My Drug, Her Smile

PHOTOGRAPHER: kehinde ogunsanya

Judge Melchizedek

Melchizedek – as he was popularly known sat on a dais above his finger happy clerk and his chattering typewriter, silent and inscrutable behind large reading glasses as proceedings at Court 12 progressed slowly.

“You see those dark glasses he wears, they are magnifiers. Just a minute look at you, he can see you up close. He can see into your soul as you testify.” The prosecuting lawyer whispered to a pickpocket standing trial.

“Should I plead not guilty?

“Are you guilty?

“But you said the judge knows the accused 100%.”

“Are you guilty as charged?” The attorney again asked.

Copyright © Ugo Nkwoala | Spilledwoords.org | 2021

Photo credit: Sora Shimazaki

First Kiss

He pulled her face
to invade her space
he was close, so close,
for the first time, courage rose
in him, unlike gone days n’ nights
of wishful thinking, of aborted biddings
her mouth, his lips, wet n’ red
so very, very, very wet, spread
over hers to feed starving lips –
their first kiss.

Copyright © Ugo Nkwoala | Spilledwoords.org| 2021

I am North

I am North
I run from the far Sahara
through the Sahelian Kano
to the fertile lands of Benue

I am North
A spring of wisdom
I fed the brave Sardauna
And the eloquent Tafawa

I am North
A home to the Hausas
The Fulanis and Kanuris
Beroms, Tivs and Idomas

I am North
A generous mother
For I betrothed The Niger
To a beautiful bride – The Benue

In me are a people
From diverse places
Adamawa speaks beauty
In Kaduna, it rains intellect

Sokoto narrates legends
Of Shehu Usmanu Danfodiyo
And his conquest of Argungu
down to the villages of Ilorin

In me were blacksmiths
From the ancient town of Bidda
Tell me about the town of Hadejia
And fishes in its mysterious River

Plateau harbours minerals
And abundance dwell in Kano
Maiduguri was a home for all
In the days of Ajami scripting

My youths are not Islamists
I am the groudnut pyramids
I am Yakubu Gowon and Abacha
I am Mamman Shuwa and Murtala

When the sun rises
My markets get saturated
With hardworking merchants
And traders from beyond me

I am North
The stout Maina
The arid land of Gashua
I am vast farming and Pottery

I am North
a cave that echoes
All sounds of Dan Kwairo
I am the strings of Dan Maraya

I am North
Arewan Sarki Dikko
I am Mamman Durugu
I am architectural prowess

I am North
I am the wealthy Dangote
I am Okene and Ajaokuta
I am Damaturu, Jos and Lafia

There’s more to me
than the stories you hear
I had noble Queens and Kings
Towns within me, far and near

I am North
Of various faiths
Muslims and Christians
Of churches and mosques

Do not try to slander me
False tales don’t define me
My offsprings are not terrorists
For I am North, I am hospitality

In me are age-long festivals
And some colourful durbars
My Yankari is a sight to behold
Come! Do not wait till you are told

Mambilla touches the skies
“Awara” is sweeter when fried
I heard Gurara has tasty waters
In me are brothers without borders

Bauchi devours Maasa
Fura is an anthem in Gombe
There are morsels of Tuwo in Daura
Hadejia is well known for Miyan Kuka

All hail Mamman Shata
who rose from ancient Funtua
Our Queen Amina was a heroine
She fought wars for old Zazzau

I am North,
I am Bayajidda,
I am Atta and Bayero
I am Ladi Kwali and Sawaba

I am North
The seat of The Caliphate
The Birnin Kudu paintings
I am culture and heritage

I am North,
I am milk and meat
I am cows and camels
I am grains and bounty harvests

I am North
An abode of the Gwaris
The Jukuns and the Zurus
The Ebiras and the Igalas

These rains will go
This blood will wash away
These cries will fade slowly
For I am North, Arewan Ali Makaho

I am North,
A place of love
For myriad centuries
Where peace had found shelter

They call me North
My children call me Arewa
But then, to me, I am a home
For men, women, young and old.

©Shehu Mubarak Sulaiman |Published in Daily Trust Newspapers |2019.

The views of the author are a mere expression of the North – northern Nigeria as a geographic entity, not as a political unit, nor does the writer’s aim at being politically correct.

Threefold Cord

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