My Mother’s Maiden Name

by Ifeanyi Paulinus Ekpunobi

I stepped into the air-conditioned cool of the banking hall very early in the morning with a disturbing sense that the day wouldn’t end well, that inexplicably unusual paranoia that makes you feel like the hair on your skin is standing erect. Even more, my mouth was filled with the rancid taste of adrenaline. I was not at ease with my feelings, so my gait started to sway, I felt it.

“You are welcome to Fidelity Bank, sir.” The uniformed guard by the automated sliding door flung a toothy smile at me. His uniform evinced a history of previous whiteness, now indecisive between brown and grey. Had he ever thought of washing it, or had he washed it until it faded?

“Thank you sir.” I said, I hoped I did sound courageous. I strode towards the customer care unit, keeping a straight face. I would have laughed myself to scorn if I had stepped outside my skin to watch my parade of ‘gentleness’. Not that I was not a gentle man, but this particular gentleness was a little rehearsed, wished, fantasy-inspired.

So finally I had entered a banking hall for the first time. I had lavished massive admiration on bank structures when I moved past them in a vehicle or on foot: the fleets of neatly parked cars parked in stately garages, spilling outside the gate and sometimes stalling the traffic. But today, my mother had told me to go to the bank and send some money to my elder brother who was studying at the University of Ibadan.

He had called recently and sounded worried, his voice tinged with anger, the sound of a receding grunt. Mother had dug out some newly minted notes from her purse and gave me to send to him: “Bia, Make sure you send this money to this account number, Ifeanyi,” her voice whined through my ear as usual. I had mixed feelings about this errand: my nervousness about the possibility of embarrassing myself, and a sense of pride for having earned such prestigious errand from my mother.

I stood in the queue, behind a dangerously overblown backside of a woman “Oh my goodness! Could this be a real butt or plastic surgery?” I felt my eyes bulging out from its sockets as I gawked at the monster bum. My lids parted widely as if to allow my eyes feed on the sight before me.

“Sir, you may go to this other customer care unit, the Attendant there is back on seat.” A prudish voice of a female attendant suggested to the man standing behind me.

He gazed around him and saw that he was the last, “and why must you talk to me in such way, what guts!” the man snapped. My heart leaped against my chest, the simple instruction wasn’t worth his reaction. I waited for a comeback from the lady who seemed to be in her mid-20s. She gave him a courteous and professional “I’m very sorry, Sah” and strode  towards the bulk room. Why should she be so timid! My fists tightened and I felt like blasting the man’s pipe-holed nose that looked like a broken oja – flute. That was what the system had turned us into, where you believed that appearing professional was to assume a westernised etiquette, which I considered demeaning.

“Welcome Sir, Welcome to Fidelity. How may I be of help?” the fair lady seated behind the cabinet said to me as I approached. The lady before me had deprived me of her endowment when she left with a man I supposed to be her boyfriend – poor me. The Attendant was everything beautiful; I lost my stare on her face and gradually imagined her glossy kiss-inviting lips leaning close to mine. “Helloo, Sir,” her voice pulled back my straying imagination.

“Hi. Well done,” the words had dribbled unconsciously from my mouth. I allowed my admiration to sprinkle smiles over my face. “I …I want to open a savings account.” I wanted to take back my words but it was already spilled.

She skimmed through a pile of papers on the desk and gave me a form to fill. I looked at her outstretched arm and saw the radiating smoothness of her skin. Her lashes flickered, and her face, dosed in layers of makeup, unwound the stiffness that had grown in my heart. She was the kind of beauty many establishments placed before their customers to get them always coming back.

“Please, what do you mean here -” I pointed at a column that requested for my mother’s maiden name.

“Oh! That’s the surname of your mother before marriage.” Her words seemed to swell of shock and ridicule. Perhaps she was professional enough to keep her emotions at bay.

I stood there, lost in thoughts: Does it mean all these while I had never bothered to know my mother’s maiden name? Can I skip it? I wanted to ask but something restrained me. I hesitated and finally gave in to the fretting sensation that had now accompanied my nervous question: “Can I skip …ignore it?”

“No, it’s required,” she said emphatically. She stopped her scribbling on a rough sheet and bored an inquisitive face on me, it ruffled me. My ego now stayed on a slippery precipice, awaiting a nudge to send it crashing.

“Ehmm …sorry, I think I might have forgotten my Mum’s maiden name.”

“Seriously?” a foul frown dirtied her face, “but you know your surname, your faather’s name?” The stress she applied to “father” sliced through my chest.

“Yes, of course.”

“So your Mum’s never mattered to you simply because she is a woman, and her maiden name has become obsolete because she’s now bearing your father’s own?”

The way she readied her mouth told me that she was out to unleash her anger at me. She was being defensive about my mother like she knew my mother so well. But on a second thought, I discovered that her concerns were legitimate and worthy. My father neither easily allowed us to go to our maternal home, nor have any familial bond with my mother’s people. He always gave this flat excuse of having paid heavily for my Mum’s dowry and so didn’t owe them anything. I had always seen my father’s remark more as a simple joke rather than a tangible reason and I thought my siblings did so, until now. Standing before this pretty woman who sounded feminist, I wondered if she actually knew what feminism was. Maybe she didn’t need to know it; she only needed to act it.

