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A Poem by Uche Peter Umezurike

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River Urashi

Green is grey in the enigma of your smile. Your mouth, open: 
leafy breath mists my lips. Face of the Sphinx teases my thirst 
        to understand this youth of windy spirits, his course directionless 
            as driftwood. No custodian of your legend, no bearer of manifold tales 

of my tribe, I am prodigal in cosmopolitan ways; garbed 
        in the city’s peacock colours, errant son, scornful of the magic 
                of songs. At evenings bleeding from the sun, 
                      I am an antelope drawn to the scents of your bank, jewelled  
                with motley trees; tempted to divine immortality, 
        but my kindred will wail the loss of their unripe seed. In the run 

of your thoughts, I want to grasp the meaning of my name
not as I gather water in a basket of hands; my identity 
       may find roots in the truth of your eyes, 
             which probe the stretches of my mind. 

       Your belly bears the memories of forebears trampled 
by the engines of exploration. Without accusation, your gaze trails my days, 
spans my nights, witness to my carousing. Your heart pulses  
      with understanding, even as clouds choke on soot, 
      my land lies Shell-ed, her womb defaced 
             by the violence of surplus value. You know: 
                  the path homewards would never remain wild. 

             O, unselfish poet I am not. Why must I break open 
      the pitcher and cast tales of the naked plights of my kin? 
Sing the lament of mothers hunched in the mangroves? 

I should not embrace this saline calling of your tide  
         that upsets my penchant for caginess.            

Christmas, I visit this bank again. Faithful now, 
          finding communion and the desired equanimity.
Without cold in my stomach, I can now accept your call, 
the proud face and fate of the inheritor of secrets, of songs.


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