The New Gong
Publishers of New Writing and Images
By Isidore Emeka Uzoatu

- lines to a love I lost

Sans reveille,
Fleeting thoughts
On your absence
Mug my fundaments

In sheer desperation
I ensnare them
Piece and whole
In the labyrinth

Of a smitten soul;

In dreamscape while I kipped
You procrastinated on end
To my indelicate propositions
Pleading the looming

Commencement of work
On yet another volume
In eleven percent adjournments
Propped on the devious feint

Of creative chastity;

In vivid trance by day
You came cast
Like a lady
Of easy virtue

Ever histrionic and keen
But for puckered upper lip
And wicked irenic flames
Embedded in furtive alcoves

Of lambent eyes.

With a jeremiad of tears
On this dot of noon
Announced by the Braun on my wall
Minute hand shielding hour leg
But for muscular width and breadth
My pen seeks a fleeting hemistich
To hemstitch its fountainhead lost
On a balding page of treated pulp
At this act of poetic concubinage
Sacrilegious in proportion only
To its sacerdotal alma mater
When priests and priestesses
Tangled in unholy unions
Desecrating the Holy Land
In cursed purifications:

“Can’t the words, dear sir
Crawl to the end of their lines
For my first ink’s sake?”

My muse feeds on the word
Plaited with inveterate wonder
At the awesome wavelength
Of its breadth span:

Painted on walls
Of ancient murky caves

Pictographed cum ideogramed
In ancient papyri and codices

Carved on coeval tablets
In hieroglyphic cuneiforms

Coloured in lurid picture
Of latter-day applied art

Written in book, newspaper
Signpost, -board or graffito

Structured as verse or prose;
In capitals or small letters

Crafted in cursives or italics;
Long, intermediate or short hand

Shouted to foreclose an eloping argument

Whispered head on pillow with other half

Sung a cappella sans accompaniment;
Or appassionato to the haunting beat
Of musical rhythms;

My muse is the word
That miniscule building block
To burgeoning bank of reason
Made flesh that the world be saved…

iii. CIVILIAN WARS (To Okigbo)
Sad song sung strung sector
Ululates for one like none
In this damned trade we chose
Unlike whom –
Before his premature retirement
Via the bifurcation through River Idoto
To the orangery of eternal repose –
I vouch not lines
Hidden and recherché
Capable of appreciation
Only by the anointed …

You see,
I received my anointing late
When the barbs to adorn words with
Were now few and far between
Like tails, fins and scales
On that damned sixth day
Of the Jewish creation myth
When God made man in His image
And fell into unflappable sleep
Like He had caused his creation
To make him a partner
From his missing rib
And both slept no more:

Which diminishes my craft not –
God’s bounty being seamless –

Nor his sainthood –
Holy St Christopher
Of the lines oblique –

After all,
I descry men
Engaged in worse guiles
With no sense of commitment
And none else as ennobling
As this art we preach:

Me, Chris and the rest
Who trade loaded words
For the sake of posterity
While others vend wares
For greed and prosperity;
Mould sentences into stories
That others may drink and savour
While they stack blocks in storeys
Erecting diverse towers to Babel…

But ask I must
Even before my very turn:
Must we poets
All die in civilian wars
Concocted by elephantine leaders
Who sit back home lapping spoils
From a seriatim of courtesans
While we the grass of the earth
Fight to predictable deaths?

3. JUNE 12 – A Genealogy
Other than October First
Left in bittersweet memory
Of our British fathers
(How we loved ’em, in deed)
We hungered a date
In mock remembrance
Of our past and present freedoms

Forfeited to pointing muzzles of guns
At the oiled, cock and ready
By brothers turned traitors
In starched khaki uniforms
Their shooting skills honed
On the vaulting proceeds
Of our hard-earned taxes

Left for their peculation
In utter surrender
By a benumbed populace
Lost and unfound
In the incessant jungle
Of military intervention
Into Third World politics

Till the dribbling genius
(From Ogbomoso, I hear
Or elsewhere other than he claims)
On one more chinking run
Through the exposed vestiges
Of our botched lives
Gifted us one by default

When he refused you a stand
At the swift eight-year tail
Of a quicksand transition agenda
Tailored to return him unopposed
The Field Marshal of democracy.
Then his benighted foreman
(Struck deaf and dumb

For fifteen years, thereafter)
A university don, a guru
With a name to protect, on top
Elected you head cornerstone
To the chagrin of his employer
And the gap-toothed enforcer
At his tether’s end, in deed

Annulled you whole and entire
Setting up in your stead
An interim nonsense, a shack
Hanging on indeterminable balances
Buoyed by a fading captain
Of multinational industry
Weaned on the ready existence

Of steady pot-boiling sinecures
An apt retirement benefit
For helping his masters
Make the killing of their lives
Long before the natives
Were accorded the privilege
Of import licences…

And came and went the gale
Of his bespectacled highness
(This one matted hair and all
Claimed to hail from Kano, haba!)
And a treated cup of tea
Administered for the sake of doubt
In front of the high and mighty  

Sent the mandated one
To a predictable death
Died to set up an equation
That remained unbalanced
Till the moustachioed chicken farmer
From the heart of the South West
(Though fathered, as is well known

By a South-Eastern monarch of yore)
Was spirited out of prison
Into which he was bundled
For kissing and not telling
According to his decree
In his first adventitious coming
Against his personal wish and desire

To fill his people’s slot
In a leadership roulette
Won at the end
Of the civil war
By the victor tribes
Of the federal republic
Founded on a tripod of tongues

Till one got vanquished
And lost its manhood
With whatever else
It staked in the union…
And he affixed the final nail
On your mutilated coffin
Spattered with the blood