Roses and Angels V

continued from last week…

roses and angels

“You…you know…”

“Yes,” the old lady interrupted, “I know exactly what you are. You are a light, child, so why are you hiding?”

Your afternoon just went from one amazing high to a terrible low, and now you are just bouncing back and forth, your mind a jumble of abrasive thoughts.

“My dear, has no one ever told you that you have a winsome voice? A voice that moves heaven, and holds the attention of the Almighty?” The lady wore a warm smile as she spoke. “You have no business sitting down here with the rest of us, you should be up there,” she pointed at the section of pews reserved for the choir.

It’s shaky at first, but you try again and your shy face smiles back, saying thank you in whispers, like it is a little secret you shared with her.

“It’s a gift, my child, a divine gift which you can cause to shine for the world to see…”

Her words were cut short by the Anima Christi. You said the words, but your thoughts were rooted in the woman’s words. When the bishop gave the final blessing, she turned to you and smiled.

“Think about it, child,” she said and drifted away with the teeming congregation.

That was the push you needed. The following Sunday after mass, you walked up gingerly to the woman you assumed was the choir mistress. She was excited at your desire and immediately took your data.

The rehearsals were on Tuesdays and Saturday, and you requested that Chime and Saratu, your co-workers swap shifts with you. So you attended your first meeting where the choristers sang for you, embraced you and welcomed you into what they called their family.

Now you can really appreciate life. The sun-ups and sunsets, coming and going of customers, wet and dry season, choral meeting and in them all, you feel you have finally carved your niche in life. You have graduated from the choral probation class, and have been embraced as a full member. You are aloof at first, but you eventually make friends with the members.

There are days when your colleagues at work will be unable to swap shifts for you, and you miss meetings in consequence. Those days, two or three choristers will be sent to check on you, perchance you had taken ill. The nights were sacred for you, there are times you either lay quiet meditating on your past, or wrote several lines of poetry, which you later put away in that white metallic rack. Your salary is still paltry, yet out of it you are eking out a living, and paying small sums into your savings account, perchance another evil day comes knocking.

Some evenings, especially on Sundays, you take a long stroll into the street, taking in the breeze, as though it had some purifying quality. And when the rain meets you in the streets, you do not run, but freeing yourself to its will, you let its waters drench your flesh.

The Cathedral comes alive with activities as months crawl by. It is set to mark its fiftieth anniversary. The choir practices more frequently. You sing soprano and know most of the hymns and other religious songs that are taught by the choir mistress. Two weeks to the anniversary, your association is visited by the Bishop himself. He commends your past efforts, and beseeches you all to be at your best, not only because of the anniversary, but because the President has been invited.

It is three days to the anniversary. You are serving a customer when you are told that someone has come looking for you. It is the deputy-president of your choral group. He has some news.

“Susana’s mother has stroke, and is in the risk of death, so she cannot be present on Sunday; in fact, she is already on her way home.” You curse the devil for inflicting harm on your choir mistress’ mother just when the group needed her the most.

“We have deliberated at length,” Emmanuel continues, “and decided that you will take her place at the anniversary.”

What? You are short of words. You are scared, then excited, then very scared that they are asking too much of you. You are scared that they will insist and cajole you, but you will say no, and for the first time, fail this family, whose hope seems to hang on your unwilling shoulders…

The wine-red curtains compliment the roses that are standing in the cream vase on the sides of the stairs leading up to the podium. Someone whispers behind you that the roses are natural; they were flown in by a church member to dazzle the president who is fond of them. You wish you could go to the bouquet and hold them in your hands and smell their fragrance. Maybe, you think, they will bring you luck, just maybe.

Rehearsals have been tedious since the day you reluctantly said yes to the persistent pleas of your members. The teeming crowd in the hall is one that you have never seen before. The president is seated beside the Archbishop, listening with rapt attention and nodding intermittently to the Bishop’s speech. For the first time you do not listen to him. His speech is the last item on the program before the choral presentation, which would be concluded with a solo rendition that should have been done by Susana, a solo that would now be done by you.