“Well, I don’t think you will understand,” I said dismissively. My brother also didn’t know it, and I didn’t want to risk calling my mother over the phone, it would be embarrassing. I needed to …then I remembered, “Excuse me, let me first make a transaction.”

“Okay, you may queue yonder.” She pointed with the tip of her pen.

I backed disgracefully and joined the queue from behind. “Can you imagine someone doesn’t know his mother’s maiden name?” I heard the attendant whisper to her colleague.

Faces began to glare around me, they must have heard her. One lady giggled and tapped her feeble fingers on the shoulder of her friend who also mumbled something into her ear that provoked laughter between them. My countenance flung to the neatly tiled floor that had since gathered specks of sands from customers’ footwear, my eyes groped around hoping not to meet any eyes. How could I not know the person I claimed to love the most – Nne m oma.

When it was finally my turn, I shamefully raised my face, scanning the hall for any remnant of impending ridicule; none. I quickly filled the necessary information in the deposit slip I had drawn from the rack on the marble stand; I paid in the money and dashed out immediately. Outside, I puffed a heave of relief, the air was musty. The weather was dimming, I entered a taxi and there I imagined my sister’s child not knowing her mother’s maiden name. I tried to ward off the thought by peeping out through the window. I looked at the sky trying to drown my worry in the lazy pacing cloud that had started to mass. Suddenly, the sky cracked and the rains came down. I would tell mother that I sent the money successfully, but I wouldn’t tell her that I did not know her maiden name.

 

Ifeanyi Paulinus Ekpunobi is an emerging writer. A graduate of philosophy from the University of Ibadan. He is a young man who loves digging into life to see what connects and makes us human. When he is bored he turns to watching the best of Mess and C. Ronaldo. He is currently in Ibadan to further his studies in the Humanities. He blogs short stories at www.chroniclesofpaulinus.blogspot.com

 M’bobe

(Scene 5)

       an excerpt from Kaulini, a play written by Wongile Mbano

There is a procession of women carrying clay pots on their head with hot Chindongwa[1] inside it.  The women are singing songs.

Wamaka: There is a m’bobe near. Grab a stone. (quickly grabs a stone and places it on her head)

Yalenga: Why?

Wam: Do you know nothing? A m’bobe is a flying snake. The hot porridge in their pots is to kill it. It must be in this vicinity. In the time I’m wasting explaining the m’bobe would have flown in and hit your head and you have died instantly. Grab a stone!

(Yalenga grabs a stone and places it on her head.)

Yal: You are from Kaulimi? What are you doing so far from there?

Wam: One of our mothers died, so I went to give the death announcement to her family. Her family resides in Chinteche near the river Luweya. A few moons ago, the Ngoni tried to invade the people there. The river Luweya has long grass that covers the river so it looks justlike a field of grass but underneath there is water. The villagers know that but the Ngoni did not. When the Ngoni were invading the Tonga went to the other side of the river. The Ngoni mistook the river covered with the grass for a field of grass and they drowned.

Yalenga laughs. They see a snake jump into one of the pots from a tree.  The women sing louder; cheering and laughing. The woman whose pot it went into lowers the pot to confirm its dead. The women turn back to their village.

Yalenga: How did you kill the leopard that you are wearing?

Wam: I shot an arrow through its heart.

Yalenga: Was it attacking you?

Wamaka: It attacked one of the mothers at Kaulimi.

Yalenga: So you were in the distance and shot your arrow?

Wamaka: Yes I was in the distance. I saw the leopard attacking her.

Yalenga: So just one arrow killed it?

Wamaka: You ask so many questions.

Yalenga: I want to learn how to use the arrow or spear or anything to defend myself. When the Ngoni I felt so defenceless as I watched them snatch my family from me. I don’t want to ever feel like that again.

Wamaka: You won’t. Everyone at Kaulimi has to know how to protect themselves. There are many animals. And threats of war from spurned husbands whose wives have left them.

[1]Mild malt beer.

Wongile Mbano is a Writer, Actress and Activist. She studied Drama and Literature at University of Malawi. She has a passion for gender justice and the rights for indigenous peoples. Read Wongile’s short story, Ebola, on Afreecan Read.

The Self

    

                by Zondiwe Mbano
               (Leeds, England, 1982)

Consolidation of the self
Is a great moral effort.

Society is a monstrosity
Demanding propitiation

From individuals. Society
Is a faceless progression

Annihilating individuals.
The individual, rarefied

Of all corruption, is the self.
And solitude is the culture

For the sublimation of the self.
The self is his own identity

And poetry is his own bride,
His song of a velvet sunrise.

Love is a mellifluous
River that purifies all;

It is a titillation of light
That sweetens solitude.

It rejuvenates the self
To flow into poetry.

Freedom is the government
Of the self. And equanimity

Is the power of rectitude;
It is the self’s own fortitude.

Bruce Zondiwe Mbano is a lecturer in the Department of Language and Communication Skills at Chancellor College. He has authored short-stories, plays and poems, some of which have been published in The Fate of Vultures(BBC prize-winning poetry), Heinneman and The Haunting Winds(published by Dzuka). His poem The Viphya won second prize in the 2000 Peer Gynt Literally Award. Mbano’s has published beautiful poems on Afreecan Read including, Eyes of AgeRoad to Emmaus and The Breadwinner.

