven to Earth)

Ominous clouds
sent the sun into hiding

Making the day
seem like night.

Out of the sky
flashes descended

Lighting up
the earth.

Amidst heavenly claps,
trees bowed in reverence.

Rent, celestial curtains
let out long needles.

All that was laid bare stung,
To quench the thirst of mother earth.


January 2004©
Chukuemeka Akpe

 

 

 

 


So Damning (Tsu-nami)

The
Palm trees
sway on sand
to the ovation of the sea,

a spectacle
that lures observers
far and wide
to indulge

in
rarities:
perfect harmony
of

man
nature
and
beauty unspoiled.

Spectators
camp along
shorelines
stretching across nations;

in
huts and hotels
and
luxury apartments.

Rising and Setting,
basking
in the
Glory of the Sun.

Melting in time,
the memories
of
frigid lands.


The
valiant
taunt the waves
sliding through open jaws.

The
natives
tend chores
living off

the sea
the land
and
the foreigners.

*
Imperceptible!
Titanic
tussles and agitations
raging in the bowels

spread
spasmodic shivers
through
ocean floors,

a roaring belch
blasting
buried rusted vaults
open.

Walls of Water
rose up
in
a fit of anger

flattened out
on land
into
a deluge,

a formless
monster
on
a rampage

streaming
huts and hotels
and
luxury apartments

washing out
in
an instant,
dreams and livelihoods.

Concocting on its course
a sour soup
of
human paraphernalia.

Leaving behind
as parting gift,
a
vista of destruction.
 

January 2005©
Chukuemeka Akpe

YINKA @ 40 (A poem for Tolani's sister)

Years have rolled by
gathering sweet memories
forging strong bonds of sisterhood.

Intertwined Souls
Sisters as Friends
Friends as Sisters

Nurtured from the same fount
caressed by the same arms
sheltered under the same canopy of love.

Kisses for you
40 adoring kisses
for you sweet sister.

As the days stretch into years
let our hearts grow fonder of each other
and remain alive in Christ.

Chukuemeka Akpe
 


Crying More Than The Bereaved

Ancient customs girded the Harbinger of Death
In loin cloth, hairy barrel chest and a husky voice.
Taboo is deaf to the hip-swinging trump of death,
Scowling and seething at all infringing trespassers.
Inebriated elders, as proxy referees, award a penalty
To appease famished stomachs and parched tongues.

Tradition beckons on the dead from all foreign lands,
To make their beds in the soft native soil of their birth
To enrich the earth with the treasures of strange climes
To commune with uncles, aunties and sisters unknown
To be the reason for a fête for hollow-cheeked youths
To act as magnet for urbane offspring repelled by lores.

Canopied clans, congregated from nooks and crannies,
Are gender segregated but harmonized in their pretense:
Revere the pilgrim reviled and ridiculed on his journey
Sympathize with the companion treated with contempt
Empathize with the brood maligned for their aloofness
Invoke the wrath of the gods with kola-tainted smiles.

Minister riled and rites derided by venerators of effigies
Brewed up a mess in a cauldron of absurdities for attention:
Hue and cry over the bearded corpse by clean-shaven men
Spousal sacrament by fetish priests to forever rend asunder
Coerce detachment of the crown of glory by coarse razors
Ignored. A litany of taboos recited by an oracle of the gods.

Desecration hideously masked by ignorance as last
Respect:
Lurching pallbearers staggered sons, daughters and friends
To tan his casket with the scorching stare of the clansmen
Chanting and stomping with fervency to cold indifference.
Coffin doused with sacred drink to inflame a brother’s love
And the purse of the dead laden with currency of the living.


June 2006©
Chukuemeka Akpe

Neighbours

Adorations at dawn stir my supine soul wide-awake
Imploring serial banters of roosters rudely unheralded.
Genuflecting knees and yawning hands offering thanks
Invite the neighbourhood with tambourines and hymns.

Ocular daggers unsheathed from the vista of the chamber
Plunge into my back draining flows of invisible blood.
As intuitive pulses force a pirouette of maladroit ballerina,
A white flash of “Good Morning Neighbour” dazzled me.

Loquacious battles mutate Sylphes into svelte felines
Charging blindly at opponents with the weight of words,
The roars attracting furtive glances behind parted curtains.
But only black clad officials arrive as Good Samaritans.

Fiestas bring an enduring aroma of friendliness and love.
Carded felicitations come in droves but end up as festoons.
The atmosphere sizzles with archived Epicurean delights
Later laid out on polished wares and delivered with smiles.

Porcine parades seldom disdain the rather pristine scenery
Trumps of grunts and honks announcing the sour invasion.
Earthmoving quadrupeds burrow into defeated garbage cans
Fertilizing the macadam with spaghetti strands, rotten waste…

A vanguard of local warlords perch at community’s portal.
They scavenge the scene for intruders with blood-shot eyes
And flay vagabonds with tongues corroded with intoxicants.
Bandits are rapped, ripped, striped, stripped and serenaded.

