VOICES FROM THE FIRE: John Chinaka Onyeche


Today my father cuts his hair low,

he looks older & tired. 

i can see it from his eyes, 

myriad of life’s untold tales.

i am looking through his private diaries locked up & hidden,

maybe i will be lucky to see some of good recorded memories 

of himself on what life was like to him while growing up. 

there is this big box full of Bibles, 

from where he wrote our names, –

with each passage our names are engraved – 

and a special prayer points attached to it. 

he had brought this box to my mother as a gift,  

when they both settled their last quarrel, –  

which i believe he holds it dear to this Bible and box, 

as they lived the rest of their lives separated. 

when i reckon of how much i have been through, 

i think of how much my father has lived to endure

as the result of the ill felted marriage with my mother, 

as all i could see written on his face are scars of griefs.

I doubt it, if god knows how much 

my father has been able to endure within himself, 

everyday remembrance of us, – hands him over to grief; 

& he evaporates like mist each without our knowledge.

today, my father cuts his hair low to mourns 

his ill felted marriage with my mother

& his grief, he wore as a garment.

There Is A Good Day To Write About Our Memories

Yesterday, I took out the bottle of dye I found 

under the bed in my grandmother’s hut, 

and I drew with it – a triangle on my heart. 

In that triangle, I engraved the memories –  

of my life as a pilgrim – who is a survival of 

myriad of life’s experiences as a child. 

Outside this triangle, I wrote myriad of names, 

some were those who – in my life on earth 

have played one role or the other hand – alive or dead. 

As I tried to limit the names for the next day to come, 

for what I have written here is the beginning-in my heart, 

it is what I can hold out today, as the triangle expands. 

& as I held out my hands to draw on my heart, 

it all became visible, the words of my grandmother, 

she had once told me, there is a dye to write memories. 

Out of my curiosity as a growing grandchild, 

I visited her hut every cool evening with oozing winds, 

and she would say, there is a good day to write memories

of those life has blessed us with – though they are not here,

this dye is specially meant to be used in writing in our hearts, 

except for such moments, the dye stays hidden from the eyes.

I reached out my hands yesterday under her bed, 

in that her small hut after many years of her death, 

I am blessed to have found the dye for which I am using now – 

To write about my memories with her, 

our times together is what I am about to write here,

as it started from the gathering of clouds that rained.

For you 

I am becoming a watchman 

To watch over your inks that flow into tiny air 

For you, 

I am becoming an African

From the Southern tip of Africa

For you, 

I am becoming the first inhabitant of the Cape

For you, 

I am becoming the first owner of the land 

For you, 

I am becoming the first race known as the San 

For you, 

I will go with my bands into the forest and pick wide berries

For you, 

I have become the hunter and gatherers 

For you, 

We will go into the mountains and pick pebbles

Each man on his bands, we will gather up stones 

For you, 

We will return to use the stones to make you a grave 

For you died a hero in the land of your so journal 

For you, 

We will use our stones to build you a grave. 

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