Poets react series: "These corpses must speak their names"

Poets react series: "These corpses must speak their names"

Editor's note: Nigeria as a nation is sick and is in dire need of a healing. Daily the media is fed full with disturbing stories of killing, cases of defilement, kidnapping, electoral violence and a dwindling economy. It won't be out of place to say that all we see these days only depict a future so bleak.

Some many cases linger in the courts but justice is a dilemma that for too long has plagued the Nigerian masses. The innocents have no say while the guilty ones pay their way out; the masses have lost faith in the judiciary.

Faith needs to be rekindled and hope needs to be restored. It is in an attempt to give back voice to the oppressed of the society, that NAIJ.com has put together a collection of poems from a great generation of poets whose works have the potentials to bring about the desired change needed at this moment.


It is haram to learn how to read

a poem in Maiduguri

words are fishes that own the mouth

of a volcano

whispering their intention to

burn a river

heating its rhymes


still the river

eyes cold in flames

and water cannot move

after losing all understanding

of how to crawl on its stomach

of how to see the girls

who were seasoned away under the nose of soft-gunned road-blocks

there is a fire in the stomach

what can extinguish

what makes water know its kneel

Poets react series: "These corpses must speak their names"

Saddiq Dzukogi

Saddiq M Dzukogi is an award winning poet, a rising voice in the literary circle in Nigeria. He was the maiden winner of ANA/MAZARIYYA TEEN AUTHORSHIP PRIZE for poetry back in 2007.


For Kelechi Obi

The last time I watched TV – chopped

Heads, desiccated,

Like those fried fish we used

To buy from that red kiosk to augment

Garri for lunch—these heads,

Piled up in a street of Maiduguri.

Flailing cars fleeing from terror crushed

Them into liquid. I wonder where the

Headless bodies are – could they have

Been sumptuous delicacies

For vultures? Their flesh wickedly peeled

By honed beaks, their families

At home, waiting at door mouths


Maybe you could bequeath

The rest of your life to God—

Become a Catholic priest—your penis

Castrated by the Holy Spirit. Isn’t that

The dream you always dreamed

Before you read the no-sex clause?

Under perforated palm-fronds,

Where sun passed through the holes

Scattering warm stars on the ground,

The picture of a black pope glinted

on your lips.

At the National Cemetery in Abuja,

A Catholic priest prays over

A barrage of bodies, firewood

Lit by the fingers of local terrorists.

Survivors surround the steep grave’s mouth.

You clench a bunch of flowers,

Crying, praying. My friend, listen—

It is time you gave your

Sperm to God.

Poets react series: "These corpses must speak their names"

D.M Aderibigbe

READ ALSO: Revealed! See where Nigeria’s next president is schooling (photos)

D.M. Aderibigbe is an MFA in creative writing candidate at Boston University where he's a BU Fellow. His chapbook In Praise of our Absent Father was selected by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani for the APBF New Generation African Poets Chapbook Series.

How Memory Unmakes Us

(for the Buni Yadi boys, February 25, 2014.)

It will take a cinematographer’s eyes,

mine will not do

I admit

and she will need a button that makes and unmakes

memories. Perhaps with her we will go

into that morning again:


dim light actually

the brown of night as it lifts away,

love-sized cupboards in neat rows, we zoom into

shoes and sandals, buckets and hostel bunks, beds

and snores and the kids, 12 year olds or 13 or 14, boys,

spread like peace, asleep.

Some pouting like girls in liquid dreams, others

clutching to the bed for once safe and far from the bully.

Ibrahim too, a half-smile on his face, shy even in his sleep.

His ‘’to do for the Day” sketched on his palm: I will call mummy,

solve some Maths. Will tell Fatoumatou I love her like Lucozade today.

If she starts giggling that way she does,

I will run away.

For a moment our camera pauses, shifts focus and travels up

the wall to a gecko sticking out its tongue like some black


We zoom back to our boys—within that half of a minute—

But there are no boys now. Only ash and screams and

the flailing of arms. The beddings on fire, the buuum

duuum of bombs, the animal calls and howls of the

Militias: Jihadu! Jihadu!

Some of the boys scale the window to sure death,

their weaker friends crying names, reaching out hands

out of this dream of fire. Some writhing on their beds, burning,

too shocked to die.

We are trying to pause the camera now, bidding

the cinematographer to please press the button that unmakes

memories. We are fidgety. Caught as we are between seeing and unseeing. We

are trying to walk out of that morning, muttering to ourselves that we

will walk back to discover

the fire had only been a mishap of seeing. But it is not.

There is a singe and hiss of bodies praying their last,

the unritual twisting of boys and their names into a mess

of flesh.  And the clang of death, our death.

The unbelievable fact of history that the sun came out later

that day.

