Poems by Ikenna Okeh

Ikenna Okeh has kindly given us permission to publish the following, previously unpublished poems.

The Plain Across The Sea

Across some treacherous sea lay a stretch of fertile plain

To the distant sights it lay alluring and plain

It beckoned the adventurous soul to come

But too many knew what of such adventures had become;

The currents and eddies were a constant snare

And at the shore yonder did jagged rocks sneer

And so the plain went uninhabited by man nor woman

But grasses and all which live apart from humans

Some fellow thought himself courageous and brave

Perhaps he was driven by misfortune or some crave

I would think him mad, though he did not rave

He rowed in his boat, braving every wave

His boat did the waves rock

And he lost it to the sneering shore rocks

He fought for his life, and was spared

And he arrived the plain drenched and spent

Days came with fight to be won

Night came with fright for the lone and adventurous one

But yet again, he fought on

He fought the wild off the plain which he’d set heart and feet upon

He fought by day and even when the nights were spent

But victory came to him old and spent

Old and without an heir, he wished for company,

And the warmth which does community accompany

He readied for a return; to brave the treacherous seas once more,

And stand up to whatever may lay in store.

 

How They Came Here

Knowing not, they came into the world;
Children of hurt and betrayed souls
But in innocent childhood, they saw
They saw not the charred bodies
Not the kwashiorkor,
Nor the bombarded buildings and marketplaces
The birds of the Egyptian mercenaries had long ceased to traverse the skies
There was no sign to tell of the intention to kill with bullets, shells and starvation
The newborn children saw none of these;
For the genocide had long ended
But they saw of something different;
In the eyes of men and women, they saw bowed souls
But they weren’t to know what tales
they bore.

The growing children heard tales of Biafra
All it meant to them were gallantry and nonsense and nothing more;
For the heart of childhood shines too bright for any lurking shadows

Many years have passed
Yesterday’s children are today’s men
Eager and wide-eyed with enthusiasm
They swore love and allegiance to Fatherland
And in confidence, they dared to give of their lot and to receive in return
But they were hurt
Most, too badly
Burnt, they set their hearts to enquire
And lo! the answers lay before them
all the while;
Fathers had been conquered, and their sons forever,
Motherland is forever the spoils of the victors’ wars

Tomorrow shall come
It shall bring along its children
If but today’s children remain slaves
Then tomorrow’s children have a certain destiny
Perhaps Father’s advice should be
heeded;
To offer our backs in servitude
Wring our fingers in dejected
helplessness
Offer thanks to Providence for the gift of life, at least
And hope that the oppressors show
some mercy someday.
Tufiakwa!
Life is never death’s kinsman

The sun shall set upon today
And may tomorrow’s children come
May they see the signs of all we have done
And with pride, let them say;
“This is Biafra, the dream of our
founding Fathers.”

YONDER LIES A GRAVE FOR HOPE
Yonder does hope’s grave lie;
It’s been dug in the soils of Syria
There, hope gave up with a pitiful sigh
And she’s lowered amidst shelling and gunfire.

Yonder, the gruesome and dead has been
granted life
And hope for the living is given up for dead
Hope died at those hands masterful in the craft
of strife,
Who trampled the virtues as living men ever
dared.

Men work and tend fields
Yonder, it’s not for corns and grapes, but battle
There, the labour of hands offer no tasty yields
And only death replies the blasts, booms and
rattles.

Perhaps the dead and dying are not to be found
in Syria alone
Perhaps we all are dead, you and I
We would have spoken out if there was life in
our tones
Our souls would have stirred at the sights that
meet their eye.

 

LET US TELL A STORY

Let us tell a story;

Let it be of today while we stand on the sands of tomorrow

Let it be true, even though sandy grains of falsehood mar the serving of history

Yes, I know what we shall talk about, and I hope we tell it so

We shall tell of these moments when we live in the stifling shadow of a siege

We shall tell of this fear of being conquered and decimated twice

And how the world’s peoples gaze from many a cozy distant ridge

And dance to the misery of our frenzied calls and cries

Perhaps they have yet again been told that this genocide is but some trifling squabbles;

As expected of the race; as shine and rains:

“Oh, they always are in the habit of brawling and reducing their huts to rubbles

And that is because the sun does constantly cook their brains”

We shall tell of these days when we rose with the strength of voice and will;