You can hear your pulsating heart. You can feel the sudden stiffness settling in your palms and slowly extending its grip to your hands and chest, as if eager to reach out to your heart. The room feels chilly, much chilly than ever before, and you feel some stiffness around your neck. The applause that attends the Bishop’s final words are not unexpected by you. You manage to jam your stiff palms together a couple of times as your group rises to perform.

The choir is at its best, with each chorister playing his or her part to the nines. Then the others resumed their seats, and your hour has come. You move up to the spot light to perform the original version of Ave Maria. You cannot remember if you smiled at the audience, as you had been advised. Your grip on the micro-phone is tight, yet you can feel your hands tremble. You draw it close to your mouth, and you begin.

You do not hear your own voice at first, and you cannot see because your eyes are shut. But as you sing on you feel a calmness envelop you. You feel light, so light you think you are adrift in wonderland. You draw strength from your soul, strength that reaches your vocal cord and smoothly glides to your lips to birth the most mellifluous tune ever.

Papa is beside you smiling, nodding approvingly, and urging you to go on. Mama stands just off to the other side, wearing her blessed smile, acknowledging with glee, Papa’s enthusiasm. You can feel them by you as if they are really there.

Slowly, ever so slowly, you release your eye lids from their soft embrace. Light floods as if from the heavens into your eyes. They do not blind you. They revivify, filling your mind with sacred illumination. The passion in your voice, the celestial images conjured by their lyrics, their intricacy and angelic qualities, all have the grip of your large audience. As you near the ending lyrics, you can see the expressions on their faces – beyond delight. Buoyed, you pitch, and with dexterity, bear it up to the greatest imaginable height, those heights that always leave you breathless, yet in control of the crescendo. And at last you exhale. It is over.

As soon as you are done, she rises, her face radiant with an infectious smile. She is the first to rise, the president of your country. With her ovation, comes several more, and then the entire hall. Rapturous unending applause ringing like thunder fills the room, accompanied by broad smiles and eyes filled with admiration.

Madam President steps forward, a modest glamour written all over her. You have seen her countless times on the television in the restaurant, always clad in her dark-coloured suits. Now, as she takes elegant steps towards you, you see a tall woman full of love and simplicity and eyes that burnt with zeal. She does not mount the stairs, but gestures at the compere who hands the micro-phone to her.

“Precious angel,” she says, “what is your name?”

“Ijeoma, Madam,” you reply, “my name is Ijeoma.”

“Just as beautiful as her voice,” she says.

Then she turns to the bishop and says, “it not in my character to dine in public. Yet, if I must dine here today as I hear you desire of me, Ijeoma, this lovely angel that I have found this day in the house of the Lord must be found by my side…”

                                                                       ****

The music of life is composed of such notions which none can lay claim to have gained mastery of. Seasons have come and seasons have gone, the tides a million times have risen and fallen, the years have glided past, yet your turn around in life ever more fills you with wonderment. You often share your past stories with your students in the Malcolm University, where you are a now a Professor of Music and have bagged numerous academic awards. You also tell your story – the story of a broken spirit, of resolution and hope – to the eager ears of those teenage girls at Winsome Heart, the organization you run primarily for the emancipation of young girls from the manacles of sexual slavery.

It has been ten years since you published your first work on poetry, and so far, you have published several others. You have won two awards for poetic literature. It has been fifteen years since you read on a local tabloid, the story of Johnny’s conviction for drug abuse, women trafficking, and the murder of a young girl described as his ‘stock-in- trade’; you still book mass for him on every feast day of All Souls. It has been twenty years since you met Madam President, yet you still send fresh scented roses to her every Yuletide. You frequently visit at her country home, where despite old age, she manages a small fruit garden and by the fireside, tells folk tales to her grandchildren.

Carl, your husband, whom you met at a music carnival in Jamaica, often accompanies you, with Chimdalu, and Chidiogo, your twin daughters.  And on every visit, after you have all traded stories and eaten and rested, Madam still implores you, always, to flatter her aging ears with your sonorous soul-songs.