Tale

By Iliya Kambai Denis

I send my fears to
Trek to a land of doom
And ignited my patience
To establish herself, boom!
Faith, she published…
And gave my effort a crown
And send my plight
Into the countenance of
The rich.
Like photons I possessed
Momentum without a mass
Enormous energy is what
I posses even when
I take the weight off my feet
In perpetual solace.
The dust of my feet
Is comparable to the
Fragrance of a majestic foot
Why???
Personality of mine is at
The equinox of the sun,
Blessed with…peace.
Owls of day light now
Striking the anger of the sun.
Now hear my dreams;
With this palatable rebels,
The sky won’t be blue again
The sun and the moon…
Won’t travel the same path
Stars will betray their oath
And the night won’t have
The celestial bodies to
Beautify her ugliness.

Iliya Kambai Dennis hails from Kaduna state, Nigeria. He is a physics student at the Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto,Nigeria. He loves writing, especially poetry. Several of his poems can be found on African Read.

Painting a Dread-full-picture: Rastafari, Misogyny and Homophobia 

By Afro-Planet

Painting a Dread-full-picture

The thought of Rastafari can summon feelings of admiration as well as contempt from the general public; but usually it’s that of confusion. Questions like: Is ‘Rastafarianism’ a religion? Is Haile Selassie their god? have been commonly raised throughout the history of the movement.

To finally put these common queries to rest, you must first answer this question: Does Rastafari have any scope outside of its Neo-Christian characteristics?

The answer? Well, to begin with, think of it like arriving in the middle of a painter laying his craft onto the canvas, you have yet to witness the master piece in its completion. Rastafari, as with life, is in transition.

Painting in Red[1]

Self-righteous and misogynistic behaviour?
Whattagwan?

One has to acknowledge the fact that Christian dogma is deeply entrenched in the Rastafari way of life. So in some sense, it is safe to say that Rastafari is now in its Neo-Christian phase. What is tragic about this transition is that Rastafari seems to be stuck in this phase indefinitely.

I need to point out why religious doctrines are no good for a movement as encompassing as Rastafari. The problem with doctrine-like thinking in a movement that is meant to be a reflection of life, is that life changes. Life is constantly transforming and recreating itself, whether it’s a new sunrise or new cell growth; whereas a doctrine remains unchangeable throughout time. In a doctrine, there is no room for processing new information, gaining new perspectives, and developing broader outlooks; everything has already been decided – you don’t have to think any more. In life, there is no day that is the same as the day that came before it; in a doctrine the same ideas from thousands of years ago will apply today and tomorrow for those who believe it.

Rastafari is Life!

Painting in Yellow[2]

Is Haile Selassie a Rasta god?

To its well-deserved credit, Rastafari has moved a tremendously long way away from the spiritual captivity of traditional Christianity, but the shackles are not completely broken. So it is no surprise that despite the fierce condemnation of all things “Rome”, certain Christian ideologies and traditions still penetrate the Rastafarian psyche. Jamaica has long been engulfed in Christianity, with the island having the most churches per capita on the planet. It is safe to say that no matter how poor a family was, there was at least one Bible in the house. Pioneering Rastafari elders in the early 20th century began to read and reinterpret the books of the Bible compiled by King James. Their mentality was of one that perceived everything they read from an African lens, and rejected all things that were of the enslaver, the very same ones that translated and bestowed the book unto them in the first place. No easy task, but within its time and context, a reinterpretation was necessary and completely logical. This began the journey towards our spiritual liberation.

Now the story of the divinity of His Imperial Majesty (H.I.M) Haile Selassie I (King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Elect of God, Lion of Judah) is an interesting one. In Revelations 5:5 it talks about the unworthiness of anyone anywhere to fulfil a particular task, (which was apparently of immense importance), until lo and behold, the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Lion of Judah arrived on the scene to carry out this important task. Then on November 2nd 1930, at the pinnacle of the colonial era, lo and behold an African King with an established lineage that dated back to important figures from the very same Bible, is coronated as Emperor of Ethiopia, the only country in Africa completely untainted by colonialism; and given the same titles that were mentioned in the biblical story. Anyone can acknowledge the connection was uncanny.

So herein lies the duplicity: the gift and the curse. Whilst the connection did put HIM as the central figure of the Rastafari movement (hence the name “Ras Tafari”); it also, in a sense, created an indefinite union between Rastafari and Christianity, via their common relationship with the Bible. So, Rastafari may well be a free, enlightened and majestic way of life, but to the average onlooker, it can appear little more than a sub-sect of Christianity, where God is replaced with Jah, and Jesus is replaced with Haile Selassie I.

Now obviously, I’m writing this from a very privileged position. I’m privileged in the sense that I bore witness to the full life and reign of HIM as Emperor. I have read his words, I have seen the results of his efforts, and I have feasted on the fruits of his labour. Haile Selassie, by his actions has lived up to the reputation given to him by Rastafari as “Earth’s rightful ruler”, having been the moral conscience of the world for well over 50 years. Established institutions like the United Nations, ideas of collective security, not to mention Africa’s total political decolonisation, are merely a sample of his work for which he receives extremely little credit. I’m sure if the elders were around (and some of them are) to witness the work of HIM, they would no longer need to rely on the Bible to justify his divinity. It’s a shame the young ones still do.

