The International Writers
My shell lay supine
on the ground, limbless and fast-shrinking out of sight. The ripe carcass
for birds and worms; did I see a turtledove fly above the dirty streams
pass the gable of my house? Did I see it hit the eaves with a resounding
clap that almost thundered off the roof? How come it flaps its wings on
the ground, struggling for breath and life, just by the left temple of
my head? I had thought of a mischief at play, the second skin of mortals
and I reasoned the birds had started to take up the nature of man. They
ate mans meal and walked his paths; they serenaded to sustain their
loves, danced his styles and howled when in pain. So it was easy that
I thought that the dying bird was at a game to deceive the world into
eating my carcass. I was moved to raise an alarm, and avert the birds
plan, but what for? I had thought later. The carcass was not
me; the spirit was me. No bird eats spirits! I needed to come to grips
with my death; no more a mortal with the usual selfish and fearful outlook.
I DIED! Pitifully
sprawled. She warned me!
Resting breathless at the crossroad. It was a familiar spot I had
passed much too often, when I still had my body. The road has not
changed, only that I now float across it, from one part of the forest
to another. Now obvious that I am free, able to soar higher than
I ever imagined; a new kind of sprint no mortal can enjoy.
I turned around to make my final exit from the world of familial mortals,
observant and patiently waiting vultures, that had congregated round the
carcass, when my propping eye, if the spirits are allowed one, caught
the glimpse of a foot stamping the hapless bird. It went flat with the
earth. Coming up, I could behold only adulterated blood and feathers.
It was the foot of an elderly woman, whose skirt revealed the black colour
of darkness. And the blowse only the shade of the skirt. The contrast
was brilliant between her apparel and her yellow face. Even the ear and
the inner parts of her nostrils did not betray the fact her fairness.
Her fingers and big toes protruding out of torn gloves and stockings only
serve to confirm her off-black complexion. She looked alien, in posture
and attitude. In our small residential space, where we enjoy a savage
existence, no one is so cruel as to kill a bird, not even an ant. But
she did! She must be a witch; or a spirit transformed into human form.
She had a terrifying, blended with an exhausted, look on her face. Tears
had cascaded and dried down her face. If I looked well, I think I saw
a dried wax of teardrop looking out her jaw. A young man scurried toward
the disappearing bird, drooped at the spot and intoned silently, "Na
so we go dey dey?" He must be from the neighbouring village, where
they respected nature more than we did. He spoke in a language they wouldnt
understand, meaning to ask, "For how long shall we keep being cruel?
The fair woman in the colour of darkness repeated the words, "Na
so we go dey dey?" and burst into a round of fresh wailings. Without
giving thought to it, she keeled over my corpse, grabbing my shoulder
and shaking me vigorously, as if to rouse me from sleep. I was moved to
return into my lifeless shell, but the Rubicon of life had been crossed.
I have joined the waters that are human, the stars that confer, and the
humans that eat in the heart of the Sun. No going back! I wept for the
lady, but no tears came, no crinkles formed on my face, no heart to feel
love and pity, no weep in essence. I shrugged with the power of the spirits,
and pierced the skin of the lady, I came to a land I had passed so many
times, the scent of the forest is familiar, the ocean is red and I have
drunk of it; she was my wife. She abruptly got up, with a warrior-like
mien, looking far ahead of her. Words came, as from the holy mouth of
a Prophet berating the crooked world of Noahs angelic giants and
wayward mistresses. She spoke like the heavens release of thunder.
Too sure of her words and thoughts, "I WARNED HIM!" As if she
was proud to have predicted my fall and death if I did not hearken to
her advice, "I warned him just yesterday, but he wouldnt listen."
She stormed out of the heart of the crossroad, and everyone trailed behind
her out of sight.
The carcass was left, and my spirit was neglected to fly by itself. My
transformation had become to my wife a glory; a thing to pride herself
in; her shrewd foresight and ability to guide mans actions. She
had suddenly become the talk of the town; the one unassuming sorcerer;
the prophetess with the wand of authority. She would go round bragging
about her divine knowledge. And establishing the indispensability of her
advice became her occupation. She would tell how my refusal to yield her
advice had led to my doom; the eventual loss of my breath. I DIED, and
she was proud
She had warned me not to be radical in my views, to be silent on issues
bordering on strong political activities and affecting the lives of the
people. She had sternly warned me in order to protect me. I looked beyond
all that and saw my blood purging the people of long sufferings, of abject
poverty, of squalid existence and of unredeemable presence. I heard my
voice bringing down the scales of ignorance and paving, like the cutlass
of Ogun, the path to the world of reality and greatness. I have seen the
peoples feet stamping my ragged body into the dark undergrounds
that they may stand high and behold the lights. I have waited for that
time and it came, when the people went gaga, throwing the gage and gaping
the mouths of the bourgeoisie at a revolt. The time to violently seize
power from the oppressor, as of the hosts of heavens that suffereth violence.
The time when the expropriators are expropriated by the once expropriated.
My wife, Moradeke, had warned me not to join the revolt; not to fight
the authority; not to speak not to do evil; not to be angry. She
had advised me to be calm and indifferent; to give my life to an unknown
power of the world; to surrender my entire will to the dictates of legends
that lived in a different culture several hundreds of years ago. Viewing
stolidly the world with much serenity and childish foolishness would make
me see nothing of it, but myself alone, my heart without others
a selfish adventure that benefits all but none and oneself. She had advised
me because she needed me around; she liked my jokes, my face, my touch,
and would not trade me for the suffering of the masses. She saw the love
we shared greater than the love I had for humanity. She advised but I
I died, not to her branded knowledge but to her unknown ignorance. I died
not to war but to seeming cowardice. I died, not at the battlefront, claiming
victory for the oppressed but in the cosy air of a church. I died in a
church, where Moradeke had recommended. I died after the war; after the
victory had been won; after the poor had assumed leadership. I died in
church. I died to the water that was said to be divine; the water that
was collected from the flowing stream; the water that settles with a candle
in a ribbon-tied bottle. The Head of the Church had given me the water
to drink as a follow-up to the purging of my sins, the salvation of my
soul the rendering of my entire life to Him that died for me. It
was a follow-up indeed, for I DIED.
I gulped the water and died, and the Head of the church had jubilated
that I died having given my life. He rejoiced I never died a sinner and
Moradekes ignorance informed her that I died at the battlefield.
She rejoiced in my death knowing that her fame was soaring.
I rejoiced I died, for dying to herald the victory of the oppressed is
the high point of serving humanity and the creator of humanity.
of Passing Warmth
As if the body grows to length overnight, I roused myself from sleep
one auspicious morn and discovered a startling old image of self before
the mirror. Have I slept all my life?
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