Eyes of Age

Youth waxed us with ideals

But age has shown us the real

 

Love is a maiden’s song

Of an eagle beyond the clouds

 

Beauty is a boy’s dream

Of a dove beyond mountains

 

Generosity burns to stumps

Fingers trying to stretch out

 

Charity is the arrogance driving

Those who keep others indebted

 

Unity is a shadowy pool where

Minorities are silently drowned

 

Truth is what lions posit

And that which guns guard

 

Lies are the bulwark of power

Crowned with a veneer of gold

 

Equanimity is the diamond tip

Tapering arrows of suffering

 

It draws out poetry from anger

Coiling out of incinerated hopes

Bruce Zondiwe Mbano (Mzuzu, 1984) 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.

When Dying Becomes a Metaphor

Every morning, Ma Akudinamma checks her countdown

It is ten days to her death today

Not as if a doctor had numbered her days

She believes death is not unexpected for a woman her age

 

Six days ago, her late cousin walked into her dream

Ma Aku knew she would answer the call in sixteen days

It was her dead relatives checking up on her

 

But this morning, she feels the street below her balcony differently

It always offers its noise right through her window

A wake-up call for each morning

Today, it seems it will show her something off the routine

 

She stands right where the street wants her to, at her window

The kiosk comes first, directly opposite, and she knows the drill

A regular stream of sinewy figures, stale breath, and stained teeth

Each person receives the gin in meekness, then pours libation

A drop or two to a god who is always absent

 

They don’t care about going places, about seeing the world

What does it matter to these folks? Life is a waste for them

And they love to have it so. Yet they know much laughter

The people of this local gin kiosk

 

She could have missed the kids at the borehole

But then one raises his voice high enough to lap at her window

Three kids, two wondering about the gender of the third

And then one reaches down to where the proof should be

His fingers do not linger, just a brush and he turns to the other:

O nwoke!” The genitalia is like what they have

 

The clergyman’s little girl comes around, the one next door

And the other kids reserve a place for her, then she speaks

Tiny words she says her mother told her:

“I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright and morning star”

The third kid joins the others and they laugh at her:

“Stars don’t shine in the morning,” they tell her

 

They are only kids and understand neither metaphor nor scripture

They cannot believe, cannot reach out to the sky to feel the cloud for stars

 

It is the street right there with a tribute to her death

And she knows the play of the kids is about life and death

Because she is old and understands allegory

And the metaphor of the star, which is that need to feel before believing

 

Ebenezer Agu lives in Nigeria. He is in his early twenties and has a degree in English and Literary Studies, from University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves listening to music and reading novels and poetry; Rilke is among his favorite poets. He is presently working on compiling an anthology of contemporary African poetry.