When Rastas continue to present Haile Selassie to the public as Jesus Christ in Black face, it’s no wonder that decades of his work and achievements are overlooked – some people just see him as the “Rasta god”, while others as people can’t get past the audacious comparison of “just a man” to such a divine (and possibly fictional) character as Christ.

In addition to the lack of respect or even acknowledgement the African world has for the contribution of Haile Selassie towards putting Africa on the path towards its liberation, the Christianized version of Rastafari also comes with other problems, namely misogyny and homophobia.

Painting in Green[3]

            Are there any Rasta womxn?
Just left a Rasta group chat with about 200 men
No womxn!

So where are the womxn?
Especially in Africa?

Only place where womxn really represent is in South Africa.
And they have a shit load of horror stories!
but that’s another story…

I credit the misogyny to Old Testament ideas like “A woman can only come to the Lord through her husband”; and that “women must be silent and submissive”. So in a sense, Rastafari was bound to display elements of patriarchy as books expressing patriarchal themes were used as the main spiritual reference. Thus, despite the rhetoric of “equal rights and justice for all”; women (wherever you can find them) are often playing a subservient role.

It has even reached the point where there is a feminist backlash reaction to the misogynistic nature of the movement. Hence the need to elevate the divinity of Haile Selassie’s wife Empress Menen, as a way to patch things up. If only women were allowed to embrace their equality, they might have been able to see themselves in Haile Selassie, and therefore not have to shift the focus away from his plan of action and work ethic, to an issue of gender.

 And homophobic behaviour
Whatta gwan?

Some of the stigma attached to homosexuality in the Caribbean stems from the history of sodomy being used as a form of punishment to disobedient enslaved Africans. Our African ancestors held in captivity in the Caribbean and Americas were anally raped by their enslavers, often in front a crowd including their spouses and children.  However, most of the homophobia that exists today stems from conservative Christian ideologies. This of course spills over into Rastafari, which is one of the reasons why Rastas are so vehemently opposed to the lifestyle.

Books like Leviticus are commonly used to condemn gay people; ironically enough that same book was used to justify the enslavement of our ancestors, along with isolating women whilst on their period and not wearing clothes made from two different types of fabric. Even worse than that, is that it makes the movement seem rigid and unsympathetic.

Now critiquing homosexuality is one thing, but using religious doctrine to do it and questioning people’s morality because of their sexual preference is something completely different. It undermines the entire argument. There are many negative issues within the homosexual community that gets completely overlooked even by gays themselves because they are too busy fighting for their right to exist as free and equal human beings. So, while gays and their supporters are out flying the rainbow flag, issues like the sexual grooming of young boys and the high prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases and cancers within the gay community go unaddressed.

If you’re going to be in any way critical of the lifestyle, those should be some of the key talking points instead of condemning someone to moral and spiritual damnation because “the Bible told me so”. Plus, being so passionate about what takes place between consenting men in a private setting is absurd and a bit weird. It doesn’t really sound like the “Equal rights and justice stands for all” ethos of Rastafari, but more of an overzealously religious and fundamentally judgemental way of thinking.

That energy could and should be directed towards something that can actual have a positive and favourable impact on the movement and on the people we claim to represent. And we’ve all seen the backlash to the onslaught of homophobic lyrics in reggae music during the 90s. Artists’ careers have been destroyed, the music heavily censored and closely monitored, and now gay people have a bigger platform more than ever. Rastafari people should know more than anyone that whatever you fight against will only grow stronger.

Letting the Paint Dry

The Rastafari Elders that founded this movement set us out on the journey towards our total liberation. They established a solid foundation based on the pillars of peace, love, equality and justice. They also instilled in the movement a resilient desire to seek a greater knowledge and understanding of life and how to live it the best way possible. It would be a great dis-service to these elders if the Rasta of today chooses not to seek or use their knowledge and understanding to advance the movement; and instead remains stagnant and inactive as Rastafari is continued to be perceived as “Rastafarianism”, a cult-like sub-sect of Christianity; and Haile Selassie’s militant work-ethic and tireless efforts continue to be undervalued and ignored.

Those that came before us used the tools available to them and built the structure we see before us today. It’s only right we use the tools available to us to expand that structure to its fullest potential.

“The temple of the most high begins with the body which houses our life, the essence of our existence. Africans are in bondage today because they approach spirituality through religion provided by foreign invaders and conquerors. We must stop confusing religion and spirituality. Religion is a set of rules, regulations and rituals created by humans, which was suppose to help people grow spiritually. Due to human imperfection religion has become corrupt, political, divisive and a tool for power struggle. Spirituality is not theology or ideology. It is simply a way of life, pure and original as was given by the Most High of Creation. Spirituality is a network linking us to the Most High, the universe, and each other…”

― Haile Selassie I

 [1] In Rastafari signifies The blood shed of the African people

[2] In Rastafari signifies The Sunshine of  the African land

[3] In Rastafari signifies the lush Greenery of the African continent

 

AfroPlanet was a cabinet minister in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the time of independence. After the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, he fled into the forests to escape capture. While there, he ingested a rare precious metal, which gave him immortality. He has since been on a one man mission throughout the African continent, contributing in any way he can. He currently writes for Afreecan Read.

 

Nkem


by Nwanne Agwu

You had known her since you began your kindergarten classes in the school. A normal classmate was what she was until you began to admire her.

