The chief priest and a nay-tion’s infidelities

When the infidelities of this nay-tion  are told to salivating  divorce lawyers

when the long chaplets and masking hijabs are finally  unmasked

when  dizzying digits seized

or said to have been seized

in sleaze cash haul of shame,

still leave  lacunae of grains and couscous in dinner tables,

when  the lava of long celibate stomachs

suddenly erupts,  without the funfair of lightning

when the chief  priest comes with his ofo-n’ogu

a vengeful scalpel piercing the resistance of thick-skinned maladies

when  he takes in the visual gauntlet of saturated farts

spreading like the coily hide-and-smoke of illicit hemp

as you hear the chief priest’s s broken voice

may your own voice not then be found

to have been silent.

WALLS

grammar joke 3

 

W A L L S.

From the birth pangs of the first farting man

to the last drop of his kin’s dust-to-dusts,

walls have served only to buy time

but even the hours of ‘dying minutes’ extracted from complicit refs

have been nothing but fading embers of false dawns

light years away from their architects’ wet dreams:

dreams on glossy paper

like sleek sketches of galloping thoroughbreds,

reined in by dark fears walking on all fours

festering, like the ferns of graffiti

that separated East and West Berlin

Walls.

if Jericho could capitulate at the echoes of a mere shout

What  was the wisdom of the stone walls?

The plot of hydrogen sulphide that leaked out of the anus

with émigré-emitting consequences

was actually hatched inside the stomach walls

walls fed with rotten remnants of sacrificial egg,

left uneaten at crossroads by satiated gods

Walls.

Walls. We have seen roundtable conferees make their points in implacable knuckles,

In battle cries of clenched teeth

we have seen graphics of Power-

point presentations of live jugulars

populating pages of pathos.

It is that weather again,

of wind-aided insights into fowl anus revelations,

of cracks in walls touted maximum

security.

Walls.   Cracking now like the spirits of albumens when yolks have already been

readied for omelets.  So much for impregnable defences, of egg shells.

Walls.

The bend of Beckham’s ball beat a mollusk whorls closeness of stonewalls

walls. Many saw it but not the handwriting on the

walls. Not the moral of the mural

now staring Nebuchadnezzar’s scions in the face

like warning teasers from the midday sun.

When rams are on heat – the rams embedded inside the denseness of the sun

who can count the colours of their bleating lenses at noon?

Who would have thought that the deli of Delilah termites

packed enough seismic ammo

to expose the underbelly of Samson’s granite cast

for what it really was –

red mud

Walls. They that build walls

make geckos of men.

you could comb the farthest forests

of walled history

with a tour guide of Wollof dancers

pointing with their rising nipples to the curve of fallen civilizations,

you can listen to the lament of the cremator

as wayward winds stake claims

to the recycling rights of his own cremation dust

you can study history

from hieroglyphs to hash tags of in-vogue memes

you will not find sturdier grounds for walls

than the ego of the emperor.

Continue reading

A CUCKOLD’S HONOUR: Two page review of Lola Shoneyin’s The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives

A harem keeper is much like a bee keeper; enjoy the honey, but brace for the sting, one day. For Alao, a.k.a. Baba Segi, the eponymous highfalutin husband in Lola Shoneyin’s debut novel, the sting did not come in a day; it happened every day of his married life. But in this well-knit social satire, it needed an unlikely help in the form of a fourth wife, for the portly polygamist to unravel it, to himself and to the reader, and that is served only in the last set of pages. Now that’s the stuff of page-turners. You emerge at the last page scared: if Bolanle, the odd ‘acada’ type among that motley harem had not happened on the scene, or if the senior wives had agreed to co-opt her into their well-guarded scheme, everyone would have lived happily ever after, and the putrid pus of the scandal might never have burst into the open!

The novel reads like Moliere except for its strong tragic echoes. Its 245 pages pack quite a punch: Baba Segi practises being dead; Segun, the ex of one of the wives goes to great length to abort someone else’s foetus he thought was his; a character enjoys reading a love letter she wrote to herself, which is the next best thing; mothers and daughters, long emotionally estranged, reunite in a Graecian dramatic setting, and much more.

The novel projects love in all its convolutions, real and pretended, sometimes a mere crush, often filial, and erotic, and, in at least one instance, LGBT compliant. But my top pick is the love that steadily grows between Bolanle and Segi, daughter of the matriarch of the family and unrepentant hater of Bolanle. The Bolanle-Segi rapprochement has enough ingredients to sideline Alao and his harem tales into a few paragraphs and generate a love story of its own – the love-across-enemy-lines variety.

