Phoenix

image

You wrote your first poem and even made it rhyme. It was a love/nature kind of poem. You showed your parents, friends and your girlfriend. They all loved it so much—or acted like they did. They even encouraged you to write more. You were inspired by their words and began to write more. Your poems began to rapidly ascend the ladder of complications and complexities. You showed them to your usual fans, and your poems tortured their brilliance, mocked their intelligence and murdered their understanding; they told you of the mental ache your poems caused. But you only shrugged them off as being shallow; your poems, anyways, were for the intellectuals.

They began calling you Wole Soyinka, your mother was the pacesetter of that trend, and you tried to keep up to the image: you abandoned your wildly sprouting hairs, and almost dyed it white, but for your girlfriend’s threat of a breakup. Wole Soyinka they called you, when you pass by, and you responded with puffed shoulders and a bouncy step; on some good days you bamboozled them with strange grammatical combinations that would profound even the creators of the language. Although they didn’t understand what you uttered, they urged you on with their ignorant cheers. You were Wole Soyinka after all.

Then you discovered online literary journals searching for submissions. It would be a fast way to publish and build your profile, you thought. The first step to fame, you had never been so happy. So you began to type, spewing puzzles, constructing riddles and building brick walls, all in the name of poetry. You were certain no one would understand, except someone as smart as you, and this made you smile. You distributed them among the so-called top literary journals, and had to wait for eight weeks until their replies.

You were not nervous in any way; you were certain the various editors would read your works and commend you. Some would even ask, how come you write like Wole Soyinka? Then they would fix an appointment to see you, to discuss publishing prospects. But the problem that got you thinking was which of the editors would you respond to? You later settle for the one who would have the most lucrative contract. Perhaps, you even could publish simultaneously with the ten different editors. You are a rare poetry genius and there was no new territory beyond your reach.

Then you began to boast among your friends about your upcoming publications. You also began scheming through the internet for several poems, and to you they didn’t matter in anyway. Even the so-called celebrated poets were not half as good as you were. You were certain that if you had started earlier, you probably would have bagged a Nobel, no joke. Twenty three is still not too late to start.
Before the eight weeks countdown, you heard of a poetry prize for unpublished writers. This was going to be another piece of cake, you thought. And you sent another of your brain-numbing poems. Luckily for you, the week the longlist would be announced, will coincide with the week the online literary journals would send you a response.

That week would be worth celebrating; so on that week in issue, you organised a small party. The avalanche of acceptance emails you receive would be that which will kick start the party, so you and your friends crowded around your phone, waiting for these “career-boosting emails.”

                                *

It is three years now and the pile of rejection emails you’ve received have been overwhelming, so overwhelming that it humbled your youthful pride, and suppressed your Soyinka persona (you don’t even keep your hair anymore). The quickest way for someone to get you angry was them calling you Wole Soyinka.

Over the years you had reinvented yourself: you abandoned rhymes and meter, they were childish and restricted creativity; you picked free verse, it flows; you wrote in simplicity, you wrote in complexity; you used your metaphors sparingly and judiciously; you searched for a voice, you found it; in your poetry group they could not wait to read your poems, sometimes you would have to explain several times before they finally get it; still it wasn’t enough. The rejections crowded your inbox. Anytime, you see the “Sorry, we read your work but…” You move them to a folder. ‘Rejections’. After the first year, you’ve already mastered the template of rejection emails.
Even now, you have started to doubt yourself. Why continue this path? Why pretend you are something you are not. Why hold on? All those you started with and few you started before, already have at least three online publications, and have made some prize shortlists.

Then in your poetry group, last week afternoon, you heard of Eimear McBride’s win at the Bailey Prize ‘A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing.’ You hardly read fiction, but what pricked you was that, her work was rejected for nine years! Then you began to take interest in brilliant authors who have suffered heart-wrenching rejections: Jhumpa Lahiri, Ernest Hemmingway, Herman Melville, Stephen King, D.H Lawrence, Sylvia Plath and so many others all suffered brutal rejections.

If they could all persevere why can’t you? If things were so easy, what story would you have to tell when you finally breakthrough? So you decided not to give up; from your pile of rejections you decided to rise again, so you wrote another poem and sent it to Granta and Saraba for submission.

Your phone beeped, it was another email from Wasafiri, “Sorry…”

Advertisements

The Fog of Love

image

It may be a fog that blinds certain realities: like a bearded female; a body where the fat has convened in the wrongest of places; eyes that you are so sure will pop out of their sockets if she stares at the floor; among other certainties.

The fog maybe so thick, so as to blind the inner eye. You become blind to maybe, character. Your boys (external reasoning) or your (inner) reasoning will point them out to you. But the fog of love has descended and you are blinded to these realities.

