The Book of God

1 June 2016

I

when the time came
in that small world of
half-woken stars
and broken moonlight
we were gathering palmnuts
un-cracked palmkernels of
previous years
lying silent in the dust
breeding thick and lice
termites eating away detachable peelings
and building endless houses,
eating up sand
I was a boy of unspecified age.
It must have been the time
we took ogwu uwa- the drug that
cured the whole world:
I don’t remember.
my father knew everything for us

II

he wrote all –
our memory – in
his St. Martin’s de Porres Prayer Book, half-eaten
by worms: birth dates,
the date of his father’s death
and that of his mother (she died of
water disease, or so, his footnote),
dates of lands leased out
and the leaseholders’ names
and the reasons for the lease
like the return of dowries
when her sister divorced
a barren husband of many years;
the date he buried her too
(she died of madness or
adultery or so),
the leaves of the Book of God
are also interspaced with
receipts of old sales,
weatherbeaten complimentary cards
with long-distant dates,
wedding invitation cards,
receipts of beer bars,
guest house lodgings
and stopover names
receipts of Sacramentals and
dates of completed Confessions:
(baptismal cards
or dates of child dedications? No),
sketches of unknown animals,
or was that a skeleton of an owl?
or naked bats?

III

he hid the Book of God
in an iron box that day
he saw me watching the portrait of
the Saint. St. Porres looked like
someone in pain, angry, helpless, the flesh on
his face folded into indistinct shapes,
like a mother weeping an only son.
at this time, father no longer smiled,
he ate his teeth so often
and climbed
his woodbed every night reeking of gin
He died later, gathering all his
old music record tapes at the head of his bed
his candle rosary on his neck

IV

I don’t remember,
my father was memory.
Or was it the time we
used to run about naked in the village,
playing hide and seek
or when we used to bathe in the streams
and sometimes hide away the
clothes of bathing women?
I don’t remember.
I only remember wet
soaking up the raffia mat and
our urinating on soldier ants
in the daytime could not help
as Mama Nnukwu would instruct (they
refused to come for us in the nights
and we wetted the dreams as if it was daylight).
Our clothes,
mine a jumper and shorts
with a pair of round holes at
the bottoms

V

we would wake up in
the midnights, run
to the fireside,
sit on the fire,
burn the liquids
gather smokeclouds and
smells of fire
enter the cloth blanket again
and feel warm:
In lying head down
Kachi’s head facing Mama’s side
her legs overtaking my head
she was a grown woman
and I would rise, as I always did,
and she would fall –
we burrow aimlessly into
each other’s mid-regions
the big mother snoring
away her peace in her bamboo bed –
sometimes she would wake,
stand on us,
calling Kachi, waking her to
stop talking in her dreams:
we were awake as rats under the cloth.

VI

Kachi’s mother has been
seeing the Mother of Christ in
front of the village Chapel,
close to the Church cemetery since
She left;
and that was after she said to me
after many years of getting lost in the world:
“Owom, you are now a big boy”
and we shared a smile.
In that palmkernel house of my grandmother,
we gathered stray nuts
in an unpaid labour; we
gathered them to make heaps of fun
we played on the heaps: I, Kachi and others
then we destroyed them at
the next cock crow.
Kachi left without confessing
our sins on the heaps of lice sands
she died of no disease,
she just died.
Last night she came in
my dream and gave me her mouth.
I now speak in the name of the dead.

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