For those who wish to be transported into a deeply Nigerian, nay, Yoruba, cultural milieu with locally- flavoured language, rustic mannerisms, idioms and nuances, yet conveyed with the ease of a first language user, here’s your book. The likes of Lola Shoneyin are children of Fagunwa and Tutuola in the age of linguistic sophistication. Village-bred philosophies and cultural memes are melded rather than merely built in. That was my joy as I savoured page after page until – well I don’t know if this is a female Nigerian ailment – these lines seized the rove of my eyes: ‘He emptied his testicles as deep into my womb as possible. Such graphic lines suggest not just a pandering to the goddess Erotica, but an afterthought, to satisfy the cravings of a certain readership clique – those who sit abroad with the yam and the yam prize. But Shoneyin, daughter-in-law of Soyinka, who spurns her more illustrious surname ( at least in literature terms) in favour of her maiden name partly to underscore her indebtedness to her father for his encouragement, is not just about local flavour. … The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives is far more than the refined equivalent of Aluwe, Baba Sala and the Fuji House of Commotion that routinely regale Nigerian TV audience with stories of similar cultural DNA. Shoneyin writes with the ease of a first language user. The language does, in fact, on occasions, rise to hypnotising levels, as when the author imbues the wind with teeth to convey its coldness, and when ‘Iya Femi picked me up with his eyes and threw me to the floor’ .

It s equally well laced with sarcasm. Like the drop of a tiny pebble in water, it leaves you with ripples of home grown philosophies. And that includes when the characters construct maledictions.

A lineage of female writers has treated the subject of love, polygamy and childlessness (Buchi Emecheta, The Joys of Motherhood, etc), but none has done so with such basket-weaver’s dexterity and flair. Perhaps a few readers may not need to be crystal ball artistes to guess how the old wives tales would finally resolve, but medoubts if any could crack the code until they get way beyond the hospital scenes where Alao is cold-bloodedly exposed to all the elements in the medical universe. The author first fattens him with delicacies from his own recipe so that the goddess of retribution would find him meat enough for her dinner. Shoneyin must have partly modelled Alao on the character of Baroka, the serial polygamist in Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel, for whom, elsewhere, Shoneyin confesses a deep distaste. And so she has Alao set himself up nicely: the occasion of receiving a lab results becomes a momentous one. He is the faultless, family-supporting husband, the generous sperm donor extraordinaire who suddenly runs into the misfortune of a barren fourth wife with whom he is about to lose his patience unless she sorts herself out quickly at the hospital. By the time the medics get to the bottom of the matter, conveying the balance sheet of his sperm account to him becomes both a medical and moral dilemma. But the needful has to be done even if someone has to fall from the high horse of his self-praise. And what a thud!

Except perhaps for a hanging dependent clause [P.220], the book makes for a smooth, easily digestible read. I have issues with the manner Alao’s health matter was allegedly resolved, and with certain other threads that were rather left loosely around the nebulous character called Teacher.

The candor with which book treats the subject of family and infidelity borders on recklessness, yet the last pages are invested with a depth of sensitivity and pathos that can only come from a compassionate heart. Perhaps Alao invited his own cuckoldry. With a massive, massage-seeking ego and a lack of introspection, the wives were hard-pressed showing him any pictures other than the very one he wanted to see. It is a tribute to Shoneyin’s savoir faire that, after orchestrating that great fall, she manages to sew up Humpty Dumpty’s honour together again.

The author acknowledged that the story grew out of an anecdote told her by a friend; one wonders how much of the novel now translated into French and produced on several stages around the world actually owes its brilliance to that original anecdote and how much grew from the author’s fertile imagination.

Book: The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives. 

Publisher : Cassava Republic, third edition, 2015                                                            Reviewer: Anaele Ihuoma.                                                                                                         Review type: Two-page review series. One page-version available on request.

Deluded Angels [They rained down on Southern Kaduna]

Usually, skeletons would scurry, away

like drenched rats whenever gluttony

struts the runway

but here

it is not so

for the gluttons here

feed on manflesh

and leave the skeletons to tip the scales of infamy

 

The tooth fillers were chased away

now gangs with fangs

are playing dentists

pulling milk teeth

to line the routes of their boulevards,

ethnic-cleansed,

as breeders of hate try

to teach the devil himself a few new tricks

in southern Kaduna

 

We saw it when Typhoon ‘Anopheles’ struck

leaving a Santa generosity of proboscis

to siphon the flow of redness                                                                                                                     the pigment that once bound all humanity

now they are humming with marrowless humerus,

in their private museums.

