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African Writing Archives


Obe Mata


Obe Mata

Obemata is a Nigerian poet whose works have appeared in Sentinelpoetry, Allpoetry, Liberty, African-Writing, 'Witness'-an anthology of poetry, ed. John B. Lee (Serengeti Press, 2004) and 'On Broken Wings'-anthology of Nigerian Poets, ed. Unoma Azuah (Chappal Waddi Books, forthcoming). He lives in Farnham Royal, England and in Karu, near Abuja, Nigeria.


 Five Poems

1. Amsterdam

So home is this city steadying itself
against the river, against
canals crisscrossing
my eyes like the lines
on the palm.
So home is this city hugging
the limelight, hugging
buntings hung on
narrow, gabled

This is Amsterdam with its
postcard image.
Girls silhouetting against glass
windows, their lithe
shapes blending
with the glasses.

Prayer is a debt to Amsterdam.
I close my hands,
my eyes half-opened
on the waters.

2. Mushin Olosha

The sky opens on the bus shelter
and at once the shelter
floods, and floods over
with the brown, muddy April.
How different this place is, how it teems
with commuters wading through the puddle
boarding overcrowded molues
wheezing steams, snailing towards break
down than their destinations.
Somewhere a woman suddenly remembers
her headscarf, spreads the scarf over her
head like an umbrella against the rain
as I stand there, wet and catching what
the weather throws at me.
The sky is getting clear
but there is no let up here.
A molue listing heavily crawls past,
the conductors wave on the doorways.

3. Street kids

they race the open streets in open
roof cars,
music thumping bass and treble
wafts through wound down
before it catches the ears.
Back and forth back and forth,
they barrel on asphalt;
the sound of locking wheels
rising past the screams of mothers doing school runs.

Come and see kids racing the streets,
screaming loud as Tupac's Little Homies,
waving shortguns at passers-by
whose eyes only see death.

they shall become the headline news.

4. A father's prayer

The last call is absolute so he bows his head
in prayer, in silence.

And as silence leaves his tongue,
he calls the one chosen son-
sending him beyond
their barb-fenced
homeland, he says:

pick a city any city-
there your eager bride waits eagerly.

Child, may the death wrapped in your strap,
your belt burst out of your waist
and stalk those not swift enough to gauge
your fingers pressed
on a button.

May your bride receive your dowry,
your dowry of blood, he prays.

Shahid turns his head and walks towards the city
beyond the downed Gaza wall;
with heart that renounces love,
he will wed his body
to his homeland.

And silence returns to the tongue of he who speaks no
love for life, finds honour in death.

5. The house I live in

The house I live in is not my own.
It is that strange kind
you find only
in the strangest of places or
in the middle of nowhere,
where only a wrong turn on
a wrong road leads.

I live in this house with one window,
one door
shut against the outside world
open only to keys
lost in a warder's keyring.

Everyday I place my head between
the window bars
gazing at comrades turning right,
right to here.

The house I live in is not my own.
I sit on sunset chair rocking what's left of the day.


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