Old Songs for Sale Pt. 2

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Someplace where No One Knows My Name

Bullets fly:

Take your finger off from the trigger

Now,

I don’t wish you to see me anymore like this;

Clouds in the sky:

Spell your name in a sea of blue

Smile,

We have today, but who knows tomorrow;

I thought we died:

If this isn’t Heaven, then we must go

Cry,

Once you were mine, but long that picture’s gone;

I’ll suffer in time:

Rip memories off from my wall

In my mind,

I don’t wish for you to live there no more;

Let’s depart:

From this world we thought was ours

Go inside

This heart will live on even when the world’s gone away;

See you in my dreams:

Swim to me through a ocean’s current

Green leaves,

Fall from the sky, where there are no trees.

I’ll go away:

Fade off from these streets

To a place

Where no one around knows my name…

Someplace where no one knows my name

So I won’t get to see your face again.

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John the Baptist

No matter what you do

My heart remains closed

Pick the lock if you must

There is a wall standing behind the door.

 Lost:

 This voice I once chose to have

Happiness, I’ve forgotten what you looked like

You’re the shadow once that stayed close to home

Home, too, I’ve run away from

Succor, wives, brothers and strangers

I seek no more.

The desert, my heart seems to remain there

Linger amidst cactus and lizards

scorching though be the sun

excoriate these sins

I hold forever more.

Offering Apple

It Should Be So Easy

It’s should be so easy
they way you love me, and the way I love you;
Life should be so simple
you be the earth, and I the sky that’s blue:

As the waters rise to meet the sun
so too does my heart yearn for you;

Though Time and distance separates us
phone calls and chats over webcams are never enough
to draw you close
so many songs I’ve scribbled on the back of a napkin
I wait till when you’re near
so I can sing them to you.

This life, this love
was meant to be so easy
we break up at dawn, then make up at dusk;
turn a frown into a smile
kiss under the mistletoe when December comes:

As the river runs towards the sea
so too do I search for you.

Contemplation #11

 

Blame It on the Sun

I’ll blame it on the sun:
that was the reason why you left,
I’ll blame our troubles on the moon
isn’t that why you were so gloom,
I’ll cry through the day into night
God knows I want you back
these tears know nothing but pain
wasn’t that why you couldn’t stay.

Blame it on the days that passed:
what once was here, no longer chooses to stay
the rainbow that once used to light up your face
now brings nothing but hearty rain,
let’s blame on the DJ last night
for never playing our song
Although you might disagree . . .

That’s why I choose to blame it on the sun.

Son Came Back

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While I was convalescing in Maine, touring the city of Bath, Woolwich, and Portland, I usually walked around with copy of classic Robert Frost poems. One of his poem which caught my intriguing ear was titled: The Death of the Hired Man. The narrative was so moving, I couldn’t help writing a story based on it, titled: Son Came Back. The story does feel a lot American, I wish it didn’t. The idea was more Nigerian to me: about a mature couple bickering over the changed life of their only son. The reason behind the son’s changed life being a certain book the father once handed down to him. The book, for those unwilling to attend to the allusion, is the Bible. But I thought it won’t be good if I referred to it that way.

* * * * *

Son Came Back

Mother sat at the kitchen table with just the low flame from the lantern to comfort her. The windows stood open and from where she sat she could see the large plot of harvested farmland and the pathway that led through the grown stalks of maize crops, leading all the way towards town. There was the shadow of a quarter-moon revealing itself as the yellow sun sank gradually from all eyes down the edge of the world, taking the sky along with her.

There came a high rustling sound that sounded like a horse carriage being drawn to a halt, followed by the neighing chatter of horses—Father was home.

Mother left the table, taking the lamp with her, and hurried towards the front door of their cottage. Father had jumped down from the carriage and was busy stumping mud off the sole of his boots when Mother came out to the porch to meet him. Father looked up and caught right away the worried look in her eyes; immediately he knew something was wrong. He was about to enquire this question when Mother came to him, placing a hand on his chest as if to prepare him for the worse.

“Son was here,” said mother, then quickly added: “Please don’t be harsh.”

Father was speechless. He looked past her at the open doorway that led into their homestead as if expecting to see Son stumble out after her. A pressing wind blew at his face.

“When did he—”

“This afternoon,” Mother answered. “He was here this afternoon. I was attending to the farm with the extra hands that came from town when he showed up.”

“He didn’t stay for supper?”

Mother shook her head. “He wanted to, but he was afraid of you.”

“Yes,” Father muttered with a huff to his breath. “He has every right to be afraid. The little fool. I promised breaking his neck if next time he showed his face around here.”