This is no code

it’s what is left of their foes

after the flesh is fleeced:

their tribal foes

whose children once filled the bridal trains at their own daughters’ weddings

 

Their brains were the first to go

then the mind was traded for intoxicants

that bigot brew that turns a simple look in a mirror

into sight-seeing wonders

where deluded angels

see nothing

but their gold standard tribal marks.

 

Deluded Angels

Deluded Angels

[They rained down on Southern Kaduna]

 

Usually, skeletons would scurry, away

like drenched rats whenever gluttony

struts the runway

but here

it is not so

for the gluttons here

feed on manflesh

and leave the skeletons to tip the scales of infamy

 

The tooth fillers were chased away

now gangs with fangs

are playing dentists

pulling milk teeth

to line the routes of their boulevards,

ethnic-cleansed,

as breeders of hate try

to teach the devil himself a few new tricks

in southern Kaduna drain

 

We saw it when Typhoon ‘Anopheles’ struck

leaving a Santa generosity of proboscis

to siphon the flow of redness                                                                                                                                   that once bound all humanity

now they are humming with marrowless humerus,

in their private museums.

This is no code

it’s what is left of their foes

after the flesh is fleeced:

their tribal foes

whose children once filled the bridal trains at their own daughters’ weddings

 

Their brains were the first to go

then the mind was traded for intoxicants

that bigot brew that turns a simple look in a mirror

into sight-seeing wonders

where deluded angels

see nothing

but their gold standard tribal marks.

You Must Leave Your Beard Behind -for Fidel Castro

You Must Leave Your Beard Behind

– For Fidel Castro

Many find their fun at the fount of blood,

like Herod’s messengers

returning with venom-coated evidence

of their own efficiencies

But the winds find theirs as they kiss the cedars

that bear your epitaphs, in bold

your epitaphs, set to salsa

Many Herods sought you, Fidel

but like wanton kids, all they got

was the tail of the wall gecko

as the creature bailed out

to return to his trade of fortune telling…

…that bulwarks, cast in concrete

held back raging seas

but failed to hinder the hands that turned the guillotine

robbing graveyards of their proverbial silence:

as griefs writ in wreaths

of Marxism-leninism memorabilia

mingle with cry of crushed grass

..the turf of elephant fights…

when one ism bids to outdo the other.

But you, wild cat of the caribbes

you touted no isms,

you merely washed your people’s feet

feet, where once were stumps

A thousand breastplates torment their wearers

a billion bulletproofs

encase their victims

but they are lighter than a sketch of scarecrows

before the winds of fate

But you, captain of the caribbes

all you wore was

a parchment

of your people’s love

cast around you

like a spell, and

fending off the furious fusillades

of your foes, as their arrows

ricocheted off the dome of their doomsday predictions

long before Moncada Garrison

long after Sierra Maestra

Ill-winds may rock the boats of history, but

they still berth in benevolent shores

the same armada that rubbled cast iron barricades

could do so scant against

paean-spinning peasants

filling the atmosphere like anti-missile shields,

folks feigning madness and swearing:

  • Give us Fidel or give us death!

King of the Caribbes,

your knighthood is inviolate,

Not six-a-penny bought:

you earned your epaulet

With scars that courage wrought

But all journeys must end, alas

the straws that fuel the feet of the snail-hunter at night

must one day run out of own fuel,

the proverb-minter

himself a proverb in another’s tongue

Now you must journey to the city

where revolution is anathema

where dachas diminishing, and castles a-plenty

where crowns outnumber bags of legends

on the chequered tracks of tortoises

Carriage horse of the Caribbes

you may hear orgies of elegies

from the same tongues that toggled your denunciation songs:

when they rend the sky with their twenty one gun salutes

plug your ears to cannons

Some will exhume ancestral bones

turning the trumpets for the Internationale

to pseudo-prophets for their tribal agenda

when they rend the sky with their twenty one gun salutes

plug your ears to their cannons

They may entomb you in mausoleums grander

than the taj mahal

Let them deck you in kente

and serenade you in a soirée of sonatas

When they rend the sky with their twenty one gun salutes

Plug your ears to their cannons

And you must leave your beard behind

This is no journey with jungle boots

No rucksacks, no fatigue

Walk straight,

Walk nimble

Merge into your hallowed place

in the pantheon.

fdel-castro