And you do.

THE END

By Uche Anichebe

Twenty Fifteen

A brother was telling me just this week about how in Nigeria, we are more about beats, and nada about the lyrics of our music. I agreed with him on a lot of his points, after all how many words of Terry G and even Davido lyrics can I comfortably write down. Yet, I’ll gbedu anytime to ‘Run Mad’ and Davido is fifth on my phone’s ‘Most played’ artistes.

Yet again it pays once in a while to hear something different. And refreshing.

‘Twenty Fifteen’ by Khafeel is one such piece.

You know how recently, the mornings are very unfriendly to go out in, but we have to for daily bread. So you just boarded the bus, the window to your left is blank – no glass, you can’t shut out the biting cold; the lady to your right is F.A.T and as if the Israelites didn’t suffer enough, she balances this humongous basket of cocoyams on her laps; the conductor is eating your ear out about the one thousand naira note you gave him, ‘kosi change oh‘; you stick your ear plugs in your ear and your one prayer is for a track like ‘Twenty Fifteen’.

Made by rather conserved but extremely talented and budding producer, Kinsu, ‘Twenty Fifteen’ by Khafeel is a poetic piece to set the new year on a path of excellence, pomp and ceremony.

Listen here…

http://goo.gl/Vc6J4z

You may find the transcript below. Best enjoy it.

AND SHARE!!!


Twenty Fifteen

May our barns be filled with yam
And the tubers be long and fat.
May our cellars never dry out
Serving newness with the passing of each new day.
May our fields be green
So they can graze, our sheep and cattle.
May we have meat in abundance
Enough to feed even the needy.
May we drink and never thirst
With merry hearts all the days of the year.

Twenty Fifteen.
We call you by your name
From years we’ve seen, we ask you change the game
From whence we’ve been, grant us a new fame
The fat and the lean, let the showers fall on same
All the babes we wean, let them grow and not be lame
Be void of sin, and the wild, we pray you tame
And when finally your light shall dim,
let men not forget that you came.

We bid you to spring forth new waters
From patched lands scorched terrains
Fresh and salty, as the need may arise.

Send the rain and end the pain
As we free our hearts and set our minds
To Conceive the unimaginable
Gather our acts to do the impossible
Tirelessly pronouncing the unpopular
And living life that is void of mediocrity.

Cloth us in apparels of shimmering stone
Emeralds and diamonds, refined to the finest tone
Make us dazzling babies as we savour the late night moan
Grant us the best of wheels, German prides bought not on loan
And tastefully built abodes situated in the world’s choicest zone.

Twenty Fifteen.
Answer by your name
Prosper don’t play safe
Let men their joys resound as we proclaim thee the year of the ornaments.
With trumpets sounding on C
The drums rolling with such ecstasy
The people dancing stamping joyous feet for all to see
A perfect complement to the soft wind blowing over land and sea
Even as tinsels sway and cling to the rhythm of the harmony that we oversee
Giving us a goodly heritage and a perfect legacy.

Twenty Fifteen.
No I’m not eighteen
But yeah I feel like a teen
For love don’t cost a thing.

We pray thee to spread abroad the love that we men need at a time like this
We ask that your arms embrace us, that your lips kiss us, and your warmth enclose us
Giving comfort to all that despair and hope to the ones who cry in silence.

We pray, that your mornings be filled with joy
Exceedingly great, even past the time of noon
And the eve and the morrow shall ever speak of tranquil peace
Economic order and societal bliss.

Twenty Fifteen.
Arise never to fall,
For on your wings we soar unto limitless heights and sights
Strapped and saddled fast and firm
We ride to the place of our victory
Diving into the world’s deepest depths
We uncover treasures locked beneath the floor of the ocean.

Pregnant you are
Midwives we shall be
Walking you safely through timely delivery of the blessings that you have stored up for our use.

Twenty Fifteen.
With arms stretched all out
And smiles that melt the heart of the broken.
We bid you a grand welcome.

