One Poem, One Week

temporary lodging for poems in transit

Tuesday Special by Dami Ajayi

A Short History of my Ringtone

I am emotionally attached to my phone. In a short career of phone use spanning 14 years, I have used only seven phones. And no, I am yet to lose a phone. Usually, phones lose me. The only phone that broke this tradition was my Nokia 3310 that fell to its death in my undergraduate days. It bled its black ink into the dour green phone display and I had to use it in this fashion till I saved to buy a Nokia 3510i, better known for its flourish panel lights.

My Sony Ericcson 7510i inducted me into smart phones. Prior to this, phones were useful for text messages, late night calls and the occasional drop-calls. Suddenly, phones meant so much more. I could play songs and surf the internet. Then there was the Blackberry era that revolutionized text messaging, after which came the Android era.

Phones rouse attention by way of ringtones. Back then in the monophonic days of blinking Nokia phones, I preferred customized ringtones. My favourite ringtone, as a Hip Hop head, was Ludacris’s Move Bitch and I can’t deny there was a hard-pressed urgency with which it announced itself. I also admired older folks whose phones bleat Ebenezer Obey’s Edumare Soromidayo whenever there was a phone call because familiar songs breed nostalgia which often releases endogenous opiates. We all love to feel good.

I currently use the most unusual ringtone and it has been in use for more than 3 years. Let me explain: I have tried to change this ringtone many times but whenever I changed the ringtone, I often forget that my phone is ringing. Even when it vibrates against my thigh, I still do not feel a kinship to the sound I am hearing. I tried Hugh Masekela’s shrilly Grazing in the Grass, Fabolous’s Cant Let Go—same difference.

Not until I restored my All Fo’ You that I felt that kinship. The story is that this song by The Greenwood Singers, a Liberian band in the late 40s, carries the weight of influences on its shoulder. There is also something uncannily American and dark about this song.  There is also something about the lead vocalist, Ms Eupheme Cooper, who is now of blessed memory. She passed on in her 90th decade five months ago. Of course, she is not oft remembered for her short stint as a singer. She was better known as Mrs Euphemia Weeks, widow of Dr Rocheforte Weeks, a former president of the University of Liberia.

Back to the song, All Fo You is quite popular along the coastal cities of West Africa. Perhaps this popularity comes from the hugely popular version by Highlife maestro, ET Mensah whose version in the early 50s is perhaps the best known. My first encounter with this tune was probably at a Yoruba traditional wedding and indeed it seems this tune has been around us for quite a while. The song is however traced back to a Jamaican folk song called Sly Moongose recorded by Sam Manning in 1925.

The Greenwood Singers version enjoys the squeaky vocals and sardonic lyrics of Eupheme Cooper who describes an unusual if not sadistic kind of love. In her depiction of this love which defies the ethics of altruism, hammers and razors are used on the lover perhaps to expose the extent of this love. Over sparse acoustics—guitars and a hint of drums—the song paces to the realities of a sly love with a hierarchy of requests that presupposes insanity.

Once in the company of some Kenyan friends in different states of inebriation after a wild night of club-hopping in Port Harcourt, whilst being chauffeured to their hotel, I played All Fo’ You and they soon began to sing along perhaps because there is something hypnotic about that repetitious “All Fo You” and something silly about the fate of lovers.

The next time my phone jumps to the late Eupheme Cooper’s voice, I will be reminded of memories both personal and communal. I will let her story and song edge towards the 20 seconds mark before I say into the phone, ‘Onye ne kwu’.

 

Tuesday Poem by Harriet Anena

ALTER WINE
Lay me on the grass like a burnt sacrifice
Take off my clothes, one at a time, like you are opening the holy book
Read the verses of my body until you master all chapters
Taste the dishes my skin has to offer
Make me your last supper
Drink from my river of life

Let me be your alter wine

Make a perfect sign of the cross on my body
Before you take my holy communion

Welcome to my ecclesia!

