Waiting

Hearing Voices

His Counsel

Lad! Remember that no man ought to forget
a child’s tender youth is like tempering of wax
apt to receive form – discipline before affection
mix threats with a fair look, manner with wit.

A potter fashions his lay when it’s soft
a sparrow taught to come when young
hot iron by a hammer’s stroke begets form
and keeps it forever when cold.

Wise husbandman sow hemp before wheat
a seasoned gardener mix hyssop with thyme
a cunning painter for the whitest work
casts the canvass a black background.

Things past are past; Time’s hand turns not back
too late ‘ts to shut the stable door
when a steed tiptoes off
be not a Trojan – repent before your town is in ruin.

Nothing lasts forever; wounds heal,
broken hearts mend; grey skies turn blue
the sun shines where there used to be rain
Death renews creation; Birth renews death.

Know the difference, my son:
staring and stark blind, wit and wisdom, love, and lust.
Oh, be merry but with modesty
sober but not too solemn; valiant not too venturous.

Remembrance of past follies breeds guilt
love God, serve God, and fear God
his blessings will be beyond your heart
and the wishes of your friends and foes.

Fine crystal is sooner crazed than hard marble
the greenest beech burns faster than the driest oak
fairest of silk soil than the skin ‘t covers
the sweetest of wine turns to the sharpest of vinegar.

The caterpillar cleaves unto the ripest fruit
the most delicate wit bewitched with vice
one drop of poison infects the whole tun of wine
one strand of bitter leaf sours a pot of porridge.

Mistrust no man without cause
be not credulous without proof
light to follow every man’s opinion
nor obstinate to stand in your conceit.

I end my counsel, beseeching
heed my words; heed them faithfully
still do not to take to heart
all that comes to your ear,

Ignorance is kind; Wisdom pain
sometimes Truth is talking craze
othertimes a Lie the best medicine
for a grieving heart.

© Ugo Nkwoala | Spilledwoords.org | 2020

Photo by Sebastián León Prado

A PASSAGE FOR NNENNE

4

It was the stuff of a satire, were it not painfully true. Nnenne sat silently on a black-spotted Ankara patterned sofa surrounded by chattering friends and coworkers. She and a handful of friends at Lolo’s urging – her childhood friend and workmate, had gathered at her residence to celebrate a hard-fought promotion greeted with the sort of joy reserved for the winner of a national election. It was inevitable given that the cooperate culture at O-Town’s medical centers placed women in subservient roles. It was deserving of applaud, worthy of a party.

She gulped a bottle of Heineken over joffof rice, fried chicken served with sliced vegetables, and baked beans mixed with mayonnaise. In addition to the sitting-room doors, the dining area windows were flung wide open due to March’s dry season’s heat that rendered the overworking air conditioners ineffective. Had she been right to honor this invitation? She accosted herself in self-scrutiny. Maybe, she’s one too – Okë Mgborto*. Ladies who go around broadcasting how fine they are without a family to care for, a husband to order or supervise them. They enjoy sizable disposable incomes and lots of free time, unhindered travels to London and Dubai on shopping sprees, adopt expensive hobbies like collecting pieces of jewelry and posh automobiles, and throwing lavish weekend pool parties – all the while obsessing about getting a Mr. Right to marry.
As she was ruminating over this, two loud ladies in their early 50s, dressed not so sensibly for their age and not yet on overdrive with the Jack Daniel’s cocktail they were sipping, caught her attention.

“Adanee, you’re still with the bureau of Statistics?”
“Yeah!”
“I ran into your boss – Nze Ngozi Amadi, at a conference in Ibadan last week.”
“Mtchew, that parrot, she thinks a woman’s God-given purpose is to get hitched and breed.”
“Even in this modern day and age such a progressive mind still thinks so?”
“She’s not alone. Society still considers unmarried women failures and misfits.”
“Does she tell you that?”
“No, she knows better than to say so to my face, but occasionally her foot-soldiers deduce am not a ‘Full woman’ as if I’m a mutant.”
“A middle finger for those half-ass men”
“You mean the John Benson husbands of this world.”
Both ladies laughed while jovially shoving each other, definitely the whiskey was kicking in.
“It’s a brave new world. The thin line between being a husband and a wife is getting blurrier by the day.”
“I better get me a willing male and pay his dowry the John Benson way like your boss.”
“That will be lit.”
One of the ladies raised her glass as if proposing a toast.

Common sense is the most important sense of all. Listening in, Nnenne resolved to call Arinze to let him know she’s in her first trimester. Singleness can be hard work, so also grinding marriage and parenting. Can you have your cake and eat it? If Arinze can’t live up to what society expects of him, then the impossible will become a reality. She hopes custom wouldn’t be stiff-necked to this truism.
It’s about time I meet my in-laws for an introduction, Nnenne decided.

*Okë Mgborto: Ibo expression for unmarried ladies that have passed their prime.