Every evening you would go to the shop to help Mama out and sometimes, she would go home to rest for the day. You had read that stress caused stroke and you told Mama to always rest. Whenever you met her doing some chores, you would cajole her and make sure she left the work for you.

Mama knew about Kasie, the girl you had been friends with since grade ten. ‘She is now growing into an agbogho,’ Mama would say. ‘Make sure you both don’t do anything wrong.’ You knew you would never put your thing into hers, you only held hands and talked about what you had heard, about the proposed change which you preferred corruption to. About Naira’s depreciating value towards the Dollar. About fuel scarcity and the Dictator’s, sorry, President’s childish and non rhetoric speeches. You always laughed at the President’s accent  because he talked as if the words were so hot and he had to keep his mouth open, for the air to go in and cool them while he spoke, he sounded so hollow.

Her father was a University professor who had invited you to his house, after you had helped him take the bag of garri and tin tomatoes he had bought from your store, into the boot of his car. That was when you began to admire Kasie. She was chocolate-skinned with big eyes that made you think she could see what you thought. Her lips were pink and you had to ask her if she applied lipstick, the type that your cousin would always line her lips with and begin to rub her lips together, releasing them as though they were sticky. Her breasts were gradually increasing and you were amazed to hear that she hated using relaxer on her hair—she preferred her afro. Her legs were straight, so straight that you began to compare which was more straight between yours and hers.

Her leg kept you warm during the cold mornings of the rainy season and the harmattan. You both removed your socks and made your feet touch, caressing each other. You would stop and lean your leg on hers, you always looked at her face to see if she smiled or not. You knew she didn’t know you looked at her from your isi-anya. Sometimes she would lean on your shoulder and you had noticed that her body felt so warm that you used to ask if she had fever, until the day she told you that that was her normal temperature. She in turn joked that you were cold blooded, because your hands felt cold. You wished to become as warm as she was. You wished for the day you would sleep with her, sometimes you were frightened if you will be shy about her seeing your manhood that day; it was so big. You had heard your friends talk about how the girls moaned and cried as they were thrusting and withdrawing, and the way they jerked. They walked home through the akwuna lodge, the place where harlots lived; no one called it a brothel.

You hardly thought about other girls because that was something you should never do, but whenever you thought about kissing, sucking and having sex you made sure, you didn’t visualize Kasie in your mind’s eye, it was done only with other girls in mind.

Kasie was a different girl, you always walked her to the bus stop before you joined your other friends. She was one of the most important reasons why you always looked forward to Mondays during the weekends. She made your weekdays, adding a certain sort of flavour to your life. You had begun loving unrelaxed hairs and her ideologies and her thoughts were always yours. You knew what she could and couldn’t say. You would watch her mount an okada, before you would turn to go home, sometimes you both walked till you’d reach the junction of your street.

She waved bye as you turned to leave. But you were not feeling alright. You wanted to walk home with her. Something was happening inside of you, something that seemed listless and unfathomable.
‘Whrrrrrrlll…tsssaah’ You heard it, the sound of a crash. Kasie and the bike rider lay on the road with blood on their heads and legs and and hands and mouths. Blood was flowing. You could see as it gushed like water from the yellow plastic container you used to fetch water. It was as if sacks of sand were tied to your calves, you could barely move and you could not even think. You couldn’t believe that it was the same Kasie you had just talked to that lay on the road. Only then did you know why a man who was suddenly met by a fierce lion would only stand and look in fright; your mind ran away. Some kind hearted people helped to get a taxi which conveyed her and the okada rider to the hospital. You were in the taxi with some other woman. You didn’t walk home with her—you were driven to the hospital with her. She was unconscious.

Nwanne Agwu is a Nigerian writer and poet. He is an introverted extrovert, a teenager, so shy. He has published at Brittle Paper, Flash Fiction Press and Pengician. His poem was among the top ten entries for the Chinua Achebe’s Iconic Ceremony, Awka, 2016. He lives in Abakaliki and blogs at nwanneagwu.wordpress.com

Dry Throat

.

by Iliya Kambai Dennis

Ecstatic proletarians!
Always in the warmth of the
Beautiful feces of bad eggs
Anxious of every four years after
Curious about the propelling
Forces of another
Endorphin.

Oh dry throats!
Always laying face down
Looking up to the roof of thy home
A thatch house in a town
Oh obnoxious proletarians!
Listen to the call…
When will you wise up?
Rush to the hall

Push back at the wall
The vile wall of destruction
Entwine those decoy threats
Fill the glass wine with
Water and drink so cosy.

Look into your throats
So dry!
Kept by elite for votes
As fowl…
Groat that keeps you grouchy
Kisses that keeps you glowing
Will wash away with the
Salty ocean water.

Iliya Kambai Dennis hails from Kaduna state, Nigeria. He is a physics student at the Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto,Nigeria. He loves writing, especially poetry. His previous poems on Afreecan Read include My Sinful Nature and the Old Truth.

Life’s True Love

 

by Larry Onokpite

The place
The time
The approach; or
The rationale

Question of importance
Thought of beauty
Reason of hygiene
Power for life

Life! Dear life!
That solemn strife,
Forceful in its dive,
Asking no consent.