But even within this fog, there still is a form of clarity: that which you see or you think you do, or that which you subconsciously see that draws you to her; which no one may see. It may seem so inane that when you’re asked, you would be so guarded as to utter it: that smile, that look, the gentle-breeze touch of her finger tips; the ears that don’t bore at your words and all those other mushy love things.

Then with time, clarity, like daybreak, dawns; reason finally takes hold and intuition becomes relegated; the juice of blooming love is sucked and only the pulp remains; it is then and only then the fog is extinguished. And your sight becomes restored.

Professor Adaripon by Ilori Tomiwa

It’s been a while, here is a brilliant post by one of my ‘accessible’ literary godfathers, Tomiwa Ilori, I’ll miglo fabro. Enjoy!

Dr. Erebekumo teaches more of marital living than he teaches Company Law. He stands behind a pew he is barely taller than like he is hiding from our eyes. Once in a while, he will stroll down the aisle of the class and quickly return to the pew, his fortress. It is no news that Dr. Erebekumo has an incurable sense of gloating. He glosses over his achievements than a Suya seller sharpens his knife when sales are good. Dr. Erebekumo teaches the course with two other lecturers, Dr. Sopa and Professor Mrs Elejetutu.

“Company Law is out”, Akinbode screamed. Maybe he shouted. He stood in the staircase announcing it like its judgment day. People scuttled for their phones to check the electronic portal to see their results. There’s this thing about checking results in the faculty, even when you must have written well, you feel your destiny still hangs on the whim of the unstable emotions of your lecturers. Students who scurried to check the electronic portal now have different looks tattooed on their faces. Something was not right. One could almost touch the paleness on their faces.
“Erebekumo na bastard o”, one of them with a name of a snack retorted angrily.

“No, it wasn’t Erebekumo who marked, I think it was Sopa”, another classmate replied.

“We heard people failed o”, a short black boy rolled by like mortar, grinning like an automated doll.

“Na wa o, which kain school be this”, someone chipped in from the middle of the crowd that has now began to gather.

At that moment, Dr. Sopa walked by, with his characteristic style of making heavy strides as if he has a million needles stuck between his legs. He gave a quick glance at the forming crowd, that kind of glance a father gives his child after he must have punished them. He kept stroking his beard like a king looking down at a helpless subject. He quickly climbed the stairs as if expecting an assault.

“Bastard”, someone said from the crowd. That kind of expression given that gives no care.

Dr. Kokanaiye with his oversized shirt has a way of walking. He takes each step as if his next step is a gaping hole; his chinos swallowing half of his sandals. When he talks, his voice is like the quiet rush of waters with a chance of drowning you. He is known for his grace at being wicked. Well, so they said. His students must have concluded he is mean by what he once told a classmate: “Why do you want to kill yourself, if you failed a course, come back next year to do it, where do I find marks to add for you? I don’t sell marks my friend.”

“If you can’t find names on the MMS, it is not compulsory that they must graduate, send the names you have with you to the Law School”, Professor Adaripon, who was the Dean barked.
Dr. Kokanaiye stood, with his hands behind his back, listening as if the words of the Professor must land on the back of his head.

“But sir, there are more than seventy names that are not on the list, if we send these names now, it might affect others”, replied Dr. Kokanaiye.

Professor Adaripon calmed down, stroking his belly that has formed a pregnant curve towards his loins. His tribal marks stood out as if angry. He adjusted his tie so that it sat comfortably on his tummy while he looked down at his shoes which seem to look up to God instead. He stroked his all white hair and said with a low voice, “Just make haste, I don’t have much time.”

*****************************

“Your names have been sent to Law School since Monday, leave me alone”, Professor Adaripon said in a way his cheeks danced. Tilapia as he is fondly called was the President of the Law Students’ Society. He stood still shaking his head like a shark that lost a prey.

“But sir, other schools’ posting are out, it’s only our school”, he replied amidst muffled anger.

‘You must be stupid, am I to go to Law School and post you?”the Dean retorted angrily.

“I’m sorry sir”, Tilapia quickly said.

“Sir, I also came as regards the new administrative fee we paid, we already paid one for the first forms we submitted and it was not used for the purpose it was intended, are we getting a refund sir?”

Professor Adaripon adjusted on his chair and wiped his brow. If he expected to be asked such question, he never expected it to be soon and from a student.

“The money is gone my friend, I can’t use my money to pay for the expenses, the money has been spent.”
Tilapia bowed and said thank you and was about to leave when the Faculty secretary came in to give the Dean a message from the Law School.

“Sir, the Secretary to the Director-General said since you never brought the first forms to Abuja, the deadline for the new forms is next week”

Professor Adaripon’s mouth squeezed into a knot, as Tilapia made for the door shaking his head still.

Tomiwa Ilori is a graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University. His likes include writing and reading. His dislikes include writing and reading.