(To be continued)

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© Ugo Nkwoala | Spilledwoords.org | 2020

Photo credit: Michael Discenza for Unsplash

Louder Than a Riot

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

© Ugo Nkwoala |Spilledwoords.org | 2020

A PASSAGE FOR NNENNE

3

Mid-age has come; almost lost is the brags and security that goes with the beauty of youth. Will the colors of a peahen be for its survival or pleasantries? Nnenne dared for answers.
A non-conformist – Nnenne nurtured her confidence in the free-to-be-you household she grew up in with her mom – a teacher by profession yet a feminist at heart – and her father, a lifelong government worker in Port Harcourt. They named their little girl Nnenne because both her maternal and paternal grandmother bore a hint of Nne in their first names – Nneanyi and Nnebundu. Encouraged by her parents, she embraced medical sciences acquiring a doctorate in Virology. Constrained by male-obliging Ibo customs, her be-true-to-yourself ethos in matters of romantic relationships hasn’t paid off. Disparagers pained that a lady of sound upbringing and endowment would approach a man for a date vent their venom:
“She’s possessed; a pit stop for men in need a place to rest, a vacant vessel for guests, but nobody comes eager for a permanent stay.”
As far as she is concerned, such discernment smack of a lack of sophistication and envy.
“Jealousy is the last hurdle a snoop scale before becoming a witch.” She once lashed out at a male workmate who shared a table with her and Lolo at launch break.
“A lady shouldn’t put herself on the shelf.”
“Ibo custom frowns at harlotry; such isn’t the lot of a virtuous woman.”
“But announcing to the world, you’re ready to settle down and trying out three or five women as a prerequisite to finding a suitable wife is the prerogative of virtuous men,” Nnenne retorted.
“H’m, male-privilege doesn’t reckon – in picking one end of a stick, you also pick the other,” Lolo muttered.
“Getting married and raising a family is a desire dear to my heart. I am 43. Should I be resented? By society, for airing such opinion to a man, I feel eligible to fulfill such a role?
“Should I be branded a ‘Whore’ because I tendered a legitimate solicitation same as a man? Nnenne asked.
“How rude and condescending.” Lolo cut in.
“They way to go or should I say the norm is to sit tight for a ‘nice’ man instead of padding the cannon yourself.”
“What if Mr. Nice doesn’t knock at my door?” Nnenne asked.
“Patience! Without Patience, a palm wine tapper can’t make wine.”
As he excused himself and left their company, an ominous silence descended, in a bid to counter the quiet Lolo enquired: “What of your Bobo? Her voice startled Nnenne nibbling at her tapioca while lost in thought.
“You mean Arinze?”
“Yes.”
“Um, promises, promises, promises. Arinze is an unsteady but faithful ship; maybe he needs to be anchored.”
“At least he’s not a skirt chaser like that numbskull. But how do you intend to get him clipped?”
“DIY is now the fad,” Nnenne answered.

(To be Continued)

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©Ugo Nkwoala |Spilledwoords.org |2020| All rights reserved.

A Passage for Nnenne

2

What is pleasurable for a man may not always be good for his sanity. It all started innocently about two years ago after Arinze woke up starring at this dark lady whose face held more charm than Genevieve’s. Not recognizing his immediate environment, he shuddered in fright; She is a mirage – I must be dreaming.
“You’re OK, sir. You’re awake now!” he heard a suave voice spill from her – a nurse, mid-age and stunning. Her frame gleamed so radiantly at his glaze, with lush charcoal cascade braids over her shoulders in their fitting luster vying with the ebony of her skin, in her beauty sang its fill, a treasure sought after until lately by none.

“What is pleasurable for a man may not always be good for his sanity.”

“How long have I been here?” he asked in a whisper.
“Almost 15 days today, Sir,” she answered. “It’s COVID 5.0, the new variant of Coronavirus.”
“Your consciousness has been drifting back and forth, but you’re in the clear now. Thanks to technology and the latest vaccine.”
Nnenne – the nurse smiled at him, and the rest they say is history. From then on, she hosted him in her apartment every weekend – in her bed, they tumbled on each other as if her cot was the epicenter of a Category 5 hurricane. In her heart, she sang like an Italian – the Givoanezza, as though he was her elixir. The hymn of her emancipation. But, you know how it feels for a guy who meets a phenomenal lady, a lady who appeals to his sensual needs, but he is halfhearted at making such a relationship permanent.
It was about 10:30 A.M. on Wednesday – three weeks ago. Arinze recalled the time vividly; he was rolling all over on the bed half-asleep and half-awake when Nnenne called over the phone. He was surprised; she was emotional – elated.
“Hey, um, I have good news, I’m pregnant.”
“Oh, shit! Are you sure?”
“What do you mean? Am I sure, no come spoil my joy.”
“No, be you dey chop me back and front.” She rebuked
“I thought you are on pills?”
“I thought you were using rubber,”
“Baby! Baby! It takes two to get pregnant; birth control isn’t only a woman’s responsibility.” she cautioned.
“Anyway, it’s too late for that now. I think it’s about time.”
“Time for what?” Arinze demanded.
“It’s about time I meet my in-laws.”
In matters as this, self-denial is the solace of the first, second, and third resort; but it only gives free rein to self-contradiction.

