Come Away, My Love | Joseph Kariuki

Come away, my love, from streets
Where mankind eyes divide,
And show windows reflect our difference.
In the shelter of my faithful room rest.

There, safe from opinions, being behind
Myself, I can see only you
And in my dark eyes your grey
Will dissolve

The candlelight throws
Two dark shadows on the wall
Which merge into one as I close beside you.

When at last the lights are out,
And I feel your hand in mine,
Two human breaths join in one,
And the piano weaves
Its unchallenged harmony.

Joseph Kariuki is a Kenyan poet. Born in Banana Hill, Kenya and educated both at Makerere College, Uganda and Cambridge University, England. His most famous poem is an ode to former Kenyan president, Jomo Kenyatta.

The Sun on This Rubble | Dennis Brutus

The sun on this rubble after rain
bruised though we must be
some easement we require
unarguably, though we argue against desire.

Under jackboots our bones and spirits crunch
forced into sweat-tear-sodden slush
now glow-lipped by this sudden touch:

sun-stripped perhaps, our bones may later sing
or spell out their malignant nemesis
Sharpevilled to spearpoints for revenging

but now our pride-dumbed mouths are wide
with wordless supplication
are grateful for the least relief from pain
like this sun on this debris after rain.


Dennis Brutus (1924 – 2009) was a South African activist, educator, journalist and poet. 

Laughing Drums |David Amadu

History’s white hand wrote my country’s course
In a language that will come back and hunt her
In the twenty first century ;
The man at the round-about calls it exploitation
Beyond redemption.
But I say it is far beyond our imagination.
Who would have ever thought
Shedding blood for diamonds will be our lot?
Not even the ruthless bullies
Who scrambled for our land to please their hungry bellies;
Nor did big city dwellers in their luxury
Have the faintest idea of our misery.
The man at the round-about says
We are in a conundrum
But I say let’s play our joyful laughing drums
Play our laughing drums
To the sound of hungry children chewing crumbs.

History’s white hand wrote
Signatories and pernicious agreements both
As IMF loans and World Bank Killer packages
Inflicting unparallel wounds and damages;
The man at the round-about calls it Neocolonialism
Without Comparison
But I say it’s beyond human realism
So let’s play our joyful laughing drums
To the sound of children chewing crumbs.

David Amadu is a poet based in Sierra Leone.

New Year’s Eve Midnight | Gabriel Okara

Now the bells are tolling–

A year is dead.

And my heart is slowly beating

the Nunc Dimittis

to all my hopes and mute

yearnings of a year

and ghosts hover round

dream beyond dream

 

Dream beyond dream

mingling with the dying

bell-sounds fading

into memories

like rain drops

falling into a river.

 

And now the bells are chiming–

A year is born.

And my heart-bell is ringing

in a dawn.

But it’s shrouded things I see

dimly stride

on heart-canopied paths

to a riverside.

Gabriel Okara was born in 1921 in Nembe in Rivers State, Nigeria. He is one of the most significant early Nigerian poets. Often concerned with the identity of his people, throughout his poetry, there is evidence of the influence of the traditional folk literature of his people. (Culled from A Selection of African Poetry, annotated by K.E. Senanu and T. Vincent)

The Cathedral | Kofi Awoonor

On this dirty patch
a tree once stood
shedding incense on the infant corn:
its boughs stretched across a heaven
brightened by the last fires of a tribe.
They sent surveyors and builders
who cut that tree
planting in its place
A huge senseless cathedral of doom.


Kofi Awoonor (13 March 1935 – 21 September 2013) was a Ghanaian poet and author whose work combined the poetic traditions of his native Ewe people and contemporary and religious symbolism to depict Africa during decolonization. He started writing under the name George Awoonor-Williams, and was also published as Kofi Nyidevu Awoonor. He taught African literature at the University of Ghana.

Awoonor1
The firewood of this world/ Is only for those who can take heart/ That is why not all can gather it…[Professor Dr. Kofi Awoonor – A Tribute] (Songs of Sorrow I)

From A Place by Titilope Sonuga

From A Place by Titilope Sonuga

I come from a place

where mothers go to battle each day
with a baby strapped across their backs
another still clinging from their breasts
childcare at its finest

A place of street businessmen
who don’t need a white collar to make deals
they sign contracts with handshakes
shirtless sometimes shoeless
they will show you how to make money
make money

You will find anything in these streets
from hubcaps to toilet seats

It has been said
if you leave home naked
find yourself caught in the gridlock traffic
of Lagos roads
they will have you dressed
boardroom sharp
briefcase in hand
between the mainland and the island

I come from a place
of jaw dropping mansions and

face-me-I-face-you-rooms
where a child hawks goods in the blazing sun
next to an air conditioned Mercedes Benz

There are dichotomies here
abject poverty chewing at the seems that bind us
but we are the same people who built a city on fire
who bent fire and metal to give you art
built empires before the world’s first breath