Life is deceitful,
Maybe we deceive it,
Or understand it to deceive,
We could just deny it deceives

Life bears poverty of encompassing
A wretch of individualism
A predestined enemy of singleness
Life is divisive and multiple

Life sneaks if understood wholly
No friend of the severe
Not to be understood in definite
Life betrays completeness

Happiness is on the left
Joy sways right
Peace resides above
Love settles below

Congregate the pieces
No bad in brokenness
Brokenness produces shapes
Shapes are beautiful

Shapes agile the imagination
Breathes life and curiosity to the soul
The body is in shapes
Descriptions empty without shapes

Life is never found in one piece
That’s the design
You are a sojourner
Get on your way.

Life consecrates you
Be aware of its blessedness
Even when we expire
Different broken shapes are married

Roll; cast; built into one
Saying goodbye to a life done
Life is in pieces
Pieces! Pieces! Never in Ashes!

Larry Onokpite is from Delta State, Nigeria. He considers reading and writing as great forms of spirituality. Larry previously published A Collection of Mantras and Ululating on Afreecan Read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angel at the Fuel Queue

by Bruce Zondiwe Mbano

“ A German lady accosted me for allowing a car to queue-jump and I lied that that was its place for it had been ahead of me previously. She said that could not be true for she had been on the queue since 4:30 am, which was also a lie because she came behind me and I arrived at 4:45 am.”

Last week on Thursday, there was an indication fuel would be coming at one of the new Total filling stations after a long dry spell throughout the country such that on our trip home earlier on we had to rely on black market fuel selling at three or four times more than the normal pump price.  With that good news, I drove to the place at about 4:45 am, left the Toyota venture there and walked back four km to take a bath and breakfast.

I went back later to be on the queue from 8:30 am. There was excitement when the tanker drove in to deliver at about 11:30 am. If the owners of the small cars that stood in the way did not come in time, people would have carried them away.  Immediately after delivering the rare liquid, electricity went off so they could not start selling. We had to wait for about two hours before they could start selling. There was so much excitement that my venture failed to start when it was time to move forward.

Stranded, I came out to try singlehandedly to push it. It was an impossible task. I do not remember whether I prayed, but at that very time a strong young man came and helped me to push it until we filled the gap. Later we decided that the problem was that the fuel that had been so low even when I drove to the fuel station must have run out. He suggested buying one litre so that we do not have to push any more, explaining how such purchases can be expensive and take extraordinary negotiation skills, so he asked for the sum of one thousand Kwacha, which I happily gave, and would have given even more. Soon he came back with a container and we poured the fuel in. They had been refusing even to sell him since containers is forbidden by the Malawi Energy Regulation Authority. He had to plead with the attendant and for taking the risk the man charged five hundred above what was proffered. I did not only give him the extra five hundred note, but also added two hundred to thank him for the service.

After we shifted the cars twice or thrice, it started to rain. Seeing my angel outside my car getting wet, I invited him in. He told me he knows I am from Chancellor College, and also mentioned two lecturers, one from department of Theology and another from Law, whom he said he assists with driving their cars to filling stations when they have no time to wait on queues. He also drives people’s taxis since he does not have a vehicle of his own. Later he told me he has a Malawi School Certificate of Education with weak points obtained from Balaka Secondary School. He wants to rewrite four or five subjects to add credits so that he qualifies for university courses, since learning driving has not helped him. Before the fuel tanker arrived, I had kept myself busy by marking students examination scripts, the scourge of teachers, so I had a big envelop at the back seat. He offered to drive for me so that I could continue my marking since it would take more than an hour before we could reach the pump. I checked his performance the first time and was satisfied, though he stopped to close to the front car. Hence I settled to my marking. Meanwhile we moves three or four times and there were less than fifteen cars ahead, except that ours was not the only line because on my left there were two parallel lines, which at some times seemed to be moving faster. Early in the morning while leaving the car on the queue there was only one line of cars. When I came back to find these parallel lines I went to the attendants to ask why they allowed this confusion to develop. They said they try to control but people do not listen so they just leave them. At other filling stations, they sometimes bring in police to control the lines, which helps a bit, although the police also allow some cars to jump the queue.

I went to the pumps to monitor the situation. A party van drove along drove from the bus stage up the road to the roundabout, took the road to Blantyre it came close to our fuel queue, turned towards the Gynkana Club, took the road to St George Anglican Church and from there rejoined the main road to Blantyre.

‘Forward with DPP, for development, justice and security; forward with Professor Ngwazi Bingu Wa Mutharika, the father of development, peace and security…,” announced a male voice, amid blasting party songs, and calling everyone to attend a ground breaking ceremony for the construction of the new Zomba-Blantyre road on Sunday, by the president, the father of development and economic engineer. ‘This is deliberate provocation,’ said a man, who looked tired.

‘How I wish they had come close to the queue,” said another man, in a serious tone.

This narrow road to Blantyre constructed during the colonial days and improved during the era of Kamuzu was so bumpy that if you arrived without a stomach upset you had the thank you robust constitution.

When I came back to the car, my wife phoned to ask if there was a chance of filling the official car she drives which was empty so that that morning she had to buy five litres fuel from black market at K5,000 when at filling stations it would cost her less than K2,000. I told her there was little chance because the queue was long and of three lines thick. Worse still minibuses and taxis jump the queue. In his polite tone, the boy said I should not discourage her. Since the tanker had filled fuel at the next filling station where people were currently queuing, with his knowledge of the dynamics of queues, he would assist her position the car strategically. When I phoned my wife and she came, our consultant angel went to assist.

