prose & poetry

lily on black 2

I Like For You to be Still by Pablo Neruda

I like for you to be still: it is as though you were absent,

and you hear me from far away and my voice does not touch you.

It seems as though your eyes had flown away

and it seems that a kiss had sealed your mouth.

 

As all things are filled with my soul

you emerge from the things, filled with my soul.

You are like my soul, a butterfly of dream,

and you are like the word Melancholy.

 

I like for you to be still, and you seem far away.

It sounds as though you were lamenting, a butterfly cooing like a dove.

And you hear me from far away, and my voice does not reach you:

Let me come to be still in your silence.

 

And let me talk to you with your silence

that is bright as a lamp, simple as a ring.

You are like the night, with its stillness and constellations.

Your silence is that of a star, as remote and candid.

 

I like for you to be still: it is as though you were absent,

distant and full of sorrow as though you had died.

One word then, one smile, is enough.

And I am happy, happy that it’s not true.

sunflower on black 1

Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo by Ntozake Shange

“Where there is a woman there is magic. If there is a moon falling from her mouth, she is a woman who knows her magic, who can share or not share her powers. A woman with a moon falling from her mouth, roses between her legs and tiaras of Spanish moss, this woman is a consort of the spirits.”

Dream of Rain by Mbizo Chirasha

This is the land that fed our dreams
Wind suffocated in the yellow smoke of wheat
Our fields’ crimson red and clouds gray with millet sheaves
Pans hissing with oil baking bread
Gleaming thighs of our days sweating under the rain season sun that bloomed,
The flamboyant flowers
Weeds of hunger already been exiled.
iris on black 2
Watermaid by Christopher Okigbo

Bright

with armpit-dazzle of a lioness,

she answers,

wearing white light about her;

and the waves escort her,

my lioness,

crowned with moonlight.

So brief her presence-,

match-flare in wind’s breath-

so brief with mirrors around me.

Downward…

the waves distil her:

gold crop

sinking ungathered.

Watermaid of the salt emptiness,

grown are the ears of

the secret.

“rest at pale evening…a tall slim tree…night coming tenderly, black like me.” Langston Hughes

orchid on black 10

Lagoon by Odia Ofeimun

I let the lagoon speak for my memory
though offended by water hyacinth
waste and nightsoil…

I still let the Lagoon reclaim
the seduction of a land moving
with the desire of a sailing ship
pursuing a known star

The Lagoon speaks
like a foetus remembering the future,
listening from the depths of formless song
for the Words that break
against the voyages of discovery
in the discovery of voyages

My Lagoon speaks!
gateway and storehouse; never dry,
in regatta floats hauling epic seasons
in floods that take over
the lordly garbage of our alleys
after the rains
have registered their pity

I let the Lagoon speak for my memory
to teach me how to scoff
at the lines drawn on water
to divide the earth

I let the Lagoon teach me
to forget street names
in order to gulp whole cities
like a glass of kola wine.

chrysanthemum on black 1

Elegy Elegy by Brian Henry

for Vic Chesnutt

Whether we will their return or not
the dead keep coming back to us:

in our sleep, when we slip to resist,
in books, and in song, when the voice

shuffles forward to call “I’m still alive /
I win the prize / I’m still alive,”

even though he’s not, even though he knew
that his song some day would prove

false, a sometime untrue statement
that no one, not even a ghost,

can retract. Instead, those of us left
are left to notice, and miss, and hurt.

How thin is the human voice,
it cannot keep even the dead

distant, on the other side of any
thing we would call any thing.

lily on black 4

Africa by David Thiop
Africa, my Africa
Africa of proud warriors in ancestral savannahs
Africa of whom my grandmother sings
On the banks of the distant river
I have never known you
But your blood flows in my veins
Your beautiful black blood that irrigates the fields
The blood of your sweat
The sweat of your work
The work of your slavery
Africa, tell me Africa
Is this you, this back that is bent
This back that breaks
Under the weight of humiliation
This back trembling with red scars
And saying yes to the whip under the midday sun
But a grave voice answers me
Impetuous child that tree, young and strong
That tree over there
Splendidly alone amidst white and faded flowers
That is your Africa springing up anew
Springing up patiently, obstinately
Whose fruit bit by bit acquires
The bitter taste of liberty.

tulip on black 1

 

Dedication by Wole Soyinka

Earth will not share the rafter’s envy; dung floors

Break, not the gecko’s slight skin, but its fall

Taste this soil for death and plumb her deep for life

As this yam, wholly earthed, yet a living tuber

To the warmth of waters, earthed as springs

As roots of baobab, as the hearth.

