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African Writing Archives

Current A.W.



Chuma Nwokolo



Chuma Nwokolo

Nwokolo, author and advocate, is writer of Diaries of a Dead African and publisher of .




 Four Poems


 Upon Rains falling Comprehensively on Asaba

           for the victims of the genocidal Biafran War, 1967-70

It is a harmless grove today,
icheku* weighs down many boughs,

and after hours and hours of looking on,
the worst atrocity you will see

(cane rats will forage greedily for grain
but, the worst atrocity you will see)

is silent rat in jaws of silent snake.
you’ll wonder often at that silence, son,

that consensual code, iyi*, omerta,
that drowns the giving and taking of life

in that Asaba grove. but wait long enough
and she comes to pick icheku for her stall.

(the sweetest boughs in Asaba
grow here; she does not wonder why)

she’s not the grieving maid she used to be.
she’s bent and crooked now, almost history,

but she comes when the skies are overcast,
and hides like she did in ’67

when she watched her captive groom and clan
dig their communal grave.

she will watch rain clouds darkening the grove.
she will wait long enough - until they burst;

for the neighbours and all her peers are right:
too many years have passed to still bemoan

one groom and his ogbo*, lined up and shot
all those decades ago

but lightning strikes and the crack of thunderclaps
reprise the guns of ‘67...

her sight is failing now, but she still sees him
where he lies (and if Asaba’s skies still

weep such stinging tears for Asaba’s dead,
who can begrudge an old maid one small weep,

washed away at source, who sees her groom as
it were yesterday) silent spouse in jaws of silent grave.

Icheku: small fruit.
Iyi: oath
Ogbo: age grade. In Igbo communities, children born within a few years of each other belong to one ogbo. Clan and town government are organised by ogbo.





Because no new rage registered
on the Research Seismograph of Human Fury

because no new grief mushroomed white and incandescent
above the stale categories of numbspouselessness
and suddenlymotherlessness and lifescorchinglimblessness

because no new human solvents were inquested
beyond tears sweat blood

because the poor souls who flew out of windows in fear
did not fly after all

because the kneejerk was one hundred million years old

because a line was not drawn under the horror of hatred
or over the train of terror pulling in and out of Christmas
stations with bigger and flashier blindinglyfatherlessness

nothing new happened and
the world did not change forever on September eleven 2001




War Memorial

I am a Lie,
& you must pull this War Memorial down.
She kissed my plinth, that woman.
This is fraud.
She would not kiss his bloated corpse,
were she his mother.
She could not look upon his mustard face
and not be sick.
As I’m a whole and glorious edifice,
this is a scam.
The trophy trunk of death has no splendour:
I know war. It is a broken jaw.

Raise your hammers in the air
and bring them down like pistons.
Give thunderclap for bugle,
radiation for varnish.
Break and leave my pieces where they fall.
If my visitors recoil with horror,
I am true.
If the lips that kiss me die of cancer,
I am true.

Has she sawn men’s legs asunder
without sedation?
Is he crippled, maimed and twisted?
Do they moan all night?
Then give her hammer,
give him cans of blood-red paint.
War should be mourned by her victims,
not by Army Recruitment;
An advertorial for the young
is no memorial to the dead.




Stone Homunculus


Stand near by me and dream.
I, marbled witness to all nature,
lord and master of unpeopled ranges,
am a maiden deep within, please,
stand by me and dream.

For I would be beautiful again.
rest your hands in the crags of me,
in the fissures of my mossy face and dream.
I am not won by axe or earthmover,
those philistines can grind my plinth to dust
and fail to find the real, the spirit me.
I am a dream to be seduced;
I have beauty that must out.
take your file and take your rasp
and stand by me and dream.

Sit beside the obelisk of me
and dream of the pregnant Niger;
dream of the trenchant aroma of utazi and uda,*
dream of the dizzying Milken Hills;
dream of the weakness of the knees,
dream of the quickening of the heart,
dream of the sting of uncried tears,
the pangs, the flutter of the gut...
and etch your dream of secret love
upon the rock of me.

Lean on me and dream of provinces
dripping the dew of soursop,
realms whose very air
is a skein of many-coloured sound,
whose rapids swiftly rush nowhere,
whose eagles soar away
like bait reeled in by God.

The grassed outcrop of me
is a gravid barrenness of greying heath,
but scrape away the moss
and I am marble underneath,
will take polish.
close your eyes and see;
and hear, earless,
the many-coloured music of
the finished,
sculpted me,
and smile.


Dream and chisel, dream and chisel,
the grains of me are dense and reticent.
I will be a sinuous, many-limbed Buddha,
I will be a shrine.
I will be worshiped,
I will be touched in awe.

I will be terrible again! Make me Shango,
make me a thunder-trumping god,
cut a sneer into my frown,
fix electricity in the piercing of my eyes,
percolate dread into the stubble of my skin.
I will not yield to arrogance,
but I will come in dreams.

I will be the key to Stonehenge,
the missing pillar with the mystic code.
I will close the circle of the stones,
I will break the cipher of the runes;
dream and chisel, dream and chisel.


And then again,
I might remain this continent of stone.
pregnant with gods and people,
arms and torsos,
they may stay stillborn, yet.
I will brim with love and terror,
rage and beauty,
without being frozen into one or other.

Chiselled by streaking rain,
bearded by straggling heath,
grained by rasp of windborne sand,
I, marbled witness, will stay
lord and master of unpeopled ranges,
musing, sphinx into the swirl of distant centuries.

*utazi/uda: Igbo aromatic spices

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