I am Ogoni and A Child; Already I Have Been polarized & Other Poems
In the Stench of What You Will Never Know
after CJ Evans
Something in the air killed my grand
mother. You wouldn’t know the wicked
things oil does to this city. One by one she
collects the periwinkles covered in the oily
mud. Fevered dreams and a burning mangrove.
I would be lying if I say I didn’t remember
her voice. I was seven years old in Bodo,
inside the creek, the first time. I learnt to
search for periwinkles. To paddle a canoe.
I learnt a thousand stories, a lake, nine
thousand aquatic produces, ten million
fishes and more.
There is nothing tender about hunger.
I don’t fault the boys for possessing what
they can. Whatever evil we’ve suffered cannot
be forgotten. Look. Dermatitis reddens
my forearms. The hum of gas explosions
swamping farmlands, peeling my childhood
from its core. Arrows of abandoned canoes
and boats. The land full of oil streaks. I watch
from a distance the ghost on my father’s pond.
All the women who were here with us
and now are not.
I am Ogoni and A Child; Already I Have Been polarized
or Ken Saro-Wiwa, 1995
Where do I begin again – I’ve spent my whole life
trying to write the same poem. My white Australian
friend wants to know why I keep calling home, a land
of excisions. I’ve tried to write what I think I know, but
oh, how history hurts. Let it be known, we were loud
in our resistance. What claims proprietary over me is
this truth. How treacherous people are. My father
became a gallows bird in a kangaroo court. From the
shoreline, all I can hear is run – this place is a dead zone
– violence erupting like a second civil war. Erasure
needs no translation. This is a junta thing and a
conquer thing and a carnage thing and an ethnic thing,
this is a minority thing and a thing about greed. A
thing about water, wine and blood in a country that
keeps squelching me, you and then fishes – the correct
fury of swamp dwellers. It is sad but our pains peddled
for donations. Let this never go shush, I was born here,
and I’ve return to the creek, again as I often do, by way
of the trauma enacted upon my mother’s body. And
when I touched the dead periwinkles covered in the
oily mud, I felt her pulse, and I hear it again, in the
undercurrent of the stream – my mother standing on
the pier at the water shore telling the sea I am a
cemetery for holes.
Ojo Taiye is a young Nigerian who uses poetry as a handy tool to hide his frustration with society.