The air will not deny you. Like a top

Spin you on the navel of the storm, for the hoe

That roots the forests plows a path for squirrels.

Be ageless as dark peat, but only that rain’s

Fingers, not the feet of men, may wash you over.

Long wear the sun’s shadow; run naked to the night.

Peppers green and red—child—your tongue arch

To scorpion tail, spit straight return to danger’s threats

Yet coo with the brown pigeon, tendril dew between your lips.

Shield you like the flesh of palms, skyward held

Cuspids in thorn nesting, insealed as the heart of kernel—

A woman’s flesh is oil—child, palm oil on your tongue

Is suppleness to life, and wine of this gourd

From self-same timeless run of runnels as refill

Your podlings, child, weaned from yours we embrace

Earth’s honeyed milk, wine of the only rib.

Now roll your tongue in honey till your cheeks are

Swarming honeycombs—your world needs sweetening, child.

Camwood round the heart, chalk for flight

Of blemish—see? it dawns!—antimony beneath

Armpits like a goddess, and leave this taste

Long on your lips, of salt, that you may seek

None from tears. This, rain-water, is the gift

Of gods—drink of its purity, bear fruits in season.

Fruits then to your lips: haste to repay

The debt of birth. Yield man-tides like the sea

And ebbing, leave a meaning of the fossilled sands.

flower on black 5

Ego Tripping by Nikki Giovanni

I was born in the congo

I walked to the fertile crescent and built the sphinx

I designed a pyramid so tough that a star

      that only glows every one hundred years falls

      into the center giving divine perfect light

I am bad

I sat on the throne

      drinking nectar with allah

I got hot and sent an ice age to europe

      to cool my thirst

My oldest daughter is nefertiti

      the tears from my birth pains

      created the nile

I am a beautiful woman

I gazed on the forest and burned

      out the sahara desert

      with a packet of goat’s meat

and a change of clothes

I crossed it in two hours

I am a gazelle so swift

      so swift you can’t catch me

I sowed diamonds in my back yard

My bowels deliver uranium

      the filings from my fingernails are

      semi-precious jewels

      On a trip north

I caught a cold and blew

My nose giving oil to the arab world

I am so hip even my errors are correct

I sailed west to reach east and had to round off

      the earth as I went

      The hair from my head thinned and gold was laid

      across three continents

I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal

I cannot be comprehended

      except by my permission

I mean . . . I . . . can fly

      like a bird in the sky . . .

Bouquet of Roses

For Daisy by Chika Oduah

In sentimental moods

such as this

Daisy swaddles

in the dense space of herself

where moaning whispers

steal the silence she once knew,

ripping at its throat

once,

twice,

third time’s a charm

A funeral for silence

Daisy didn’t attend

In sentimental moods

when a west-facing

ball of fire floating

in space

casts ghoul-shaped shadows

on her legs

Daisy

wonders what

the lips that

will

suck her nipples

will

look like

rose colored? pouty or puckering?

Basking in rain-scented grasses

Field of humming bees

Daisy watches a red balloon spin in the sky

says a blessing for the child who lost it

while splattering in rain puddles

the child could have been hers if only she had a womb that worked

In sentimental moods his cologne reeks stronger than ever with hands of its own

Massaging her shoulders

Daisy sulks in the cologne that she once feared

But later learned to appreciate

It never failed to

warn her to hide under the bed before he came

Looking for her to lash at her

Headed straight for her womb

A throbbing, empty, cold and tired womb

Daisy never cared for her womb,

Never sang to it sweetly or held it in longing

Now its gone

But not for long

In sentimental moods, wombs dance before her,

Carrying the skeletons of babies who died in sleep

Resting in the crook of mommy’s arms

Heads dangling precariously

Breathing just enough to keep the spirits at bay

But they watch

From afar

Waiting to take the babies from her arms

Daisy’s babies

They died in her nightmares

Daisy didn’t attend

flower on black 13

Spirits by Birago Diop

Listen to Things

More often than Beings,

Hear the voice of fire,

Hear the voice of water.