“Please, Father . . . enough. He’s still your son.”

“Wrong, Mother! He was my son, once. That was before he began loving the Book. Then he had the nerve—the stupid nerve—to call me ‘ancient’. No . . . no, son ever should call his Father such a word and then expect to remain my blood. Not now and not ever.” He resumed stumping his boots.

“But it was you who gave him the Book—remember? You promised long ago that when he turned fifteen, you would give him the Book, and that was what you did.”

“Do not lecture me on promises I made and kept, Mother,” the man barked at her. “Yes, I made him that promise, and by my word and honor, I kept it and gave the Book to him the same way my Father too handed it to me when it was my time. But I was never consumed by it the way Son was. The Book swayed his mind. It took over him and turned him away from us.”

“Face it, Father. We could no longer keep him to ourselves. It wasn’t in our interest to keep doing so.”

“Nay, it wasn’t. Why else do you think I wished he’d never been ours in the first place?”

Mother couldn’t think of what to say to this. Father returned to the carriage and rode the horses around the back towards the shed where he then uncoupled the carriage from the horses’ handles. He locked up the horses for the night, leaving them with enough hay and filling up their bowls with water before taking off his jacket and returning to his home. Dusk had arrived; the crown of the sun was but a speck in the horizon, gone the next minute. The moon had taken its place.

Mother had drawn a bucket of water for Father in the bathroom and passed him a towel as he entered the bedroom and began taking off first his boots, then his work clothes. Mother left him to clean up and went into the kitchen to see about supper. While she worked the stove, her mind went to her son. How many years have passed since last time she and Father saw him. Since the last fight both men had and he’d promised running away and Father had sworn to bludgeon him if ever he caught sight of him again. Not a word had been exchanged after that. The following morning, Mother had gone searching for him in his room and found his bed empty. He had taken nothing with him, no clothes, nothing . . . except for the Book.

Father, done with having his bath and now dressed in his house clothes, trundled off to the kitchen where Mother had laid his meal in readiness for him. She sat across the table from him, a sad look on her face, and watched him settle down in his seat. Father unfurled his napkin, picked up his knife and fork, and without further ado, bent his head and began attacking his food. The lantern stood on the table between them. Outside the evening was dark and gloomy; a wild dog barked endlessly in the distance. Mother, seeing he was nearly through with his meal, got up and poured water into a cup for him. Father reached for the cup without a word said, and drained it down his mouth. He muttered a belch, raised his rump and farted, then kept on devouring his meal to the last bone. At last he looked up at Mother, wiping snot from his nose.

“Did he say anything about when he’d be coming back?” he asked.

“He didn’t say,” said Mother, getting up and taking his plate to the sink. Her hand-picked up the sponge and lathered it with soap. She looked out the window while her hands washed the plate and cutleries. “Didn’t say either if he would.”

Hunh. I wouldn’t expect him to either.”

“He’s still your son.”

“Not anymore is he.”

“All right then . . . he is still my son. I still love him.”

“You can love him all that you want,” Father snorted derisively. “I don’t care. Just as long as I don’t get to see his hide again under this roof.”

Mother turned from the sink to glare at her husband; tears stemmed down from her eyes. “Don’t say that, Father,” she snarled at him. “Don’t you dare say that. Of course he’s welcome to this house whenever he wants. It’s his house, too.”

“So you say?”

“Yes, so I dare say, and more.” She became deflated, having expended her anger for the time being, and turned around to resume her washing. Her voice became sombre once more. “He’s our son—yours and mine to love and cherish. Yes, he did wrong calling you names, but so where you. You and him need to sit down and talk to each other—Father and Son.”

“Would he want to ever talk to me,” asked Father who was now fighting to remove a morsel of food that was caught between his premolars. “Remember he cursed me that day. Said he regretted the day he called me Father. Is that what a son is expected to say?”

Mother, having washed the plate and cutleries, placed them to the side to dry off. She picked up a napkin to wipe her hands dry before turning around to answer him. “It matters not what’s happened. That’s all in the past, and that’s where it should remain.”

Father got up from the table and approached the back window, staring at the doors of the shed with its roof-top light that acts as a solitary watch to the building.

“How did he look?” he asked. “What was he wearing?”

For the first time since she set eyes on her son, Mother’s lips turned into a smile. “He was looking very different. He has grown fine and handsome. He had on a brown suit and a hat. The way he stood there by the front door with his hat on . . . he looked far different from last time I saw him.”

