When I Write
Before the rise of the Cockerel
From his wooden roost
To break the silence of dawn,
A crowing bell in his throat,
I must pluck my steely pen
From its holder, its nib
Spurting with grief floods.
I must wake the haunting Muse
And summon visions of gods
Bestriding skull domes,
A blood mass gleaming under their feet,
And how with matchless and cruel intensity
They must exhale fires from puffing nostrils
To afflict the fields, bleed the trees,
Strip young leaves of songs,
And cripple a crouched land
With a baggage of sorrows on its back.
I must etch lines about ancestral hills
Stripped of heads,
Of hemorrhaging birds
With pruned feathers,
Of crimson rivers that belch
The stench of their rotten entrails,
Of wailing streets stormed into fright
By the bomber’s blasts and the slayer’s stabs.
I must etch lines drenched in dolour,
Of a gnarled world that groans and smothers
In the claws of murderous beasts.
So, I write of Aleppo’s cold blood rivers,
Of Mogadishu’s plains gasping in gory floods,
Of Borno maidens snatched and hauled into a cruel fief.
I write of the execrable thrones of demons
Of a newfangled world that decrees abominations
And mock the tumult in the clouds.
I etch lines about mongrels in fat castles
Gorging on the sweat of Calcutta’s slave factories.
I sing of the fury of avenging winds
That set reprisals against those forbidding thrones.
I write of blood pumping in a swell of retributions,
measure for measure, soul for soul.
I muse, I write, I etch
Of the blood of reckoning seasons.
Sunset at Dusk
(i.m. Chinua Achebe)
Were you the last pillar of reason standing tall
In the wild forest shaken by rustling winds?
Were you the last stone capping the rock
In the savannah stormed by wild anthills?
Blacksmith, whose fingers anvilled words
Into arrows of truth! You walked this land,
Where angels had fled on wings of haste;
Where men faltered and fell in the clefts of soil.
Has death swept the custodian of truth away
Leaving the land and its ancient lore unguarded?
Has the Ogidi gong gone silent when the songbird rode
Into heaven’s gates in clouds of swash?
The earth trembled at your passing,
Brazen gong, who told how kings and princes
Danced naked in the village square
And then wiped his nose with glory.
You told how the Cock farted and the earth hounded him
Like a drunken mob chasing an outlaw,
Because we know that the head that upsets the wasp
Must face the wrath of its sting.
For integrity you spurned
The laurels of a nation that sold its gleam,
Oji tree, whose head pried the secrets of the skies.
Bastion of birds of sorrow, now will they that nested
On your boughs scurry into unfamiliar
Thresholds where the sun holds back its gleam?
The sun that set at your dusk has cast grim shadows
Upon the broken walls of the clan. We still remember
How you held off the fury of gods like a rampart,
And walked where warriors dreaded to tread.
From a deep well of memory I sing you
This song of honour. I sing of your nobility,
Faithful custodian of truth, Oja flutist
Who plucked home a wealth of glory.
THEOPHILUS EJORH is a Nigerian-Irish creative writer, scholar and researcher, and holds a PhD in Sociology from University College Dublin, where he teaches. He has published one volume of poetry, Echoes of the Moment (1994), and edited two, Embers of Words (2012) and Bluebells Are Blooming Again (2013). Prizes include the first and second prizes in the 2013 and 2014 European Anti-Racism literary competitions organised by the South Dublin County Council. His work has appeared in various local and international journals and anthologies, including the 2015 edition of The Stony Thursday Book. He is the founder and CEO of Migrant Writers and Performing Artists Ireland, and lives in Dublin.