Chisom

Goodnight, Ijeoma

“EXPLOSION rocked Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), on Wednesday, when a car loaded with bomb device exploded at a popular shopping mall close to Barnex Junction, Wuse Central District, leaving 21 people dead.”

That was how the news reported Wednesday’s bomb blast. 21. /tuwenti whan/…ashirin da daya…iri abuo na otu…okan le ogun…21. Very easy…try it. Twenty-one dead. See?

And the ones before them…ninety-seven, 60, two hundred and thirty-four…or thirty-seven. All numbers. Just numbers.

 

Only they aren’t. They are 21 men, 21 women, 21 babies, 60 children, 234 girls…all human. Just human.

Human enough to eat, and drink, and sleep, and cry; like you. Human enough to feel their hearts thud heavily, one last time before it all turns to smoke; like you would have. Human enough to hiss very sadly and feel sorry for those that had gone before; like me. And human enough to circle their hands over their heads, snap their fingers and say “It is not my portion in Jesus name”; like us. Human enough for all of that, but now, mere numbers. All numbers. Just numbers.

 

Ijeoma is just one. Just one, one sister, one daughter, one friend, one Ijeoma. To us, one matters. One is all. One is everything. All one. Just one.

The sorrow you will read in the following lines flow raw from the heart of my pal, blackINK whose pen did the writing. Its sorrow is exactly equivalent to the sorrow felt for every one loss to the manic rampage of Boko Haram; its sorrow swells for every one person lost, every one PEOPLE. People, not numbers.

 

Goodnight Ijeoma

The sun’s gone again
Call it shame or fear
The point’s still the same
Night has yet again come to stay

The wind has left with its warmth
The night’s cold and the stars are alone…

The owl’s wet to the skin
It’s raining heavily tonight
There’s a sadness in earth and sky
There’s a shiver in the owl’s cry…

No message was left
And her goodbye was not heard
If she cried, I hope not for long

We would meet again soon
When the skies would know no night

Tho’ you left so soon
I know you are only asleep
Your dreams we shall all live on
One day we shall all meet again
To yet again part no more

Yesterday if we had known, you would have slept all day

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To Ijeoma and all the victims of the Barnex bomb blast

By blackINK

 

Shamelessly and undeservedly, I share in your sorrow, brother. And like you, I insist that she is not just a number. Goodnight, Ijeoma.

 

I am @0jukwu_martin on twitter

 

Every Sunday

church

This poem is about love

And it is very long

It is a long poem that tells the story of a kind of love

Not the kind of love you read about in romance series

And not the kind you see in soppy soaps

With dark-haired men and yellow-haired dolls

Who never have children because then what color would their hair be

This poem is about love

It is a long poem that tells the story of a kind of love

A love you will not recognize

A love that is disrespectful and blasphemous

A love that does not know its name

I don’t expect you to understand

Don’t understand

I only wish that you would pay attention

No, don’t pay attention

Don’t pay anything

Only listen

It is yet one of the harder requests ever requested

Requesting that one listen

Because we all like to hear our own voices most of the time

But still I wish that you would listen

Only listen

 

This poem is about love

Love that started in the church

In the house of God where the devil worships on Sunday

Every Sunday

And the demons burn incense and bath in holy water

This poem is about love

Love that started in the church

Between a boy and a girl who sat on either side of a man and woman

He was a chorister

Join a choir today

But he did not sing in the choir because he was too good a singer

So he sat just behind them and sang aloud

Sang better than they sang on Sunday

Every Sunday

Every time he sang so that they could hear that he was good

He was singing aloud when the man sat beside him

And a woman followed and sat beside him

And a girl followed and sat beside her

And he was singing aloud just like he sings

Every Sunday

 

She was not a chorister

Remember, join a choir today

She just joined her father and her mother to church on Sunday

Every Sunday

Every time she dolled up in Ankara and silken wraps

She blow-dried her hair with a hand fan

A souvenir from a cousin’s wedding

And she tied it with a yellow headband

A souvenir from a broken heart

And she got in the car and went to church with her father and her mother

Every Sunday

Her father sat down and her mother followed him

Her mother sat down and she followed her

And sat down

Just like she does on Sunday

Every Sunday

 