Listen in the wind,

To the sighs of the bush;

This is the ancestors breathing.

Those who are dead are not ever gone;

They are in the darkness that grows lighter

And in the darkness that grows darker.

The dead are not down in the earth;

They are in the trembling of the trees

In the groaning of the woods,

In the water that runs,

In the water that sleeps,

They are in the hut, they are in the crowd:

The dead are not dead.

Listen to things

More often than beings,

Hear the voice of fire,

Hear the voice of water.

Listen in the wind,

To the bush that is sighing:

This is the breathing of ancestors,

Who have not gone away

Who are not under earth

Who are not really dead.

Those who are dead are not ever gone;

They are in a woman’s breast,

In the wailing of a child,

And the burning of a log,

In the moaning rock,

In the weeping grasses,

In the forest and the home.

The dead are not dead.

Listen more often

To Things than to Beings,

Hear the voice of fire,

Hear the voice of water.

Listen in the wind to

The bush that is sobbing:

This is the ancestors breathing.

Each day they renew ancient bonds,

Ancient bonds that hold fast

Binding our lot to their law,

To the will of the spirits stronger than we

To the spell of our dead who are not really dead,

Whose covenant binds us to life,

Whose authority binds to their will,

The will of the spirits that stir

In the bed of the river, on the banks of the river,

The breathing of spirits

Who moan in the rocks and weep in the grasses.

Spirits inhabit

The darkness that lightens, the darkness that darkens,

The quivering tree, the murmuring wood,

The water that runs and the water that sleeps:

Spirits much stronger than we,

The breathing of the dead who are not really dead,

Of the dead who are not really gone,

Of the dead now no more in the earth.

Listen to Things

More often than Beings,

Hear the voice of fire,

Hear the voice of water.

Listen in the wind,

To the bush that is sobbing:

This is the ancestors, breathing.

lily on black 5

Negro by Langston Hughes

I am a Negro:

Black as the night is black,

Black like the depths of my Africa.

I’ve been a slave:

Caesar told me to keep his door-steps clean.

I brushed the boots of Washington.

I’ve been a worker:

Under my hands the pyramids arose.

I made mortar for the Woolworth Building.

I’ve been a singer:

All the way from Africa to Georgia

I carried my sorrow songs.

I made ragtime.

I’ve been a victim:

The Belgians cut off my hands in the Congo.

They lynch me still in Mississippi.

I am a Negro:

Black as the night is black,

Black like the depths of my Africa.

orchid on black 9

DON’T GIVE UP by Mario Benedetti

Don’t give up, you still have time
to reach up and start anew,
Accept your shadows,
Bury your fears,
Free your burdens,
Fly again.

Don’t give up, that’s what life is
Continue the journey,
Follow your dreams,
Unstuck time,
Move the rubble,
And uncover the sky.

Don’t give up, please don’t give way,
Even if the cold burns,
Even if fear bites,
Even if the sun sets,
And the wind goes silent,
There is still fire in your soul
There is still life in your dreams.

Because life is yours and yours is the desire
Because you have loved it and because I love you
Because wine exists and love is true.
Because there are no wounds that time doesn’t cure.

To open the doors,
Take away the locks,
Abandon the walls that have protected you,
To live life and accept the challenge
Get back laughter,
Practice a song,
Lower the guard and extend the hands
Open the wings
And try again,
Celebrate life and take back the skies.

Don’t give up, please don’t give way,
Even if the cold burns,
Even if fear bites,
Even if the sun sets,
And the wind goes silent,
There is still fire in your soul
There is still life in your dreams.

Because every day is a new beginning,
Because this is the hour and the best moment.
Because you are not alone, because I love you.

 

flower on black 6

Africa by Maya Angelou

Thus she had lain

sugercane sweet

deserts her hair

golden her feet

mountains her breasts

two Niles her tears.

Thus she has lain

Black through the years.

Over the white seas

rime white and cold

brigands ungentled

icicle bold

took her young daughters

sold her strong sons

churched her with Jesus

bled her with guns.

Thus she has lain.