2014 Writivism Short Story Prize Submission Guidelines

Boost your profile…

Writivism

Opening date – 8 February 2014

Closing date – 30th April 2014
Entries must be submitted online, on the Writivism website. No mark as to the identity of the writer should be made on the story itself. No entries will be considered if submitted after this date. The competition long-list (of fifteen to twenty five stories) shall be announced on the 15th of May 2014 and the short-list (of five stories) on the 1st of June 2014. Winners shall be announced on Short Story Day Africa, the 21st of June 2014 at an Awards Evening during the Writivism Mini-Festival 2014 in Kampala, Uganda.
1. The Writivism Short Story Prize is an annual award for emerging African writers administered by the Center for African Cultural Excellence (CACE).

2. Entrants must be unpublished writers, resident in an African country. One is deemed published if they have a book of their own.

3…

View original post 395 more words

Trudge On

We revel at the end of this tireless and seemingly timeless day
Fatigue later strolls in
Numbs our minds to rest further and further….
But a voice at night gently prods:

The night is short and fleeting like slippery time
Sooner than this day will end
Another shall soon begin
To unleash its unknown unknowns;
So relent not you weary travellers
Give in not to slumber all through the night
Awake and arise before the routine sun
The journey, in which you trudge, has not met its end
It further continues beyond this euphoric fog

One Exam Night

The night is donned in sequined black
So black, my melting candle is promoted to a relegated sun:
A dancing leaf-shaped fire held in place by wick

The occasional scurries and squeaks are of those
Timorous vermins playing hide and seek
In the night where my sun cannot reach

Oceans of caffeine have drowned sleep to coma
I am partially lost in a forest of processed leaves
I leaf through another leaf that would be precarious to leave;
Dried ink of familiar tongues long drafted in dusty tomes
Transforms into a mixture of Aramaic and other unknown tongues

Sprawled beside me in the bosom of sleep,
Emitting a concordance of snores, is the forbidden apple
Seductive in rounded curves
Highlighted by this dancing fire on dying wick
My tongue is flooded with desire

But I pause my arm in mid air:
Not
tonight
serpent,
Not tonight…

Scurry sounds across the room…

The clothed night gives a strip tease…

My erect candle further dwindles…

This forest still is thick

Guilt, Confession and Redemption

I sit quietly in the confines of torment and loneliness. The black lead of past deeds weigh down my conscience, heavy.

I journey back to the last straw: the deserted playground. It lies grey, shrouded with ash. Barren of life. Uneven with craters and cauterized fissures (that smoked the organic remains of its blithely toddling inhabitants, under the watchful but helpless gaze of guardians). Scattered splinters of bleached bones and charred remains of the iron, wooden and plastic structures of play, stand out among the mass of debris.

It was first the chants, wrapped in childish glee; then the silencing volcanic eruption, trailed by the silence of momentary bewilderment…then the cries of loss; the swooping cameras – town criers; mourning cries; then the cyber and real world outrage.
But all these only watered our pride. “We did it again. They are, but, mere casualties for the greater good of attention and ultimate submission.” This mantra eased our sleep.
Then the deserted silence…but for the thumping pain in the innards of my aching soul.

On that spot, bearing the deepest crater of all, was where we planted our modified and timed ‘Jack-In-The-box’. Only the weary eyes of the morning moon witnessed this soulless act. After its count, beneath the glare of the stoic midday sun, ‘Jack’ loudly sprouted and consumed fiercely, all colours of gaiety…
Two suns burnt that day.

This stone cold face melts into heart felt tears. I shall make peace. That tree’s strongest arm shall be the neck to wear tightly this necklace, of which I shall be the lone dangling pendant…

Hoping this sacrifice, for they, finally clears me light.

The Long Gloomy Night.

image

Being birthed black must have been
nature’s lottery loss or a perdurable curse:
The grim night’s hue, the resplendent day’s shadow,
mourner’s shroud or an unknown of something worse;
where surveying stars neither illuminated
nor twinkled, but glared and seared flesh of sweat
spewing swarthy toilers of the cruel fated
and the leather lashing rain smeared a wet
legacy of red tinged imprints across naked backs;
which streamed into the undrying tributary
of eye sourced brines constantly rushing
into the flooded sea shores of pain’s territory.

The waxing moon: a morose crescent
of sad emotions beamed in descent;
the half moon reflected
a race’s status inhumanely inflected.

But the ocular monocle of full moon
through which a sliver of gleaming hope
was glimpsed, that one day soon
this oppressive night shall surely elope.

Afterlife

Beneath the earth or above sky
Where will my life beyond tiled bed lie?

Fire fire burning bright,
Within confines of heathen’s sight;
What concrete ice or quenching sea,
Could snuff out thy fickle tongued fury?

Tongues which eternally licks flesh uncharred
With its corresponding sensation unbarred;
Chthonic flames which forever blossoms
Where the above thorns, that choke, find their homes.

Read More