(To be continued)

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© Ugo Nkwoala | Spilledwoords.org | 2020

A Passage for Nnenne

A PASSAGE FOR NNENNE is this month’s short story chronicling life in 2040 and the challenges of a single lady proposing marriage in Igboland shortly after the devastation of Coronavirus. Let’s get started!

1

Ninety-five words, Five hundred, and twenty-four characters. That was all, a mother’s letter to her son:

Dearest,
If you are reading this letter, my dear Arinze, the deed is done. Thanks for finally making your mum happy – a to-be grandmother. I don’t think it was the best of choices given that she has flipped past the pages of youth, but that’s life – it sucks sometimes. The most important thing is that you’re happy. Please come home immediately after work on Friday, so that we’ll have ample time to prepare for the big day. I also need to discuss with you, mother to son, before your father catches the wind.
Love,
Mum.

After reading the disquieting letter, Arinze passed it to Ezechi to decipher. His flatmate of three years. They sat on the couch to a bottle of Merlot. The calendar on the wall read March 27, 2040, and the screen before them beamed a news broadcast. Donald Trump is still the president dolling out mean tweets and rediscovering America lost bonds to Protectionism (Donald Trump Jr., I mean).

“I don’t understand what mum implies; could it be this letter is for my sister, Nkechi?”
“If I tell you what I think, you’ll think I am crazy,” Ezechi interjected
“What’s on your mind?”
“I think an audacious princess charming has gone to ask for your hand in marriage.”
“What arrant nonsense!”
“Mark my words, pal. These days good men are gold – hard to find.”
“Trash! Utter balderdash!”

“Plagues and wars make such a prodigious scarcity in the male sex.”

“The problem with you is that you don’t face reality. It’s 2040, not 1994. Times have changed; men are in high demand. Didn’t you read that someday seven women will grab hold of a man demanding that they fend for their livelihood if only he would do the honors and take away their reproach?”
“What a joke, I tell you, Ezechi, too much reading corrupts the mind, mostly that book – the Bible.”
“Believe it, 2020 Pandemic like the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the Biafran war changed the demographics, driving O-Town half-mad by the scarcity of virile men. Plagues and wars make such a prodigious scarcity in the male sex.”
“Um, maybe I have to visit home to find out what the heck this letter is about.”
“Obviously. Do that without delay,” Ezechi concurred while taking another sip of the grape wine.

Continue Reading….

© Ugo Nkwoala| Spilledwoords.org | 2020

A Clergyman’s Prayer

O for wisdom, not possessed,
to understand the whims of man –
to analyze his mind and heart
and then try to control his hand.

O for wisdom, not possessed,
to cleanse this creature’s thoughts of hate –
to make of him a foe of war
before he makes that choice too late.

O for comprehension how
the value of the soul to teach
to life the ethics of his fool
beyond the world’s distorting each.

God give me wisdom, not possessed,
to know the things to do and say,
that I may teach this thing called man
the way to love … and to pray.

© The Rev. Leon H. Sullivan | Ebony Magazine | August 1997

Book Review

When Poets Pray – by Marilyn McEntyre (Amazon, $19.99)

O Jehovah, you have searched me and know me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up.

Those were the starting lines of Psalms 139:1-12. For ages, verses written from the heart by poets at moments of despair, fear, and losses – reminds us of the power of prayers. Poetry and prayer are closely related; poets point the way in giving voice to imagery and emotions forged in spoken words, teaching us to take a moment to meditate and reevaluate our spiritual worth.

Marilyn McEntyre’s When Poets Pray contains thoughtful meditations on choice poems/prayers and poems about prayers. Her beautifully written reflections are contemplative exercises, not scholarly analyses, meant more as an invitation than instruction. Here McEntyre shares gifts that she has received from poets who reflect on prayer, believing that they have other gems to offer readers seeking spiritual companionship along our pilgrim way. Poets discussed in this collection include John Donne, Mary Oliver, Anna Kamienska, and a host of others are coursework on poets and prayer. Grab a copy on Amazon and immerse yourself in this great collection.

Get the groove on!

Thank you – our Spilledwoords reader, for taking the time in 2020 to read us. By this gesture, you have given us the added motivation to continue our pursuit, knowing that we have a sympathetic ear to listen to our tales. You’re the reason we keep punching the keyboard despite all odds. As we welcome you to the New Year – 2021, we promise you a thrill.

To fulfill this promise, we’ll not only continue to dish out more poems but will dive into flash fiction, book reviews, and giving you our readers the opportunity to spill your everyday experiences via submissions. As always, your suggestions are welcome; Post comments, Share, and Likes are welcome and encouraged.
Let’s start with A Clergyman’s Prayer – a poem written by Rev. Leon H. Sullivan and a review of Marilyn McEntyre’s When Poets Pray. Get the groove on!

Ugo Nkwoala
for Spilledwoords.org