Now she is rising

remember her pain

remember the losses

her screams loud and vain

remember her riches

her history slain

now she is striding

although she has lain

iris on black 1

Children of Xenophobia by Mbizo Chirasha

Children eating bullets and firecrackers

Beggars of smile and laughter

Silent corpses sleeping away fertile dreams

Povo chanting new nude wretched slogans

Overstayed exiles eating beetroot and African potato

Abortions and condoms batteries charging the lives of nannies and maids

Children of barefoot afternoons and uncondomized nights Sweat chiselling the rock of your endurance

The heart of Soweto, Harare, Darfur, Bamako still beating like drums

Violence fumigating peace from this earth.

orchid on black 7

These are a few of my favorite things…

by Chika Oduah
wild-CAUGHT salmon, ankara Print, The Wonder years t.v. sitcom, Fela’s Water No get enemy, orchids, GRANOLA, The COLOR PURPLE movie, organic greek yogurt, SHAD KABANGO, earth wind & fire, garth FAGAN’s dance troupe, water at room temperature, ORGANIC lemons, ELEPHANTS, the smell of vinyl records, portraits of chinese WOMEN, palm trees, the KENYAN countryside, my sisterlocks, GUITARS, rounded fingernails, SLR cameras, heart-wrenching stories about girls WHO LIVED in ancient CHINA, the sound of swahili, OSADEBE’s slow songs, a good SALAD with olive oil and lemon juice DRESSING, kind people, SAXOPHONE, JONI mitchell, vintage PURSES, tall head scarves, PEACOCKS, Gil Scott-Heron, honesty, PRESIDENT BARACK obama, peace, the SOUND of the ocean, WISE PEOPLE, my sisters, JOHN COLTRANE, unsalted cashew nuts, big afros, big white teeth, SUNFLOWERS, cello, sea SALT, flat sandals, GINGER, ray lamontagne, green, PHOTO ALBUMS, wicker chairs, OREGANO, pretty people, CATHERINE dunham, BOB MARLEY’s smile, organic tomatoes, DIANE sawyer, giraffes, tall grass, maxi dresses, THE NEVER ENDING STORY movie, drew BARRYMORE, ballerinas, the DISCOVERY channel, hugh MASEKELA, british colonial interior decor, INDIA, violas, french cut GREEN beans, butterflies, the smell of CITRUS, body oils, unsalted almonds, conscientious hip hop,WARIS dirie, mira nair movies, SOUTH AFRICAN singers, extra virgin olive oil, orange dresses, MIRIAM MAKEBA, kevin costner’s lips, green sarongs, SUNSHINE, gold satin SHEETS, cotton hammocks, OLD PEOPLE, griots, FIGURINES, yellow purses, BIG funky earrings, NAUGHTY by nature’s hip HOP HOORAY, coming of age stories, christiane AMANPOUR, sweeping dirty carpets, YOGA, tall trees, GORILLAS, dreaming in my sleep, freshly juiced JUICE, bebop JAZZ, stevie wonder’s LOVE songs, jewelry boxes, a well-USED bible, verandas, WHITE plantation shutters, philosphers, CELESTINE ukwu, the SARAFINA movie, the story of merlin, not WEARING socks, my brothers, GREEN plants like FERNS, planetariums, JESUS, buttercups, MICHAEL jackson, natural hair, indian jewelry, ORGANIC honey, avant garde, spoken word poets, CINEMATOGRAPHY, JILL scott, fashion EDITORIALS, keeping my room clean, MIRRORS, children, AFRICAN languages, red peppers, SHERYL CROW’s lyrics, the color of GOLDFISH, my closet FULL of clothes, TUPAC SHAKUR’s PASSION, fresh breath, DAILY devotionals, agenda PLANNERS, men in WHITE kaftans, the sound of THUNDERSTORMS, a GOOD sunday SERMON, afro BRAZILIAN culture, the greek diet, CLOCHES, suite: judy BLUE EYES, artists, MARIANA van zeller’s reporting, ANTHROPOLOGY, erykah BADU, chunky MASHED potatoes with some of the potato skin still in IT, traditional chinese medicine, african names for babies, good photography, good singers, PEOPLE who aren’t afraid to BE different, william kamkwamba, tyson BECKFORD’s eyes, the smell of honeysuckles, my mom’s devotion to GOD, libraries, quiet afternoons, steady rains, MY friends, I am the black GOLD OF THE SUN, christmas, national geographic magazine, my dad, a good JOG, the sound of laughter, GARDENS, dancing, selfless people, bossa nova, and that’s all for now

rose on black 6

I love you (Te Quiero) by Mario Benedetti

Your hands are my caress
my daily reminders
I love you because your hands
work for justice

if I love you it’s because you are
my love my accomplice and my everything
and in the street arm in arm
we are many more than two

your eyes are my spell
against a cursed day
I love you for your gaze
that looks and plants the future

your mouth that is yours and mine
your mouth doesn’t lie
I love you because your mouth
knows how to shout rebellion

if I love you it’s because you are
my love my accomplice and my everything
and in the street arm in arm
we are many more than two

and for your open face
and your wanderer’s footstep
and your weeping for the world
because you are of the people I love you.

