An Old Man in Conversation
Out of this near empty street comes
an old man who, when asked his age,
says age is nothing but shadows and lost tongues.
He has lived his past years drinking in honour of dawns,
marking seasons of cold and warmth,
of learning to read a new verse twice in reverse.
He is the ice not melted by fire, he says.
I tell him that fire and ice are two parallel worlds.
He nods, and says he is two worlds living in one body—
one flesh fleeing towards eternal levitations.
How do wines become blood so tasteful? He asks.
I look into the wide open street and see two young men,
walking hand in hand, their backs against us.
I tell him that wines become blood when they are
drunk together on an old communal table.
Inside the Old Room
Grandpa’s chair bears forbidden histories
from his weight, the rust on its metal arm,
and one lost leg which now makes it a three-legged artifact.
Before he joined the queue of ghosts, he would
sit here humming, waiting for someone who never arrives.
He would tell stories of a war that ate many souls, his lost gun,
and the last cry of a child bloated from kwashiorkor.
I still remember his face, he would say.
The only diary on this desk is filled with names
of people I do not know.
How does a name reconcile with its bearer who now breathes dust?
There is dust on the desk, cottons, books, files, and an old radio left
to mourn the sting of departures.
I think of lighting oil-lamps as playing the role of God.
First, wools soak the oil and matchsticks bring forth flames.
And here, this lamp, devoid of oil and wool, bereft of touch,
is death’s signature placed on a stool, plagued by moonless nights
and spider webs.
Photographs in monochrome are placed on a shelf,
their images staring longingly like a lonely lover awaiting
familiar laughter, or like a night of terror yearning for dawn.
There is no one left to say the angelus, none to measure
the depth of silences, of loss resonating in midnight moans,
sighs, and hisses. That tiny bell atop the fridge rang at the hours
of prayer. When Grandpa prayed, it was family census,
litanies, and amen too many to become a long song.
Here, he would say, here is where life used to be.
Bring it back, good Lord. But his was taken instead.
Inside the old room, departures are doors opening to new dreams.
How Does a Writer’s Tear Taste?
For Amara Nicole Okolo
Strum some chords and invite Glenn to the stage.
Listen to him sing about a writer’s journey
through pages of torture and tears.
How does a writer’s tear taste?
Its salt is piles of rejection mails and doubts
saved as documents, deadlines, reviews
retweeted a thousand times, stories re-written
until characters smell the writer, a blank page,
and an empty teacup awaiting refill.
Glenn sings about writing as sorcery, as war,
as tasting a stranger’s sweat, pecking the dead,
and bringing a stray pet home. I recall how a writer’s tear
distilled into fine wine to quench a critic’s thirst.
You, creator, have shed tears by sipping green tea,
knocking lovebirds against themselves, freeing locked wings,
and letting them taste their beaks to drench their desire.
Are your tears not on bookshelves now?
I too will write my tears as poems,
read them to an audience and dread
comments on syntax and pseudo-imagery.
How is a poem not the poet’s suicide note?
I have shed enough tears for my funeral in poems.
Will you drink your tears like a chilled red wine?
I still drink mine in this sequence:
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Echezonachukwu Nduka is a Nigerian poet and pianist who writes from New Jersey, USA.