we cannot hold, linger
parings of intuition
passing and re-passing
the door of recognition”
— Wole Soyinka

“Do not go gentle into that good night”
— Dylan Thomas

I. For Yehuda Amichai

The clock on the mantelpiece,
telling time backwards, says
it is always midnight in Tel Aviv.
I am a poet living in a kibbutz, hallucinating
the annoyance of an itinerant tailor
planting weeds of friendship in the garden of
my isolation.
I have jerseys labeled “Auschwitz”,
”Bergen-Belsen” and “Dachau”;
Holocaustic wit is just a bag of rotten clichés.
I am a working class hero, an endangered species.

II. Microcosmia

Worlds within worlds, this life hurts the ears
like music of a lone string, strung on the
rhythm of lost dreams. How much memory
is there in a grain of sand?
The gigabytes of Silicon Valley trickle
through wet fingers, yielding Proustian allusions
like the radiance of a beggar-king.
Alms and the man are a Dauphin’s heaven.
Shaw said that. He didn’t.

III. Angola

Dancing on the edge of the cosmos one
day, I fall into your arms—again—
one bubble universe into another.
Angola girl, you built your altars round
the rites of my ritual immolation.
I am your paschal lamb,
my entrails are an offering to your preening god.
You feed me my dung and I chew
with relish, wiping my mouth with
your soft, pink tissue. I come back for more.
We are wise men from the west,
come to pay homage at Savimbi’s grave.

Well, spittle  on your grave. And of your
children’s children.

Angola, and the bow-legged palmwine tapper
lives in HIV-positive harmony with his wife.
I buy a bottle to drink with my kinsmen of
the gourd. I mix mine with Coca-Cola.
After a raid of graveyard mangoes
his nephews run for refuge,
young thieves in an old, minefield world.
Only one lost a limb.

IV. The world is the ‘HMS Beagle’

Darwin’s ship docked in our port
last night,
bearing expired drugs and moribund cars.
Only the fit survive.
Proofs for the existence of God
fall in the face of this teleology;
there is no argument from design.
We are dry leaves in a world of
waking wind, let the darkness howl.
Even the cobwebs tremble, dancing the death
of shredded hearts.
Only the fit survive.

V. Variations on a Theme by Awoonor

Chameleon phases of the moon
and river tide
don’t think the ancient boatman is a goon
there is nowhere to hide.

Chameleon faces, peering through a slit
in the world’s left armpit
light diffracts upon the wall of hearts,
first rain, night rain.

Chameleon faeces, spread on books and
stapled sheets, let Borges howl.
Last year’s dust settles finally on the
open page, a delicacy for sleep-soured mouths.

VI. For Wale Ogunyemi

If death were a tower
I would break a new calabash,
fill the biggest shard with
new coins, old cowries, ekuru and half-
eaten pap sprinkled with palm oil
fresh from the vats of Sodeke.
I would lay all at the place where
three footpaths meet—
perhaps we might appease Esu lehin ibeji.
But the Vow is only a prelude to Divorce;
Siamese giants break their oath of silence,
erupt in a carnival of flames, like death
one September morning.

VII. Footnote: Ikeja, January 2002

“The river is a strong brown god.”
— T. S. Eliot

Do not speak to me of survivors:
the aafaa falls prey to a trick of
exploding grenades
how can we then be searching the rubble
for strands of his beard? Bags of rock-salt,
we hurl ourselves into the canal
at the beck of a river-goddess.

To escape from fire is to die by water. E

Niran Okewole is a chief consultant psychiatrist at the Neuropsychiatrist Hospital, Abeokuta and doctoral scientist at the Autism Research Centre, Cambridge University, UK. His poetry collections are Logarhythms and The Hate Artist (Khalam Editions). Angola first appeared in Logarhythms; this is a revised version.