People of the mainlands, creeks and islands welded into one;

Common folks spreading the message of unity as they may and will

And bonding stronger than any weapon wielded, or armour worn

Pythons danced in the mainland

Crocodiles took teary eyes to the isles and creeks

They came that death may traverse the lands

And that with decomposing corpses would the waters reek

True, they have left scores of dead

They have left many a mother and wives in mourning

But their brutality has informed the passive of the lie they had led

And to the unbelievers amongst us, it had dawned upon them a new morning

In telling this story, we should not tell of our brothers;

I mean the Judases that mar every twelve

These ones are a constant sorrow and bother;

They offer the life of us for as much as fills the stomach of themselves

Truly, their stomachs are bloated already yet never filled

And though they offer more and more for fools’ silver and runny porridge,

And become to their kit and kin as palm oil spilled,

Yet we must suffer with hope their loss of shame and prestige:

Of accursed ones does every land have their fair share

And we have sunk too low to exalt them to reins

The fault is upon us, and this we must evenly share

For deathly slumber never takes charge when vigilance reigns

Let us tell a story

Let it be true

It shall become our history;

Of this day and what we have been through

Let it guide the paths ahead

And let not our steps lead back these gloomy and trackless paths

But if sleep should once again rule our heads

And we tread these ancient disastrous paths,

Then we shall be known by nations as the accursed of the earth

Our tales shall then be told

But they shall be told by them who do our remains unearth

For then, none amongst us would rather live to tell it standing bold.

 

Reaching For The Skies

I reach for the skies,

Today it is bright and clear and smiling

It holds as much promise as a maiden I woo

Yesterday, it was a gloomy discontent wife

The day before it was a widow; an aggrieved, weeping one

There was a day it rumbled and grumbled within its breast

Sometimes, her countenance is insipid and leaves every suitor guessing

I consider her a shrew

And she acts the part as much as her cousin, the sea.

The skies are far off

My reach is distant

But I stretch and stretch with every new morn

The wind comes;

Today it soothes

Yesterday, it heralded the rains

The day before, it was a bully showing off his might

It whipped everything in its path

And it ruffled me real fine

Yet I am standing sore and defiant in my reach for the skies

Ah! It is a new morn

Oh! The romance of the rising sun;

Soft and tender, and promising like the kiss of a beloved bride

It makes the heart soar

It gives health to the limbs,

And one so favoured counts himself born anew

I unfurl and blossom in the warmth and alluring caress

Alas! Time sneaks upon everything, to play its trick,

And one is now to cringe at a fiery lover’s touch once romantic

I reach for the skies

It is a distant reach

On my path lie the whims of tides

And nothing holds true that was promised in the morning

But they who reach for the skies must seek their roots;

For like wind and water, everything rushes and surges by,

And they heed not for long, sugared woos and desperate claims

But down in the soils lie an abundance of stores,

Never besought by capricious tides and malicious wiles

And they well rooted stand secure to weather the reach for the skies.

 

These Days In Syria

Boom! Boom! Boom!

The earth quakes in Syria

All which once stood now crumbles;

In rubbles, blood, cries, corpses

The air is but a tangy cocktail,

Of acrid smoke, cement dust, gunpowder, blood

And none is to think that it could be different in some other clime

Ratatatatata! Ratata!

People scatter

People scamper for cover

Mothers and children flee homes

Safety seem to beckon in the streets; the open; the wild

There’s a distant hope to be sought in camps of squalor untold

But who’s to tell of squalors awaiting;

Slavery, paedophilia, horrors as mankind considers long forgone

Kaboom! Kaboom! Kaboom!

The sounds of warfare resound in the distance

Men sit over tea, beer, gin, cigars

These here are the hawks

They gather

They are not guilty of the wild bushfire

But they hover, to feast over the scampering rodents

And who is to deny them of these spoils?

 

 

THE ROAD TO ABA
It’s an endless stretch of tar,

Tearing through town settlements and nowhere

There’re patches and pot holes here and there,

As though the traveler to ensnare

A bridge decries a hard old life

There’re no lights to show the way at night

It’s as though a journey to the death

And of course, you’re not so ensnared for nothing;

Morgues, not hospitals or ambulances, dot every pole:

To receive and keep you, whether whole or a mangled mass,

For that moment when yours shall gather with you for a final Mass.

 

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