“It’s the Book!” Father exclaimed, turning to face Mother. “It’s the Book that’s changed him. The Book almost always does that when you start soaking up its words. It has a strange type of power, that Book has. Father too was like that whenever he read from it. Once I asked him about it. He said the Book is truth. The sort of truth that never dies.”

Mother looked at Father astonished. “Your Father said this?”

“Aye, this and more he told me.” He returned to the kitchen table and dropped himself back on his chair. There was a contemplative look on his face as he pondered on the past. “He said the Book wasn’t one to be trifled with. And that it belonged to the people. Whatever he meant by that I just don’t know.”

Mother brought a chair beside Father and sat next to him. “But Father, all the time you had that Book, never once did I see you read from it. Why?”

“You know why. That Book is strange . . . but cursed. Cursed, I tell you. It would have changed me. I would have been . . . different. I was afraid of it. I couldn’t make sense of its words. So I locked it up.”

Mother didn’t say anything. Father looked at her and gave her a reproachful look.

“The Book was dangerous, I’m telling you, Mother. It would have changed me—taken me away from you like it did with Son, and I couldn’t let that happen.”

“You’re saying the Book was what took him away?”

“He said it to my face that day we quarreled. He said something about going out to spread the Word, whatever that meant. But I got a feeling he meant the Book. He said others needed to hear of what the Book was talking about. Even then I knew I couldn’t stop him . . . but I so much wanted to. I mean, who’s going to tend to the farm and the land once we’re gone?”

Neither of them said anything; their fears wouldn’t allow them to. Father noticed the flame of the lantern was starting to waver and grow dim.

“The kerosene’s almost finished,” he said. “We’d better go to bed now. Let the morning come and the day will take care of itself.”

He took Mother’s hand and helped her up. Mother and Father gazed into each other’s eyes for a moment, and saw the love they had for each other, and for their son who wasn’t there. Mother picked up the lantern’s handle and together they made their way towards the bedroom. In the distance, the dog’s persistent barking filled the night but was soon swallowed by it.

This Writing Thing of Ours . . . Pt. 2

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Truth be told, I never attended a writing school or program. Where I’m from, such things don’t exist. Even back in my secondary school days, I can swear I never learnt or doubt if I was ever taught the fundamentals to the rules of Grammar. All I new was the difference between a Noun and a Verb, and sometimes what an Adverb was, because that one was always easy to know. I often mistook what an Adjective was. Sounded like a lost cousin of the Noun. And don’t even go beyond that. I still get confused what a Preposition is, or where a Gerund comes into play.

Yet I still wanted to write.

Growing up in the eighties in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, reading was the least thing on a young kid’s mind. It’s even worse presently. Most kids find it hard picking up a book to read than they would reading the sports pages of a newspaper. I remember how mine started: my eye sight got blurry until my primary school teacher deemed it necessary that I started wearing glasses. My Dad wore glasses, so I guess it was only natural I’d get to follow him. The glasses changed me in more ways than I didn’t expected. I realized I couldn’t play sports anymore. I became a bench-warmer while my friends became soccer fanatics on the field. Often I remember sulking back home.

My Dad had a lot of literature books, some Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, and Nigerian literary greats like Chinua Achebe and Elechi Amadi. A lot of his books were becoming food for rats and roaches. I decided to start taking care of them as only a bibliophile naturally would. And then I started reading them. I read Achebe’s classic ‘Things Fall Apart‘, and it showed me what the heart of a Nigerian man was like. James Baldwin’s ‘Go Tell It On The Mountain‘, castigated the religious aspect inherent in a lot of African-Americans. ‘Black Boy‘ by Richard Wright made me cry. I hadn’t even read Alex Haley’s ‘Roots‘ at the time.

At the time I was learning a lot about American Pop Culture, almost the same time I was investing my simpleton mind in the artistry behind Marvel and DC comic books. I remember the first time I heard about Malcolm X, the first thing I thought of was he was a member of the X-Men. What sort of man anywhere would go by a last-name called ‘X’? Got to be a super-hero, wasn’t he?

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American movie culture, too, invaded my world. As kids, we all loved ‘The Godfather‘. We all wanted to be Pacino in ‘Scarface‘. Throw punches like Balboa in ‘Rocky‘, and grow ape in a city like DeNiro in ‘Taxi Driver‘. But we all loved Eddie Murphy, too. Who wouldn’t want to dream being a prince like he was in ‘Coming to America‘?

Growing up as a kid in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, we were in love with the idea of America even before we knew about America. It was the idea that provided us the dream of someday making it big. Of becoming a star: for me, I wanted to shake Marlon Brando’s hand, and attend a Springsteen concert and listen to him belt out ‘Born in the U.S.A.‘ Though that was before I discovered Prince.