Now sing for me hosanna
Until we reach the highest…

 

___________

Harriet Anena is the author of acclaimed poetry collection, A Nation in Labour. The above poem is taken from her forthcoming collection.

Tuesday Poem by Iquo DianaAbasi

the smell of earth before heavy
downpour, the heat rising to
give way to impending showers

then…

the seductive smell of clumped earth
after a purposeful rain

I never could make out which was better

the rush of longing before a coupling,
the pleasure of deliberate foreplay;
of hands, lips and teeth familiarizing.

and then…

the satiation that follows soon after,
the shudders and panting in
post conversational bliss

I never could make out which was better

Tuesday Poem by Titilope Sonuga

GOLD

They say
Itoro has a goldmine between her legs
the men who go digging do not come out
until she is done with them

Once we saw a governor
at her doorstep with only his briefs on
his childish cries loud and unashamed

They say her people know how to love well
that her mother showed her how
to swallow a man whole
how to hold his heart in her hand
and squeeze
until he begs to be reborn inside her

Sometimes we catch a glimpse of her
naked on her balcony
her body spilling over with softness
incandescent in the moonlight
oblivious to our hungry eyes

On those nights our husbands will ask
what came over us
why we howled like wild women
how we learnt to spin gold
with just our hips

__________

Who is Titilope Sonuga?

Tuesday Poem by Efe Paul Azino

ODE TO LAUGHTER

I
We loved in three cities
danced in neon lights
between stripper poles and a Deejay
Unforgivable sin
in the belly of an unforgiving beast
we crawled through traffic
and raced through sheets
argued the veracity of opinions on Twitter
somewhere between the Atlantic and no pants
We crossed bridges into the Mainland
and burnt inhibitions behind us
limb over limb
surrounded by Lagos
beautiful and angry
breaking and healing itself
We whispered secrets into each other’s mouths
somewhere between a half-empty bottle of vodka
and half-full dreams
You find a poem in my beard
I sing an ode to your laughter

II
Your phone, boom box and time machine
opens a portal
and takes us back to that city
where we first kissed
somewhere between a throne and a microphone
You ditch you lover to come hear me
sing songs of protest and love
surrounded by privilege and aspiration
here where history struts mediocrity
a city haunted
by the ghosts of dreams and dreams and dreams
We wrap our dreams in a joint
and mingle our hopes with its smoke
You and I
Sisyphus against destiny
an old-fashioned bohemian love story
at war with reality

III
We loved in three cities
somewhere between the heavens and the earth
upon an ancient rock
in the city of an iron god
We conflate heaven and fire
surrender to gravity
and crash back to the earth
where the roofs are rusty like history
and the people mask their struggles
by wearing the sun on their faces
a city of bards and rebels
we rebel against flesh and spirit
and hover in purgatory
our love is death
death if we see again
and death if we don’t
We loved in three cities
and counting

 

__________

This poem is taken from Efe Paul Azino’s forthcoming chapbook Ode to Laughter.

Tuesday Poem by Dami Ajayi

1.
Love child
of Aphrodite and Industry,
I called out to you 
in whispers and stolen glances
& you did not flinch.
 
You did not look beyond the waiting room
of infirmities guised in genteel apparel,
did not look beyond the sore routine
of care, 
did not seek out my imploring eyes
or find me.
 
 
2.
Love child,
of Eros and Amadioha,
I have seen you burst into little tantrums
the fiery kind that unbuckles propriety
with the wild fiddling of a choirmaster;
it says little of your soft side.
 
Sweeter than nightingale
you sing with gestures,
pliant, purposeful
as you knead healing into 
ailing bodies, as you clip
drips with generous deftness,
as you make another’s wellbeing
your livelihood. . . 
________
Dami Ajayi remains loyal to readers of his blog
Image Credits: Victor Adewale

Tuesday Poem by Kechi Nomu

WATERWALLS

 

It begins with Kahlo in a picture

here, she is letting her eyebrows grow 

into themselves. & here too, a boy

does not see how he breaks your heart

he citizen, you foreigner standing only inches from him.

