Sunday, July 02, 2006

spinning odialetics 2

Chiedu Ezeanah's poem, The Spinner of Dialetics, inspired the original 'Spinning Odialetics' post on this blog. Now comes Odia Ofeimun's poem, Anarch of Hubris...

(for Chiedu Ezeanah)


If you want to know
the sex of lagoons, jump
jump into their wombs

You will suffer
The swollen silence of rebirth
Never ask me why

* * *

Never ask why
The mad poet of beer parlours
goes on the rampage

He drags his deities into gutters
to launder them in faeces
He swaggers in purulence, chest-beater
At upturned chairs and tables. He’s at war
with himself, running for cover
in a brood of his own demons
Neither love nor charity can save him
from the night that takes his mind
When frothing malady spirits him
To the vomitorium. He pukes
Upon his own totems, to curry grace
At the shrine of his self-dissolution.

His mind’s misadventures regress
to quotatious trading of metaphors
ill-grasped in a mist, self-insufficient
wishing for Orphic lyres that he has gift for
but lacks the spine to hold. He rises,
fiend-like, to trip those who savage evil.
Not for love of evil. He lacks spunk
for the drudgery evil demands
He lusts to be part of a happening
before he knows the score. O he dances
with the wolves ’till, landing in frying saucer,
he’s sweet morsel in the Devil’s Dinner

Poet of hubris, fallen angel of clap-trap!
Not for nothing is he the self-flagellator
who, to blind the sun overhead, throws werepe
up the skies unready for his stem’s collection
of body-scratches until, squirming naked,
he break-dances into market-squares.
So now he pukes upon his totems, pukes!
Afraid of reprieve from sloth that reaps his heart
He builds solidarity in beer parlour soirees
where humankind melts into a hazy flow,
self-forgetting, and the heart that says "I love"
earns conviction for slogan-mongering.

His heart runs from the embrace of his kind
Misanthropic, as camp-follower to his
Ever-ready irresolution, his thriving
Enthusiasm withdrawn from honest living,
A drunkard in need of serfs, too frail to try
The handgun folly of Area Boys and touts
He lacks the spine to stand by a treatise
He shuns the love that spawns real dialectics
Why not, he envies the wind its whistles
And wishes he were crown prince of Ogun
Without daring to seek truth’s mandate
or dirty his hands in a struggle to affirm.

How affirm who has no sense of limits
No sense of a hit to bear the ambition
To say No to service in rites of betrayal,
disloyalty to friendship, family and poetry!
Once the claims of the ‘instant high’
Contest the golden rule of the night before
he ‘must affirm’, scorning what he owes
To mother, child and a roof over them
And what he has mortgaged to parlour queens
Who empower sneers at ‘dusty manuscripts’ -
pages he would love to rip and set to smoke
High in flippant envy of assassins

In shabby empathy, lacking a chest to beat,
He takes refuge in the lost cause of those
Who wish poetry quiescent and drunk
Unable to stand up to marauders on the prowl
Who, so glibly, in divine sail and savvy
exult what makes nothing happen,
he turns love of poetry, so often betrayed,
into a licence to kill, sell a little daughter
to jungle alleys, dance to nation-wrecking,
taste blood with wolves in comradely toast
yet rise, with a drunkard’s hoop and halo
as angel of art, inventor of fellow-feeling

Surely, to know the sex of lagoons, you jump
at peril into water with the anarch of hubris
who stabs poetry and matrimony alike
in the back, sneaky, never a bold challenge,
brewing bile to poison the communal well
to rout spouse, offspring, and the counselor
who, for love of love, seek to save the knots,
all-tied in folly, from falling apart
until the swollen silence of rebirth wakes
the hour to expel from one more doorstep
the mad poet for whom the knowers divined:
it is better To Burn Than To Marry Ill.


I was a poet before politics
set the women at the pump
to braid my hair with dialectics
faith and fellow-feeling-
truth-abiding beyond metaphors
- they steeled my muse
to temper time and ward off hogs
muddying the healing waters

They taught me indifference
to friendships that rip
Truth’s common morality:
to let love of my kind fixate me
Against the sass of moral squatters
whose ‘drinkard’s anthem’
Takes crass dismemberment
and spoils to healing waters

I remain the poet who stood
with the women at the pump,
in feisty and harpy crafting
of the means good ends justify,
unfazed by learned ignorance,
fearing neither scorn nor evil
in verse that baits no excuses
for poets ratting from healing waters

unharried, my solidarity endures
with the women at the pump
who taught me to see
poetry without the fillip of politics
and politics unleavened by poetry
as bane of the anarchs who turn
work, truth and estates
into a river of frothing beer.


I plead, Ogun,
forgive the wastrels

and drowning
in hubris and
frothing beer

who see not why
it’s better to burn
than to marry ill

Forgive me, too,
seeking to tame
the house fly

doomed to drown
in a palmwine retch
at the market place.

(those whom
the gods must try
get drunken siblings!)

I swear in calm
and stormy weather:
Tis better to burn

than to marry ill

© Odia Ofeimun

Poem: first published in the National Mirror, Nigeria; reproduced with permission.
Image: 3 Colours Odia by mw - taken in the poet's front courtyard, 6 September 2005

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