The years went by, and we grew from kids into manhood. Dreams died, and life gave us reality. We hated the reality that was the military rulership in my country. Never did I know such dreams would remain locked inside me, bidding their hour of birth. Never did I realize that when the time came when I would pick up the pen to write, first with poems and then later graduate into short stories and full-length novels, that these dreams I thought I lost a long time ago were growing inside me, waiting their moment of sunshine.

Sure thing it’s still growing. I’m not there yet. Hopefully soon . . . but first, allow me to remember where to put this lousy Past-Participle.

Miles from Home / Maine

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Only recently did I go through my photo collection and realized during my first trip to the U.S., how much snapshots I took especially during my two-week stay in Maine. Some of it breathtaking even to me, and others just knockoffs. It’s too bad I never got to be a photographer for National Geographic or maybe a celebrity magazine like the Rolling Stone.

Picture me for the first time miles from home. hundreds of miles across the Atlantic over in the U.S. in the state of Maine. The ride from Boston to Maine was a long one, no doubt. I was practically dozing by the time we drove into the New England state. To tell the truth, my eyes hadn’t being this open since I boarded my flight from Lagos, Nigeria and landed a day later at JFK Int. You’ve got to be awake to see all of that happen, at least since it’s the first time. Everything pretty much looked like I was watching a 3D movie. An added bonus was it was the middle of summer. Yet in New England, I couldn’t help feeling the cold dig into my skin. Maybe it’s because I’m an African. When you’re in Africa, the sun is just about your best friend. You don’t get to see the snow while back home. Hell, you don’t even know what snow really is except what you see on TV.

So coming to the U.S., was as much reality check for me than anything else. I might as well have donned a space suit and say I’m off to Mars.

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The city is called Bath. A quaint and quiet place that had more mature population than they had young ones. Sometimes when I walked the streets wearing my Nigerian outfit, I felt so out of place like a lot of folks there hadn’t seen a black man before. Worse, that they hadn’t met one who hailed from the Motherland. But that’s just me talking. Needless to say, I had a wonderful time being in a foreign land. Almost made me wish I wasn’t returning home at all.

 

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A Walk through Bath, Maine. Pt. 1

I walk out of the house and stand in the drive-way

This happened the first day

And I knew right away

I wasn’t anywhere near home, hardly so

This wasn’t a land I thought I know:

 

The air smells different

The wind acts like its my friend

And to my amazement, though the sun was high in the sky

I wasn’t breaking into a sweat!

 

I went for a walk down the city streets

Past the bridge with cars speeding under my feet

There’s people walking by, driving cars or riding bikes

Neither having the same skin as I

Though they too share a smile just like mine.

 

The streets slopped up and down my feet

wide and zebra-crossed, they almost seemed to feel

Shops to my left and right, my eyes won’t stop their roaming spree

I sight a bookshop around the corner – my heart takes a leap

There is an old lady seated behind the counter

She welcomes me with a smile

I leave with a purchase, we wave and smile to each other as I depart.

 

I walk to the direction of the river

Blue and pristine: the color of summer

There’re families sitting together and lovers strolling by

A copy of Ralph Ellison’s ‘The Invincible Man‘ is in my hand

My lips taste the smell of the river’s water;

Soon, this dream will end and I will come awake

And all this will fade away

This Garden of Eden.

 

But for now, my mind rests

And my body relaxes in happiness.

 

 

Destination: Maine

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I’d spent just two nights in New York City before I was on the road, destination Maine.

It was going to be a long trip, though I just didn’t know how long it actually was until I was on it. The weird thing a lot of folks back in Nigeria don’t realize is how big the United States actually is. And if you can comprehend that, then imagine how big a country like China or even Russia might be compared to the States.

But as I was saying, I got on a Greyhound bus and rode it to Boston. The lady whom I was intending to meet was going to meet me there. The ride was lovely, though I got to complain about the college grads in the bus with me that for some reason couldn’t stop chattering every time.

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Five hours of being on the road, your ass is bound to feel like a slate. But it was a cool trip, never being on such a cool trip like that before. And Boston sure looked inviting from the window station. Would have loved to head outside and explore, except when you’ve traveled halfway across the world from Africa, the last thing you want to do is get lost in the city. Much better getting lost in a jungle. At least in there, the lions are bound to keep you company . . . if they don’t think of coming after you.