 

Like the necessity of shadows overlapping

he says into Kahlo’s face

The lighting here is good for pictures

so that inside you feel what it is

your ship sinking . . .your sea caving under the weight of dreams

& these waterwalls in a chest of flesh.

 

Some days, they rise so high

it is impossible not to feel what you are or

see, again, how a Pharaoh drowns running away

from his waterwalls towards you,

without chariots

how a woman waits on the border

to cross a red (already) sea

without her staff&papers.

 

Here, you see this standing so close

to the length of your own shadow

so close you know what it feels like: 

 

All the caves of a body’s silence . . .

Waterwalls

 

It begins with Kahlo in a picture

here, she is letting her eyebrows grow 

into themselves. & here too, a boy

does not see how he breaks your heart

he citizen, you foreigner standing only inches from him.

 

Like the necessity of shadows overlapping

he says into Kahlo’s face

The lighting here is good for pictures

so that inside you feel what it is

your ship sinking…your sea caving under the weight of dreams

& these waterwalls in a chest of flesh.

 

Some days, they rise so high

it is impossible not to feel what you are or

see, again, how a Pharaoh drowns running away

from his waterwalls towards you,

without chariots

how a woman waits on the border

to cross a red (already) sea

without her staff&papers.

 

Here, you see this standing so close

to the length of your own shadow

so close you know what it feels like: 

 

All the caves of a body’s silence . . .

______

Kechi Nomu is a writer and editor. She tweets @KemNomu

Tuesday Poem by Adégòkè Tope Mark

Disturbing Dreams

(for Tomisi)

The dreams I have been
seeing since I saw you:

A black nymph roving
the streets of Stuttgart,
in its hand a totem strung with a heart;

a sinking knot
that turns purplish
at the touch of the sun;

Venusian locks of a god
soaked in wine and brine
squiggling like the tentacles of
octopus— it grabs me by the neck;

the scalar quantity of
a certain whisper
drooling in the mouth of the moon;

a story, like Ko Un’s Toksun’s, in the Chosun Ilbo
goes ai syopping in the sky
as in a Lotus Lantern Festival;

Shakespeare’s doppelgänger
acting the double roles of Romeo and Juliet,
reciting sonnets as a spell;

Béchamel and a lipstick stained schooner
On a dinner made for two
Flying to another planet;

___________

Adégòkè Tope Mark tweets at @literarygansta

Tuesday Poem by Dami Ajayi

FOUR PHASES OF PASSION
Desire
Call it Agro—
after anything agricultural
although it is not;
it is a different kind
of arable,
perhaps the Freudian kind.

Excitement

Voyeurs can’t explain
how sensational peepholes are
but they hang around them
like waiting towels,
aroused incessantly
by the anticipated splash of water
on another man’s wife bare body.

Orgasm

You don’t need a life coach
to tell your toes to curl,
to find a release from the
practiced rhythm you have made
to the instructive porno-sound
that urges you in a drawl,
“come for me”.
Resolution

Only
the bearer of fluid
tires.

Sunday Poem for my Father

NIGHT GUARD

Before the din of generators stole the night,
crickets & choral hallejuyahs
& the occasional barking mongrel reigned.

It was a time of sharp contrasts:
a goggled president had dressed his darkest
to receive the fairest of Vatican gods.

The week before, our neighbor & his sons
had been beaten by masked hoodlums
who first eat their dinner.

Those hoodlums visited many times more
to steal the lazy nudes of young girls
that our artist neighbor painted.

Sometimes I wish the artist had painted instead
the man who confronted the night
with a metal pole, a face full of talcum powder
& a strip of loin clothing,
my father.

Sisi Akowe:

the Observer blog

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