For Ayida

“Sometimes I stop
I look at you Ayida
My head spins
Your hair may be kinky
but the night rests
in its tangles

Ayida o!
sunlight pours onto
each pity of our home
Children feasting on hunger
bellies unscrewed
Night fills a jar
collapses into life, paper thin
daydreams become blotters but
man, darkness is thick

Ayida o!
When will daylight attack?
Zombies struggle to die
Stars streak, fall
Birds wake, sing
Watch over the house, Ayida
Lightning shoots through
weapons drawn
Ancestors rise erect
Riots shake the house, Ayida


Star sharpens and falls
splits my forehead
temple to temple
Lightning burns
within my gut
Flames hatch in
my pounding heart

You can cut me off
uproot me, toss me away
You can burn me
into charcoal

Birds won’t quit
nesting in my roots
Hope doesn’t wither
but blossoms in me
I am a poet
my roots grow thick


When a ten o’clock flower is wounded
at ten o’clock sharp
It dies of tetanus
Nothing gained

When one hibiscus bleeds, its
body bathed in its own blood
hummingbirds cry out
but say nothing

Here, when one poinciania bush
hemorrhages, all the birds
scratch to leave the cockfight
In exile their singing fades
Across the water their weeping fades
Sorrow for those left behind

Wind brings and
scatters the news
Ayida’s ears ring
She hears nothing


Each drop that sinks through the night
Is a cup of bitter coffee in our stomachs
Dew trickles from our eyes
streaks the gunpowder
that coats the jaws of dawn
Hawk strangles daylight

Pecks sunlight into pieces
Light flickers three times
Before the whole day dies
All four freedoms under arrest
Our dreams held in tin cans
Our silence breaks

Patience blisters among us
You watch for the storm
measuring out your hem
to the four directions
You weigh the ocean on scales
Thunder cracks three times in your palm

When wind breaks the law
Whose blade will gash its haunches?
When the ocean shakes its underskirt
Who will say it has no breeding?
When thunder comes beating the kalinda
Who will rise to dance?”

By Emmanuel Ejen


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