June 2006©
Chukuemeka Akpe


So I’m Black and African

The worn path was trod on my voyage into this place,
Be proof of the tight bond between mother and father.
Searing pain preceded piercing cries that brought joy:
Aunts, Uncles and Neighbours traversed plains for me
Jostling to caress with gnarled but warm loving hands
Rival another for soothing massages on a sofa of thighs.
My identity was unveiled to the world after seven days,
Its secret known only to my Father, Mother and Aunty.
Mother’s back was the perambulator that conveyed me,
Sister’s persistent usage left it still inviting for my drools.
The blazing sun did not deter my visits to the market place
Nor to the community’s spout and the risk of errant sprays.
Hunger was oft staved off drawing from the founts of milk
Unabashedly squirted under curious eyes to gag my bawls.
Doting privileges were ceded to the little feet that followed
And raffia on hard ground soon became a communal bed.
Lunches, dinners were fiercely contested from large bowls
Rancour then generously served out as unsavoury desserts
And supple hands scrub the soiled plates and charred pots.
Seal of Ownership of the commune was embossed on me:
Chastisements of our quarter’s kith and kin were welcome
At home with gratitude to pro bono parents and relations.
My already tanned skin was burnished more by radiation
On those long daily walks to school and then back home.
Crammed buses sometimes offered me footing pedestals,
Smeared shirt and torn short emblems of hard triumphs.
Budding professors were ushered in with unsandaled feet
Uniforms mapped with grime somehow attracted friends.
Recalcitrance was whipped with the master’s instrument
And guardians visited with accolades rather than handcuffs.
Dusk fades away for darkness’ toil under the yoke of tome
Illuminated by whispering lights of slender poles of wax,
Black eyes tingle with smoke, streaming scrolls with tears
Village companions pulling my envy with moonlight tales.
My neck supports my head even now despite the burdens:
Pagodas built on cranial foundation running many errands,
Untimely balding disappeared but reappeared with its time.
My untamed tongue refuses to be friends with strange ones
My roots are as buried in clear soil even with a vocal mask
My colour defines the parcel of land allocated to forerunners
My kinsmen in Diaspora search for invisible prints back home:
Savannahs, Rainforests, Mangroves, Kalaharis and Kilimanjaros.

Chukuemeka Akpe
 

The Passage

The light dimmed transforming him into a Shadow:
All memories had slipped into the far recess of the mind
Out of the reach of recall leaving a blank slate and stare.
Biological networks were garbled and taste buds dulled;
A point in time, wife was seen as ‘daughter’, son ‘brother’
A bar of soap evoked hunger pangs in him like an egg
And an onion was just as succulent as an orange, apple…
As the organic clock marched furiously counter clockwise,
The tongue retracted into its cavity as words became onerous
Calcifying limbs rested him on the crib but left him there till…
The light went out.

June 2006©
Chukuemeka Akpe
 

The Principal

A Giant of a Man as seen through the infantile eyes of a school boy.
His long shadow casts an awe of discipline over the entire citizenry.
The whisper of his name echoes in all the classrooms and beyond
Instilling a deathly silence that shames stern-faced impotent instructors.
Along the corridors, idle feet suddenly become busy searching for a safe haven.
His voice, more potent than a sting gun, immobilizes moving bodies in an instant.
The sight of the floating tail of a white shirt is an abomination and must be appeased.
Neophytes, who are easily deceived by his calm mien, learn only too late that:
His foot, in a kick, acts as a vice to trap an erring member like a fly in sweet liquid
Hands in sedate repose do come alive to sting tender cheeks like a swarm of bees.
A summons portends a throbbing parting gift hurriedly wrapped in a stiff package.
His sturdy arms, though outstretched to the weaklings, crush the tyranny of bullies:
‘Lords’, who conscript puny wards into an army of unwilling valets and couriers.
His chalk cradling commandoes carry out reconnaissance missions on famed hideout
To ferret out rebels with rebellious appetites who sacrifice morning prayers for stomachs.
He applauds the gallantry of gridiron combatants, victor or vanquished, with a faint grin
While on the academic turf, victory is encouraged and greeted with an envious ovation.
Alas! An alien station then robbed us, through a barter, of the synonym for our landscape.
We consoled ourselves with the huge frame deeply etched in our memories:
Our measuring rod for all those who came thereafter.

June 2006©
Chukuemeka Akpe

This Dangerous Blessing

Unction from above oozes from below as dark, muddy flows
Blessing the land with fame and riches as heaven knows

Pantheon of economic gods quickly demoted to a black deity
Worshippers soon congregating to form a blood-sucking laity

Poverty, as a wrestler, clasps the masses in a deathly hold
Feeble cries muffled by scornful laughs of barons of gold

The barren farmlands groan under the oppression of weeds
As green hands roam the cities tilling hard ground for feeds

Putrid fishes crudely poison the tables of host communities
Now forsaken by the satiated parasites as anemic nonentities

Regattas of yesterday have become today’s internecine wars
Warlords tagged renegades paddling with munitions as oars

Barrel filled patrons lounge in corridors of power to fawn
They assemble at dusk for homage and minister till dawn

Paralyses trail the season of the spell of dry nozzles
Excuses cascading from rocky pedestals as puzzles

An assemblage of eminent personalities smeared with grafts
The stench rising as a smoke message spread their fishy crafts

Burgeoning reserves in alien vaults serve kith and kin
While wards are served carrions from the national bin

Appendages of power emasculated by drooling froths of constant seizure
Drape the villages, towns and cities with thick blanket for night’s leisure


June 2006©
Chukuemeka Akpe