A phonograph record I play without a gramophone
each day I sit on a bench facing
the lake behind my house.
I listen to the blowing breeze,
pretentious i'm taking in a message;
in my heart photos of father speaking
to me. His wide open eyes
corridors of warnings. His hand holding
his ear, a rebuke my siblings and I have
imbibed. Like water rushed down the throat,
washing down a sumptuous meal. Only, we
worked hard to keep to his words. The army
general we call father, who delivers a slap
with one hand when we acted inappropriately, but
draws us close to remind us how tough love can be
with a warm hug.
for Aunt J (In Memoriam)
I entered the village with a heart empty like a cage
seeking a song-thirsty bird to take back home, but left
with a heart heavy like a giant stone pulled
by a chain, that afternoon the sun led me
to a zinc tenement behind my dead Grandpa's
home. With my hands refusing to stay in my
pocket, I pushed open every door available until we
met, our eyes meeting but she failing to see me.
This woman nailed to the floor, her body
a deity worshiped by dust. Her faint voice
an epiphanous melody, as tears dribbled
down my cheeks. So even in a lifetime,
I mulled, those we cherish would also become
epitomes of abandonment? Hours later, as
I boarded a plane, cheered by
this same woman's infectious smile
and generosity, for when mother was far away,
across the Atlantic, she, knowing family meant
more than one's own offspring, brought with joy
the home cooked meal my sister and I devoured,
before washing and bagging the bowls, for
our beloved aunt now a seed we unearth whenever
we speak fondly of dead relatives.
Many are the identities of a poem!
Show me the rainbow in the sky
And I’ll read you an elegy;
Stand beside me at the river
And I’ll tell you why the waves are odes;
Make your fist a cup under the rain
And you’ll share in the sky’s grief;
Visit the scene of a ghastly auto
Accident and you’ll agree with me
That sorrow is an umpire
In the affairs of men;
Close your eyes for a moment and
Pretend you’re a bird flying aimlessly,
And you’ll concur that every
Human born of a woman is a dream
Burdened by the weight of expectations.
For each of these sayings I’m indebted
To ennui, but yet reserve praises for
The muse, my confidant when the mind
Suffers the absence of company.
Dike Okoro: "A poet and essayist, I was shortlisted for the 2016 Cecile De Jongh Literary Prize for Poetry. My publications include two poetry collections, Dance of the Heart (2007), and In the Company of the Muse (2016). My poems have appeared in Witness Magazine, Yellow Medicine Review, The Caribbean Writer, Reverie: Midwest African American Literature, Ann Arbor Review, Full of Crow Poetry, and elsewhere."