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Unoma Nguemo Azuah

Unoma Nguemo Azuah

Azuah teaches Composition and Creative Writing at Lane College, Jackson, Tennessee. She is an MFA graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia. She also has an MA in English from Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio. Her undergraduate degree in English is from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.  As an undergraduate at Nsukka, she edited the English department literary journal—The Muse and received the awards of the best Creative Writing student for two consecutives years: 1992 and 1993. Her other awards include the Hellman/Hammett award, the Urban Spectrum award, the Leonard Trawick award and the Association of Nigerian Authors/NDDC Flora Nwapa award for her debut novel Sky-high Flames. 



Under the full Glare of Death

Death is hedged between metals, heat,
screeches and the load called life
it is strapped to the backs of bones
eager to stretch
to pluck fruits
to feed flesh
Across from its view are:
Kilimanjaro, Chicken Republic,
and Big Bite restaurants
But hunger nibbles its way
into the hanging pockets of pedestrians
—trading sweats, sighs,
and loads, for stretches of pennies
In this desert of mirages
the only thing that stays is
the pang waiting to be soothed.
And the morsels of life
are hidden in metals,
heat and heaving
of people scurrying on bent backs
and a blistering traffic to catch a breath.
Bones are crushed
with the ease of a breeze
flesh re-cycled
in the rot of the earth
lives are stifled for the gate keeper in paradise
or pain.
This is Lagos.




If I were a captive
trapped in the lace of my skin
I would break away like the crust of a caterpillar
and fly like a butterfly.
But I am a captive trapped in the minds of a race
--a swinging rope in the circus of circumstances.
If I were a captive trapped in the lace of my skin
I would break away like the sprouting of a seed
and dwell in a new world.
But I am trapped in the claws of a beast
ravishing the world from the cold.
The winds fool me
I break away from the crowd
set on a trail to trace hoarded treasures.
But my legs scurrying like a spider's
anticipating a crush from the master's boot.
If I were a captive in the race of my skin
I would bleach my life white and strut like a peacock.
But I am trapped in the minds of a race.




Upon Waking
Upon waking, the outlines of pain
become clearer
Like ink soaking into wool
the dented areas darken.
The regrets we left in closets
are pulled out and fondled
like a loose button.
The fights we had in years
creep back and encircle our
Like rippling rivers
each day deposits residues of dirt
I should have
I shouldn’t have
Life is a patch of sorts
the colors are not always bright
the frame, often blurred.
Though some mornings bear no balms
We limp into each day broken or healed.




Tropical Storm
It starts with the wind-
a storm wind-
papers, nylon bags, pieces of torn cloths float in the wind
celebrating before us-
Then falling like tiny pebbles on our metals roofs
the sound increased to a pounding patter-
like the beats of reluctant drums-
Naked with bare feet
we tear into a run, into the open spaces
as wide as can contain our joy—
we scream, holler, screech, and jump
for the drops licking our skins.
Then it pours, it pours like a burst dam
It pours, it pours like crashes of water falls
And it pours, it pours like yesterday was gone too soon.
Hollering, screaming, screeching, and dancing
in the pull of a hustling rain, sand and mud-
We pour with it
like our lungs would burst through the dams of our chest—
And then it pours, it pours like buckets of water empting on us-
But the sky darken—
A lightening lights up the sky—
Thunder roars
And our mothers yell their summons—
Azubuike, Okwudili, Ugonna, Unoma, Ejime!
The thunder has stolen our lights.
Like drenched chicken, we waddle in.
It’s all memories now
memories as a drop run down my lip
A rain drop, a tear drop
for scattered images of childhood
a rain drop, a tear drop
for a homeland so distant
I grope for the outlines.




The Storm You Are.
I feel the flutter of her lashes on the nape of my nerves-
the feel of feathers ruffling in the wind--
I feel her hands on my frame
--the shape of my name
She is the apple I want to pluck-
the tendril I need to nurture
I feel the tickle in her toes-
the sensation of fingers on trickling sands
I envy the earth that gives her life
for I want to be the soil grasping her roots
the sunlight that leaves her wide open for more-
The breeze filtering through her branches--
the dew kissing her pores--
the air that makes her complete
I feel the flutter of her lashes
Her breath-- a whisper in a raging storm.
Oh bearer of the storm that has refused to ebb on the banks of my overflowing river-
Set me free!

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