Chielozona Eze


The Art of Loving What is Not Perfect

My mother loves Saint Anthony,
the patron of lost things,
including me who came back
after years of exile in the West.

You’re still the same, she said.
Like all sons in their moms’ hearts, I thought.

But I’ve learned in humble ways:
I’m not the genius she said I was.
Nor did I become the rich man she’d hoped to see.
I’m her son, nonetheless, bruised and tempered

by clement and inclement weathers,
by loving and unloving strangers.

I learned from the worms
to wend my way in wet and dirt.
I know that any day could be the end.
Until then, good Lord, I trudge on, I,

an unfinished poem, tweaks here and there,
and hopes it will one day give a stranger a smile.

 Memory: a Parable

I know a thing about memory:
It is a blind dog left in a distant city.
It finds a home in a shelter, waiting for love.
Months on, chance brings its master around.
At the sound of his voice it jumps and barks
and whines and wags its tail.
Will the master reject it again?

But memory is not a dog.
It’s a cat:
purring beside you
even while you’re on Facebook or WhatsApp
or while you watch Nigeria play Brazil.

Memory is a flea
that loves you
because you are alive.

I pluck you, flea, from behind my ear.
I do not throw you away to the dust.
I hold you before my eyes
to remind me I am a mere mortal.

Memory: a prayer

To remember is to reach into a fire
to save a letter for you in a foreign tongue.
You could be burnt again if it’s translated.

I let words, spoken with pain,
bear witness to lives, lived.
I whisper them and pretend
the dead aren’t dead.

What’s human without memory?
What’s memory that cannot heal?

Christ have mercy on the youth
who has never hugged a virgin on earth,
but hopes for seventy-two in heaven.
Christ have mercy on me,
who mistook war songs for love songs.

We went to war swearing to defeat the world.
We returned, sad that the world abandoned us.

Years on, did our wounds heal?
Or did they grow numb coatings?
How could I ever forget the silent groans,
or the many unheard prayers,
I, who saw Medusa’s face and lived?

What’s human without memory?
What’s memory that cannot heal?

Warehouse of the past,
teach me not how evil others were to me;
teach me what I need to do
to be among the redeemed
who wrote on their ancestral walls:

 The past, if forgotten, pollutes
the village drinking well.

Speak to me, memory       

My tongue turned numb
when I saw a man struck by a bomb.
He opened his mouth.
I did not hear what came out.

When my tongue came to life years later
I swore never to utter
truths in the language of cherubs
or the shibboleths of the celebs.

I learned to speak like little kids.
And I say what I read on his lips
before his last fight
Boy, run for your life.

 There is no other.
Not here. Not after.

Sitting on an egg

(So All the Time I Was Sitting on an Egg – Lola Shoneyin)

Poetry is an egg.
It’s nothing without the care
of a brooding parent, the warmth of life.
It’s nothing without shells that ward off critters.

Eggs are always a mystery.
They give birth to singers and stingers;
ones with fangs of poison,
others with wings of passion.

I, too, sit on an egg
hoping that what comes out
will have wings
even if it doesn’t fly.

As a child I had a pet hen that never flew.
Now and again, though, it tried.
And I knew it never forgot what wings are for.

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Y ranney April 16, 2017 at 7:01 pm

Sublime, beautiful! A piece of everyone’s heart and soul.

Denis Ekpo April 17, 2017 at 12:59 pm

Chielo I didn’t know that you are such an accomplished lyrical poet.I enjoyed these poems. Well done


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