Pause

Rewind to the last stanza

Not this last last one, the one before the last one

He was singing aloud when the man sat beside him

And a woman followed and sat beside him

And a girl followed and sat beside her

And he stopped singing

He stopped singing aloud like he used to on Sunday

This Sunday

 

He stared

And she pretended not to see

Still he stared

At her full head of dark natural curls

Bound up in a mellow yellow bandana

Grow some dark natural curls today

Buy a yellow bandana, a mellow yellow bandana

Her eyes were hazel and hazy

As if they struggled to cover up mistakes done by, gone by

Her eyes were set a tad too far apart

As if they struggled against their own chemistry

Her nose was a slight button of caramel-tinted flesh that overturned like a fancy W

And her mouth was full with lips lusty and lined

Sun-dried tissue peeled off here and there, like roasted bundles of human phloem

Roasted and ready to eat

And he stared at them too long because he wanted to speak to them

No

To her

He wanted to speak to her and hear them speak to him

But the man and the woman sat between

Garbed in white and unmoving

Like the seven seas and seven hills

Where the seven dwarfs lived with Snow white and the princess, Obeledu

The man and woman sat still

Garbed in white and unmoving

Holding hands

Whispering and pecking when everybody else shook hands

 

The girl stood and made for the altar

Her offering bunched in her hand

She walked like the answer to a charmed human prayer

She walked like she knew she was the answer to a charmed human prayer

The man sat still, the woman sat still

The boy sat still

But only for another second

Then he stood and made for the altar

His offering bunched in his head

He walked like a charmed human prayer

He knew he was a charmed human prayer

He had no money in his hand but there was a song in his heart

All things bright and beautiful

All creatures fair and caramel

All hazel eyes and hair plentiful

The Lord God made them all

 

He waited on the stairs and she never came

Till he dusted his seat ready to give up the game

But then she came and she was the same

Like he had seen back in the pew, just the same

I think I know you from somewhere

It was the dumbest line ever

Learn some suave lines today

No, I mean it

Learn some suave lines

No you don’t know me from anywhere

It was the straightest jab ever

True, I don’t. Give me your number

Smile

Let’s go downstairs

So they went

Down the stairs

And they talked on the way

Down the stairs

About crying babies and praying adults as they walked

Down the stairs

 

Give me your number

No

I shall return here, same time, same pew on Sunday

Every Sunday

Just to see you again

Smile

You are wrong to assume that I will be here, same time, same pew, on Sunday

Every Sunday

Sigh

And they talked some more on the terracotta

A few yards from the gate of heaven

The huge narrow gate to paradise

They talked about foreign languages and strikes and campuses abroad

Then the mass was over

And the din of shuffling feet and bustling voices rose to a fever

Pitch like it did

Every Sunday

They poured forth from the gate of heaven

The huge narrow doorway

 

Give me your number

No, you’re a stranger

In the church we’re one, almost like family, not strangers

It was a suave line

Remember, learn some suave lines

Smile

Give me your number

The dark curls shook no

With the mellow yellow headband in tow

Remember, buy a yellow headband, a mellow yellow headband

The boy smelled the man coming

The girl smelled the woman coming

Give me your Number

No

Aaarrrgh

I shall return here, same time, same pew next Sunday

Every Sunday

Just to see you again

The curls rejoiced in the mellow yellow flames

I hope you do

Smile

Sigh

Give me your name

Smile

And they lived happily ever after

Every Sunday

 

This poem is about love

I warned you that it is very long

I warned you that

This poem is about love

A love you do not recognize

A love that is disrespectful and blasphemous

A love that still does not know its name

I did not expect you to understand

Don’t bother

I am just glad you paid attention

And you listened

 

Her name was Omoye.

 blacklove

I am @ojukwu_martin on twirra