#9. An Immigrant’s Prayer.

Listen to the AUDIO version of the poem below.


Across Benue-Niger rivers and nameless oceans

Through harmattan clouds and Saharan skies

We journey from the old world to the new,

The mystery before us, seduced us like a sorceress

And yet not knowing what was ahead,

We dared to embrace our journey

We fled a land of hunger, – seeking Kellogs over Nasco

We escaped an unruly fiefdom; a dictator’s lair

We fled a land of pain; a land of despair,

-weary of watching our children idle and unschooled

Because their teachers strike for lack of pay,

while greedy rulers and politicians play poli-tricks

and feast off their future, like fumbling fools, night and day

We untangled the cobwebs of culture that held us down in bondage

And wept with hope at the songs of freedom of the West

And so we came, freeborn all

We begin as neither masters nor slaves

Rather, we start life all over again

Caught up in an endless rat race

We live day to day on grace

Showered from our beloved Naija,

That distant land of our birth.

We refuse to give up or give in

We shall make a home here yet

A home for the little ones, yet unborn

We shall work the farm fields

And stand in line like living robots

Factory workers, security guards

On guard, for the future of our children

Called only by numbers, faceless and soulless.

We shall do these things and more

So that one day, our children: Iyke and Zara

Shall proudly remember and bear our names;

– Ikechukwu, ChukwuZaramekpele.

We shall teach them well, our children,

How we found strength in the Creator,

How our pleas and prayers were answered

We shall teach them well, our children,

Of the old ways and places from where we fled

For we see now, the masked beauty

In the grotesque shadows of the old world.

We fled diseases, -malaria and strange fevers and now,

We’re plagued with diseased bodies and depressed minds

We fled poverty, looked down on the rich, organic harvest

Gifted to us directly from the bosom of mother’s red Earth

And now in the new world, we see the many sins in plenty,

-Processed hens, mad, possessed cows

-Fast foods, fast lives, fast deaths!

Nothing here is sacred, even old age is defiled

We see the lights everywhere

And the darkness that lurks,

– a breath and a shadow behind

We shall teach them well, our children

So that none shall ever be lost,

Indeed none shall ever be called efulefu

We shall teach them well, our children

To marry the old worlds of soul with the new worlds of steel.

© Juliet ‘Kego Ume-Onyido (All rights reserved).

[I. Efulefu: An Igbo language word meaning ‘The lost souls’; II. IkeChukwu: The Creator’s strength or the Lord’s strength (Igbo); III. ChukwuZaramekpele: The Lord has answered my prayers and supplications (Igbo); IV. Naija: A fond nickname for Nigeria by Nigerians; V. Nasco: An indigenous Nigerian brand of cereal using organic grown corn]

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