She Spoke: Stolen Home

We came home, to find it was no more
the dusty red earth,
once holy and welcoming to our feet;
sands, sinking-soft to touch,
we scoop up, filling our palms
with sacred soils of our universe.
A land so blessed we bow our foreheads
and kneel in homage to the mysteries
buried deep beneath.
the rusty, dusty red earth, disappeared. Gone

and in its place coal-tarred, bitumen-filled grounds
concrete slabs of roads,
unwelcoming and unforgiving.
We’d sacrificed blood of cockerels
to appease the spirits of the soil,
and so we walked free and safe,
young and old alike
to our mud homes on bare-feet,
they came, fair strangers who meant well,
they did not fully understand our ways.
so they told us that we desecrate our land,
they told us our chi was no good at all.
blindly, we believed them without questioning,
and for our brothers who dared to question,
they made us slowly cast aside!
and so now, these roads feed not on the cockerels’ blood
but on the blood of our innocent sons and daughters
who discard their feet for fast metal boxes,
streamlined for speed
ah, how quickly we embraced the frenzied speed of life!
and so we all hurry, but unto death
earning more and yet poorer still
yes, they came home
and found it was no more.
they came home to find it was no more.
those tranquil scenes that gifted our senses with peace,
foliage so green it mesmerizes the senses.
the slender palm trees
adorning narrow, winding roads,
wildflowers with hidden thorns,
sleeping peacefully,
with their cheeks touching the roadside
smells of burning woods and native oils,
the air filled with aromas of locust beans: ogiri and ugba
and the competition of colours!
such a fierce feast, a kaleidoscope,
eyes blink cannot contain, cannot retain sights,
savoured slowly
in hushed hearts and stirred soul-spirits
images everywhere and in everything
their anger soothed by black signs
on smooth, seductive mud walls
showing lineage and paying homage
to the passage of ancestors long gone.
passion patterns on abada wrappers,
hugging shapely buttocks and curvy hips.
breasts jiggling with the ripeness
of untapped juices within.
maidens adorned with jigida beads,
swaying to the unsung rhythms
of their whistling, winding waists

co -wives gossiping, giggling
on their way to the village stream
comparing notes of steamy nights
with nna anyi, their lords.
their muddy-brown calabashes
resting majestically on their ojas
centering their spirits to the grounds
men working the rugged red earth,
under the queen deity of light, Onwa
living off the tears of their sweat
and proudly provide for their women and seeds.

children dancing barefoot in the salty rain,
with such blissful abandon,
hurrying and jostling for a place at the old man’s feet.
their young minds long for tales told under the moonlight,
against the sounds of chirping birds and crickets.
all gone! skyscrapers everywhere,
our land reflect ogoni’s pains;
benzenes fuels and chemicals corrupting our crops
filling our senses, and slowly, seductively killing our cells.
nature’s scented ogiri in mama’s soups?
No! too smelly, rather sweet smelling,
salt-of-the-earth spices, o maggi
and so we hear of high blood pressure
and hypertension
from the stress of chasing a lava’s lie.
(Nobody’s turning into a butterfly here).
We are breastfed cancer and immunized with autism
a people of fast foods, fast lives, fast deaths!
our natural harvest of the sacred earth,
re-packaged, re-sold to us as organic.
the children no longer listen to the values from the wise one,
they are strangers to the tortoise tales by moonlight.
rather they sit in a trance before a box and clog their ears,
watching, playing and listening to strange sights and sounds.
yes, they came home and found it was no more.
our great grandfathers were heathens;
they said we must abide by ‘one man, one wife’
now, we laugh in wry, ironic amusement,
for we believed them without asking questions.
now a man marries ten wives, but serially,
casting the old aside for another
who’s tighter, firmer, younger.
and this is the man that is civilized;
he is the cultured one.
They say he is imbued with honour, haba.
our fathers, nna anyi, please can you hear us?
our maidens were barbaric,
they were crude, they claimed.
because they had soothing,
healing uli and coconut oils adorning glowing skin.
and pray, tell, what are these knifed in tattoos?
why the eye pencils, blush, lipsticks, cancerous creams?
oh, I go weary, I go tired singing this song of loss!
I must stop, stop this song now or go mad.
Indeed, our ancestors came home
but found it gone, stolen,
the heartbeat of our homeland,
no more.

Floetry by JulietKego |

© Juliet ‘Kego Ume-Onyido