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.