#7. Stolen Home.
We came home, to find it was no more.
The dusty red earth,
once holy and welcoming to our feet,
sands so soft to touch,
as we scoop to fill our palms with a part of our sacred universe.
A land so blessed we bow our foreheads
and kneel in homage to the mysteries buried deep beneath.
The rusty, dusty red-earth, all gone. Gone!
And in its place coal-tarred, bitumen-filled grounds.
Hard roads, so unwelcoming and unforgiving.
Before, we gave the blood of cockerels to the spirits of the soil,
and so we walked, young and old alike
to our mud homes on bare-feet, freely and safely.
And they came, those fair strangers who meant well,
And they did not fully understand our ways.
And so they told us that we desecrate our land,
they told us our chi was no good at all.
And blindly, we believed them without questioning,
And for our brothers who dared to question,
they made us slowly cast aside!
And so now, these roads feed not on the cockerels’ blood
But on the blood of our innocent sons and daughters
Who discard their feet for fast metal boxes streamlined for speed
Ah, how quickly we embraced the frenzied speed of life!
And so we all hurry, but unto death
Earning more and yet poorer still
Yes, they came home
And found it was no more.
They came home to find it was no more.
Those tranquil scenes that gifted our senses with peace,
foliage so green it mesmerizes the senses.
The palm trees adorning narrow, winding roads,
wild flowers with hidden thorns, sleeping peacefully by the roadside.
The smells of burning woods and oils,
the air filled with aromas of locust beans: ogiri and ugba.
And colors, such a fierce kaleidoscope that eyes cannot contain,
and so are savoured slowly in the heart, mind and spirit.
Colors everywhere and in everything!
Soothed by black signs on smooth mud walls
Showing and paying homage to the passage of ancestors long gone.
Colors and patterns on abada wrappers,
hugging shapely buttocks and curvy hips.
Breasts jiggling with the ripeness of untapped juices within.
Maidens adorned with jigida beads,
swaying to the unsung rhythms of their waists.
Co -wives gossiping and giggling on their way to the stream
Comparing notes of steamy nights with nna anyi, their lords.
Their muddy-brown calabashes resting majestically on their ojas.
Men walking the earth and living off their sweat
They proudly wrestle the Earth for their women and their seeds.
Children dancing barefoot in the salty rain,
and then with such blissful abandon,
hurrying and jostling for a place at the old man’s feet.
Their young minds long for tales told under the moonlight,
against the sounds of chirping birds and crickets.
All gone! Skyscrapers everywhere
Gases and fuels and chemicals
Filling our senses, and slowly, seductively killing our cells.
No more natural ogiri in mama’s soups
No! Too smelly, rather sweet smelling,
Salt-laden spices like maggi
And so we hear of high blood pressure here
And hyper tension there
Austism-this and deficiency-that
A people of fast foods, fast lives, fast deaths!
Our natural harvest of sacred earth,
re-packaged and re-sold to us as organic.
The children no longer listen to the values from the wise one,
They are strangers to the tortoise tales by moonlight.
Rather they sit in a trance before a box and clog their ears,
watching, playing and listening to strange sights and sounds.
Yes, they came home and found it was no more.
Our great grand fathers were heathens;
they said we must abide by ‘one man, one wife!’
Now, we laugh in wry, ironic amusement,
for we believed them without asking questions.
Now a man marries ten wives, but serially,
casting the old aside for another who’s tighter, firmer, younger.
And this is the man that is civilized. He is the cultured one!
Our fathers, nna anyi, please can you hear us?
Our maidens were barbaric, they were crude, they claimed.
Because they had soothing, healing uli and coconut oil adorning their glowing skin.
And pray, tell, what are these knifed in tattoos?
Why the eye pencils, blush, lipsticks and cancerous creams?
Oh I go weary, I go tired singing this song of loss!
I must stop, stop this song now or go mad!
Indeed, our ancestors came home
But found it gone, stolen, the heartbeat of our homeland was no more.
© ‘Kego Onyido (All rights reserved).