The lady who’d traveled down to meet me was there, and we shook hands first then gave each other a  hug. Her husband came with her: he’s an ex-Navy African-American, and you never would have though of it from the way he looked. It would have being great to stop somewhere and get something to eat, but we weren’t done with our travel. We were still a long way from Maine, and the ride sounded like it would be even longer. A good thing we weren’t taking no bus.

As the wife drove and the husband and I made conversation, I thought of the lines of a Lauryn Hill song, and scribbled down these words on a notebook I carried with me.

 

EVERY GHETTO

Every ghetto

Through every barrio

Every street

My feet pounded on

Dry earth

On wet rainy sky:

Amtrak or Greyhound

Passing scenery I waved at

Smiling faces, though some doleful eyes

We sleep, dream and cry

Tomorrow passing by

I come to you

I come for you.

 

 

Old Songs Pt. 1

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Flying Toward JFK Int.

36,000 miles above the earth

I cease to become who I am:

I am an eagle

Soaring above the night’s sky

No moon insight, I don’t mind

This moment in time

This life of mine

Soon I become like a child

Stealing out of my mother’s womb:

Oh yes, I’m being reborn.

 

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Free

I changed my name

But I’m still the same,

I changed my life

These sad times, still they whisper to me

I took out my wardrobe

Cast them into the sea;

I’ve tried pushing you away

Still I see your face.

I don’t want to die

My eyes, they won’t stop crying

I dream of flight

Day after day

I am an island

Lost out to sea, unknown to anybody

Don’t come looking for me

I just want to be FREE!

 

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An Angel Cried

Yesterday was sad:

I saw an angel cry

Earth shook from each sob, a sigh

And the leave of trees fell and died

Last night it rained:

The gutters overflowed, urchins giggled

As they played football in the fields

Was it the world ending? I asked

No, a passerby answered. A Kubrick movie is coming up.

This morning, the air was cold:

I stepped on a nail, I thought you heard me cry out

All windows closed – they thought it was a riot

I cursed at them. This isn’t Libya, I said

Not you, you idiot! my landlord hollered from behind closed curtains

Don’t you still see the angel crying outside?

 

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(Untitled) Tonight

Tonight

my hand stretches over these landscaped

valleys, hills and deserts

of velvet silk:

My finger nimble

softly on your unblemished skin;

I hear you moan

your body responds to my touch

as you travel across oceans and empty space

to meet my kingdom.

 

1st Journey: New York

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My first trip to the U.S., happened in the summer of 2011. I had gotten my book: “The Artist at Work & Other Short Stories” published, and I believe the book was my good luck charm toward securing me the tourism visa I got from the American embassy in Abuja, Nigeria.

What a lot of Americans may or may not know is for an African obtaining a visa to come to the U.S. is kind of like the proverbial ‘letting a camel pass through the eye of a needle’. In other words, it’s very hard. Most often get turned down month after month. Attending my visa interview at the embassy building was almost like graduating from the university. It felt like pulling teeth. I couldn’t help but punch the air when I made it through.

At the time I was sill working for a French multinational oil company, but I quit last year when I decided to undertake my second amazing U.S. trip. I’ll tell you about it in a couple of fresh posts after this, though I hope you’ll all still be awake to hear it, ‘cos it’s a burn burner. Anyway, I came to the U.S. in June on a three-week trip. I spent my first three nights with a friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen in a long time who resided in Mount Vernon, New York. We hopped on a MetroNorth train to the city and he showed me what most Africans back home only get to see about the U.S. in foreign movies.

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New York City is great. It’s wonderful, and in the summer, lots of lovely things to see . . . and buy. But God knows, it’s not the sort of place for a foreigner to start a new life. Matter of fact, I’m surprised they still call it New York City. There ought to change its name to Tourism City. Almost everyone I passed on the street was a tourist, and carried a camera like I did. Couldn’t even ask for street directions because no one knew where they were going . . . yet they all looked lovely like there were out to somewhere. I kept asking my friend how come everyone’s dressed for a party, and we’re the only blokes who aren’t invited?

As a writer, I’ve grown to understand that I allow myself to soak up ideas much like the human body gets a twitch when responding to stimuli. America is a country I’d love to make as a second home, because everywhere I looked, the whole time I was there, something was happening. Activity was constant, and in that whirling constancy is where my Muse lies waiting. Back home, I never get this much influx of ideas. Everything’s pretty much the same. Everyone walks around with their problems. Most people have long forgotten how to laugh at a joke.

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But I time in New York was memorable. Unfortunately I could only stay for three days before hopping on  a bus and heading up north to Maine, where a writer lady whom I’d being communicating with back home resided and was expecting me.