Check your textbooks
better yet check your encyclopedias
read between the lines
you will find us there
you will find us everywhere
every continent, climate, country
speaking Portuguese, French, Italian
and they call us uncivilized

We can show you how to perfect pair
your caviar and wine
and still get down fingers deep
in a plate of pounded yam

I come from a place
where the world’s best storytellers first spoke
who taught you
You Must Set Forth At Dawn
be No Longer At Ease with that
Thing Around your Neck before

Things Fall Apart

So when you ask me where I come from
there are things I want to tell you
that are louder than my bright green passport
things that are heavier than the failed explosive
cradled in Mutalab’s underpants
things that are more colorful than a well crafted
419 email

You will never understand who I am until you know
exactly where I come from

Poem taken from the Spoken Word album ‘Mother Tongue’. Reproduced from https://literature.britishcouncil.org/blog/2015/writing-a-new-nigeria/

Titilope Sonuga released her first spoken word album Mother Tongue in 2013. Her second poetry collection Abscess was released in 2014 by Geko Publishing. Titilope is the winner of the 2013 EMCN RISE (Recognizing Immigrant Success in Edmonton) award for Art and Culture and the 2014 National Black Coalition of Canada Fil Fraser Award for outstanding work in literary performance and/or visual arts. Visit her at http://titilope.ca/

Bodies, Flowerbeds: A Villanelle | Viola Allo

The earth, carved up, engraved with bodies,

this hollow vision of death: people resting

together, bodies beneath a bed of flowers.

 

We soften death into poems and stories.

The art of writing is just a way of wailing

for the earth, carved up, sculpted by bodies.

 

In Cameroon, hair from the dead is carried,

mixed with camwood and kept; the living

remember bodies beneath beds of flowers.

 

What we seek through our endless studies

sits beyond death, but the path to it is sinking

into a carved-up earth, paved with bodies.

 

The sharp shovel of silence briefly remedies

the ear deaf to the voices of the dead, linking

it to slender-petaled tongues in a flowerbed.

 

A poem or a story is an etching of memories,

dignity in the fragile face of loss. Soothing

the earth, carved up, engraved with bodies,

we hum together beside a bed of flowers.

Heart’s Eye View | Niyi Osundare

Left Paris
Several heartthrobs ago

Past Madrid
Now flying over Marrakech

One fast sweep
Over the sprawling Sahara

And on to the angel
Waiting by the sea

Every wingstep brings me
Closer to your wondrous arms

 

Niyi Osundare is Professor of English at University of New Orleans, USA, and one of the best-known poets from Africa. His works of published poetry include Songs of the Marketplace (1983), Village Voices (1984), A Nib in the Pond (1986), The Eye of the Earth (1986), Songs of the Season (1987), Moonsongs (1988), Waiting Laughters (1990), Selected Poems (1992), Midlife (1993), The Word is an Egg (2000) and Tender Moments (2006). Osundare has also published four plays and essays on literature, politics and culture. 

Birds of Chibok | Viola Allo

For the kidnapped girls of Government Secondary School Chibok, Nigeria

I.

We are the children
of the birds. They call up
to us, call down
to us, call out
to us. Forever talking /
walkabout
with song
we sing back to them /
to each other
always the same
mournful / hopeful song
of home.

II.

This forced flight /
brutal bite /
terrorist
blight
this blow to the wings
of people / country /
continent /
planet
is no sweet roar /
no true / ancient tune.
It cannot
win.

III.

We are the children
of Chibok / birds
of Chibok.
Tally our hijacked
days, rally your voices
to remember us
and sing. Tomorrow is
your baby today / unblemished
great egret on the Niger /
gifted with cries / songs
deeper / longer
than the reddened
rivers of our time.

 

Manifesto on Ars Poetica | Frank Chipasula

 

My poetry is exacting a confession

from me: I will not keep the truth from my song.

I will not bar the voice undressed by the bees

from entering the gourd of my bow-harp.

I will not wash the blood off the image

I will let it flow from the gullet

slit by the assassin’s dagger through

the run-on line until it rages in the verbs of terror;

And I will distil life into the horrible adjectives;

I will not clean the poem to impress the tyrant

I will not bend my verses into the bow of a praise song.

I will put the symbols of murder hidden in high offices

in the center of my crude lines of accusations.

I will undress our raped land and expose her wounds.

I will pierce the silence around our land with sharp metaphors

And I will point the light of my poems into the dark

nooks where our people are pounded to pulp.

I will not coat my words in lumps of sugar

I will serve them to our people with the bitter quinine:

I will not keep the truth from my heartstringed guitar;

I will thread the voice from the broken lips

through my volatile verbs that burn the lies.

I will ask only that the poem watch the world closely;

I will ask only that the image put a lamp on the dark

ceiling in the dark sky of my land and light the dirt.

Today, my poetry has exacted a confession from me.