Within ten minutes, I saw her car driven by the consultant in queue dynamics coming from outside the road to stand parallel to me on the left. Immediately the front car moved the consultant drove into the place in front while a taxi was doing the same two cars in front. A German lady accosted me for allowing a car to queue-jump and I lied that that was its place for it had been ahead of me previously. She said that could not be true for she had been on the queue since 4:30 am, which was also a lie because she came behind me and I arrived at 4:45 am. It was hard, but I thought even in this scourge of fuel queues occasioned by irresponsible political decisions that forget the needs of the people my wife deserved her place closest to me. A day later at a Bible study we released the burden to our friends. Will there be a solution to these economic woes in Malawi? It is rumoured that a West African prophet has prophesied the expiry of an old dictator in Africa. People fervently pray that the prophecy should come true, and quickly. It is even reported that a Zimbabwean and Malawian overseas have fought to claim this prophecy.

Soon our queue stopped moving for fifteen minutes or more. It was reported that a minibus driver refused to drive away insisting that they sell him more than the K5,000 rationing. We were about to go all of us at once and lift it away when someone reasoned with him and he drove the bus away. After shifting two times, we were within four or five cars. The consultant driver of my wife’s vehicle branched to another pump where they now would be at number three, leaving me to be number three to. At that moment another tanker came and caused some confusion as it blocked some cars that had filled and were driving away on the other side. We were told it had brought paraffin and cars had to shift for it to reach the paraffin pump. A driver of minibus on another queue came to me and advised me not to drive forward when the car in front moves so that his minibus can come on to create space for the tanker. I told him I will not do such a thing unless I am asked by the attendants. Thereupon he went advised the attendant to tell me the message. The attendant came and announced that I should be the last to move forward and fill, after me the rest will stop until the tanker passes to the paraffin pump. So it was that both my car and wife’s had a chance to purchase and drive away. It was difficult to negotiate our way out because from the other side there was another queue. But having come out we stopped somewhere and paid the angel K1,000 for his service. It was now 3:45 pm, and tired I drove straight home to rest while my wife drove to college to collect her things from her office.

The following day, on Friday I went to office. Opening my computer, I found that three flash disks I kept in one of the computer bag were not there. After thoroughly checking the bag and the car I could not trace my important devices. At home, later, I checked thoroughly but they were not there. Later my wife also found that a flash attached to a music device put in a compartment on the dashboard of her car was also missing. I phoned our angel but there was so much noise that I did not successfully communicate. He said he was in a minibus from Blantyre but would come. Indeed he came and I told him about out loss. He asked me to check thoroughly and promised to come again the following day. I was hopeful.

On Saturday morning he came around 9:00 am as I was just arriving at the office. I explained that we have checked that the items were nowhere else but in the cars on that day, that no one else entered our cars but him, and that they missed on that day. I explained about the important documents in them such as my books and the music which had been collected from different places, such that we would not expect to find them locally. After talking about over and over, he left only offering a promise to pray so that the items are found and to come and see me again on Monday. It is now a week and he has not come.

The author, Bruce Zondiwe Mbano is a lecturer in the Department of Language and Communication Skills at Chancellor College. He has authored short-stories, plays and poems, some of which have been published in The Fate of Vultures(BBC prize-winning poetry), Heinneman and The Haunting Winds(published by Dzuka). His poem The Viphya won second prize in the 2000 Peer Gynt Literally Award. Mbano’s has published beautiful poems on Afreecan Read including, Eyes of AgeRoad to Emmaus and The Breadwinner.

 

SWEET MA’ALE

by Blessed Abraham

“It can’t be! I broke into tears, my knees giving way as the curtains fell off my eyes. I woke up to a blotch of tears on my pillow. I am that spoilt brat and that lovely pitiful woman is my Mother. So hard did I tremble in regret as tears kept streaming down generously. I messed up. I need to fix things, I need to say “I am sorry”.”

My eyes scan her stout but plump unkempt figure, her hair riddled with suffer induced grey hair. It was anything but silver. Her once chocolate skin now mud-hue. My eyes studied her aged frame and fallen heroes with loathsomeness, her pathetic and lowly appearance nudging me into disgust. The sheer thought of walking in the public with her, and hearing chants of “Mama Blessed” was thousand yards away from appealing.

“Blessed,” Her gentle voice, reeking of pity – a noun I hate calling out to me whilst brewing anger in my bowels. “Bikonu, follow me go market. The load go too much for me, make you help me carry some abeg.”

“Abeg! No even bring that leg. I can’t follow you, I am tired. So don’t bother me.” My voice laced with the anger. Stomping hard on the concrete floor, I walked out. Her pitiful voice followed behind me, but I was in no position to care.

Abbie’m, Nna’m bikonu.”

I entered my room and shut the door, hoping to shut off the nuisance at the other side of the door. Laying on my ill-arranged bed, rage kept gyrating in me, regrets of the words I didn’t say. Of the words I wish I said. Slowly the rage turned ruth and topped with regret as sleep ebbed me away.