and because love is not a halo
nor morality tale
and because we are a couple
that knows it is not alone

I love you in my paradise
which is to say that in my ideal country
people live happily
without even having permission

if I love you it’s because you are
my love my accomplice and my everything
and in the street arm in arm
we are many more than two

orchid on black 5

Love Apart by Christopher Okigbo

The moon has ascended between us,
Between two pines
That bow to each other;

Love with the moon has ascended
5 Has fed on our solitary stems;

And we are now shadows
That cling to each other,
But kiss the air only

sunflower on black 2

I will pronounce your name by Leopold Sedar Senghor

I will pronounce your name, Naett, I will declaim you, Naett!
Naett, your name is mild like cinnamon, it is the fragrance in which the lemon grove sleeps
Naett, your name is the sugared clarity of blooming coffee trees
And it resembles the savannah, that blossoms forth under the masculine ardour of the midday sun
5 Name of dew, fresher than shadows of tamarind,
Fresher even than the short dusk, when the heat of the day is silenced,
Naett, that is the dry tornado, the hard clap of lightning
Naett, coin of gold, shining coal, you my night, my sun!…
I am you hero, and now I have become your sorcerer, in order to pronounce your names.
10 Princess of Elissa, banished from Futa on the fateful day.

flower on black 10

 Dear Husband by Yamba Ouloguem

Once your name was Bimbircokak

And everything was fine.

They you became Victor-Emile-Louis-Henri-Joseph

And bought a dinner set.

I used to be your wife.

Now you call me spouse.

We used to eat together.

Now we’re separated by a table.

Calabash and ladle,

drinking gourd and couscous

are banished from our daily fare

by your paternal order.

We’re modern now, you say.

The tropic sun is hot, hot, hot!

But your cravat

never leaves the neck

it nearly strangles.

You frown

when I mention it,

never mind, I’ll say no more.

But husband, look at me!

We eat grapes and

milk that’s pasteurized

and imported gingerbread from France

and don’t get much of any.

Isn’t it your fault?

You used to be Bimbircokak

and everything was fine.

Becoming Victor-Emile-Louis-Henri-Joseph

as far as I can see

doesn’t make you kin

to Rockefeller!

(Excuse my ignorance, I don’t know much

about finance.)

But can’t you see

Bimbircokak

—because of you—

once I was underdeveloped

now I’m undernourished, too!

flower on black 14

Prayer to the Masks by Léopold Sedar Senghor

Masks! O Masks!

Black mask red mask you white-and-black masks,

Masks at the four points the Spirit breathes from,

I salute you in silence!

And not you last, lion-headed Ancestor,

You guard this place from any woman’s laughter, any fading smile,

Distilling this eternal air in which I breathe my Forebears.

Basks of maskless faces, stripped of every dimple as of every wrinkle,

You who have arranged this portrait, this face of mine bent above this altar of white paper

In your image, hear me!

Now dies the Africa of empires—the dying of a pitiable princess

And Europe’s too, to whom we’re linked by the umbilicus.

Fix your immutable eyes on your subjugated children,

Who relinquish their lives as the poor their last garments.

May we answer present at the world’s rebirth,

Like the yeast white flour needs.

For who would teach rhythm to a dead world of cannons and machines?

Who would give the shout of joy at dawn to wake the dead and orphaned?

Tell me, who would restore the memory of life to men whose hopes are disemboweled?

They call us men of cotton, coffee, oil.

They call us men of death.

We are men of dance, whose feet take on new strength from stamping the hard ground.

flower on black 8

One response to “prose & poetry

  1. Ur poem, Daisy, was inspired by Soyinka’s “Telephone Conversation”, I believe? Well, it was really nicely written…and very feminist.

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