•••••••••••••••••••

In a dream, I stand before a house. A column of single rooms, unpainted but designed with masterful art of plastering. Something about it felt nostalgic, but frustrating enough, I couldn’t place a finger on it. A little boy caught my attention, probably between the ages of three to four. He walked to his mum who was cooking on firewood under the violent sun, the sun highlighted her melanin popping skin like a Belle X6 highlighter would. She glittered in the sun, her skin daring the solar god. The kid tugged onto the hem of her wrapper annoyingly.

“Mommy, Mommy. Gimme tea and bread.”

“Nna’m, there is no tea and bread. But I will give you plenty fish if I cook finish, you hear?” The woman sang out, as she went back to her battle with the fire, blowing to keep it. She’d take breaks to shut her eyes from the burn and sting. The smoke trying to cut her resolve.

The kid went into a wailing fit. “I want tea and bread.”

Slumping on the floor, his wail increased into a disturbing level. I got mad, the sight of the spoilt brat’s tantrum fits erupted new flames of rage in me. I should spank him and give him something to really cry about, but fortunately for him – I can’t interfere in the unfolding events.

As I watched on, I noticed the wailing brat’s wailing reduce to a whimper, a rather disturbing whimper. Then sharp distorted inhales as he started gasping for breath, with each sharp inhale he stretched. His life forcefully getting snatched from him by a force he couldn’t match. I let out an earth piercing shout but my chords didn’t register them, all my effort to draw the woman’s attraction to her baby failed. The sight of the convulsing child’s tugs with death, the woman’s world splitting and crashing with it made my eyes burn as warm moist filled it.

I watched as she took a taste of the beautiful looking egusi soup and nodded in satisfaction, scattering the fire, oblivious of the events going on behind her. She carried the hot pot of soup whilst singing melodiously to a song I know too well – A certain woman’s favorite song.

The best friend to have is Jesus,

The best friend to have is Jesus,

The best friend to have is Jesus,

The best friend I have is Jesus.

He will hear you when you call, He will help you when you fail,

The best friend to have is Jesus.

The song, the event playing before my eyes, the unconfirmed nostalgia in the air all teamed to betray me as tears welled up in my eyes and with just a blink to relieve the burn, they trickered down.

In slow motion, I saw her turn and suddenly her body froze. Her eyes shot out of its sockets as the sight of her baby, her world – though spoilt, losing to Death’s grip. She let out a heaven piercing scream as the hot pot of egusi soup slipped and fell, kissed the concrete floor and rebounded splashing on her legs.

“JESUSSS!!!” The earth’s frame would be shocked. I knew the scream wasn’t because of the hot egusi soup scorching her legs but the sight of her baby struggling with Death. With the scorched leg, she raced forward stomping on the spilled egusi soup in her first three steps, pulled her baby to her bossom and raced to the streets. Her wails drawing the neighbors, her wrapper fell off her chest. She cared less, her speed on barefoot and just shorts and bra were remarkable. She wouldn’t trust any cyclist or man to race faster enough to bring her baby to salvation.

The sight was too nostalgic, then it hit me.

My mum had an ugly burn on her legs, very similar to those that will eventually surface on those woman’s legs. It can’t be!

I broke into tears, my knees giving way as the curtains fell off my eyes. I woke up to a blotch of tears on my pillow.

I am that spoilt brat and that lovely pitiful woman is my Mother. So hard did I tremble in regret as tears kept streaming down generously. I messed up. I need to fix things, I need to say “I am sorry”.

Rushing out into the kitchen, she wasn’t there, madness tailed behind me.

“Once I see her, I don’t care about anything. I will rush and give her the deepest hug ever, I will kiss her forehead, her arm and bow before those legs. I will cry out to her begging for forgiveness. I will change her wardrobe this month’s end, I will spoil her. Let me just see her.” This I proclaimed in between tears.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

It’s now 7:48pm, Mum left since 4pm. She doesn’t stay this long at the market, maybe she branched to the church. But today is Thursday, the only thing we have in church is Youth’s fellowship – something I last attended before I gained admission five years ago.

I took a glance at my siblings watching Music videos on Galaxy TV, they were too engrossed in the videos to care about their mum’s late return, they will when by 9pm they’ve still not had dinner. My eyes fell on the news bar just beneath the videos.

The first passed, then the second. I noticed its the same news being repeated, an emergency news?

“Tanker falls in Omoku main market creating an inferno, no words or details on the number of casualties.”

A sharp javelin pierced my heart, “Omoku main Market”? That is our market, where mum is. Something gripped my heart, squeezing it. The burn was intense, my head tripled in size, my legs gave way as I slowly fell to the ground. I couldn’t rely on my nasal cavity with the huge task of breathing, so I opened my mouth to aid it. I couldn’t scream or do more than slowly die.

‘God please, I beg you! Don’t take my mum away from me. I still have a lot to say and do for her.” I prayed, hoping someone somewhere is hearing.

Knock! Knock!! Knock!!! I freeze waiting for the voice. As I prayed.

“Make Una open door for me na.” Mum’s voice, never been so beautiful and delightful to my ears in my entire life.

Blessed Abraham is a budding writer, an Electrical Engineering student from Akwa Ibom state. Loves movies and having intriguing conversations. You could reach him and read more of his short stories on his Facebook wall:facebook.com/edidiong.inemesit.7. Also read Blessed’s other story on Afreecan Read, The Awakening