Poets react series: "These corpses must speak their names"

Gbenga Adesina

READ ALSO: Rivers of blood: Amaechi, Wike and a history of violence (pictured)

Gbenga Adesina, poet and essayist lives and writes in Nigeria. His poems interrogate love and loss and the miles and more in between. This poem is part of his chapbook, Painter of Water, edited by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani; published by the African Poetry Book Fund and Akashic Books, New York (in the New Generation African Poetry Boxset).

You Will Never Live Life Here

I am from a country where living is a community service,

And the dead are never quite at rest.

See! You will never live life here;

Not in the manner you crave.

No! Not even close by any stretch of the imagination.

The men pour frustration at the bar.

The women cook rebellion in the kitchen,

And the children – they dream of Santa and snow.

But the world here is different from the ones in fairy-tales.

The weather here is both rainy and hot.

And when grey hairs show, and the staff is stirred,

You will look back to see the stranger you have now become.

For you have never lived life here,

Not a day as yourself, but as a blind man led by others.

First you were born into a world of Tradition,

Then baptized with waters of Religion,

Your tribe became your true identity,

And your nationality – a foreign conspiracy.

You must go to church on Sunday.

You must go to mosque on Friday.

You must not question your elders,

You must not question God, and his minions.

You must attend nursery school.

You must attend primary school.

You ought to have a WAEC certificate

And a University degree if you’re lucky.

It doesn’t matter what you want to be

A doctor or a lawyer will do just fine.

You should be married by 30 if you are a Lady.

You should be married all the same if you are a man.

You must have babies, if you can.

You must adopt babies, if you can’t.

And when you are trapped in that marriage;

Chained by the rules of society,

And you look your first child in the eye,

Carry it in your arms, and hear it cry,

You may not know it yet;

But that’s the dying cry of your free self.

For you have only existed, you are yet to live.

And now you will never live life here.

Poets react series: "These corpses must speak their names"

READ ALSO: Photonews: Rivers of sorrow flow as slain colonel is laid to rest

Chukwudi Okoye Ezeamalukwuo is a published poet and a graduate of Geology, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Nigeria. He discovered his passion for writing, especially for Poetry while in the University. He is a founding member of Ink15 Literary Group. He is a blogger and the editor of Ink15.wordpress.com. His collection of poems titled "The Words of My Mother" was published early this year by Bahati Books.


Buried dreams wear mirrors in their grave

They split with solace like this child:

Wear frugal wings, fly through

Dark ages, through Khaki-Men And Blockades

Through Six Boots Stained With Blood

To watch future scenes before they are shown

But what use are future scenes

When dreams are

Made in China?

Buried hopes wear mirrors in their grave

They split with solace like this mother:

Wear head gears, dance through

Sacred grounds, through BringBackOurGirls

Through Ibadan Forest-of-Horror

To sow future seeds before it is night

But what use are future seeds

When hopes are

Made in China?

Buried truths wear mirrors in their grave

They split with solace like this father:

Wear eager hearts, hew through

Shabby oaths, through PayOurPension

Through Some fathersAreStillUnemployed

To pleat future talks before they are done

But what use are future talks

When truths are

Made in China?

Poets react series: "These corpses must speak their names"

Wale Owoade is a Nigerian poet. He is a recipient of 2015 Tony Tokunbo Poetry Silver Award. Wale is the Publisher and Managing Editor of EXPOUND: A Magazine of Arts and Aesthetics, he also founded and interviews at The Strong Letters and the Creative Director of Bard Studio.

Peace Lilies

I’m that rose-ringed parakeet, perching on the branch

of the morning. I’m small and ring-necked, hungry

for cedar nuts, refusing to fly, refusing to drop down

from my Southern twig, refusing to devour the gorgeous

berries, still loving the Northern knot of sparrows,

and brave shimmer of hummingbirds singing.

I’m a black cormorant maybe—yellow throat-patch,

aging voter. Most of me is the land, a part of me

is the longing for it, and some of me is undecided.

It seems good among the silverbushes to smell

what the land smells. To dust its bedded cabinets

were it a house, to make it fluid and fluent

were it language, to make it firm and lean

were it government. But it is. There’s heat here,

still the touch of my lover is warm. There’s oil,

still my lover’s lips are dry. There seems to be

an equation forever unsolved. No matter how hard

I calculate, no matter how often I swoop down

and beak the elms. The mouth of the rain is shut.

All falling leaves are moving up. Gravity is breaking.

But it’s true I might look back some day, and see

where I’ve missed and mixed it. I might look back

and watch you spring and bud and shimmer

like a peace lily and a pebble plant. I’m a fool

for landscape, and all of it is you. Dawn breaks

upon me and it’s night. Take my hand, hold me

longer, watch us walk this path together.

Play my voice like a radio in your ears. I’m part-

musical. Carry me in your arms like a child.

Let the night sleep on somewhere in the Niger,

and wake up as dawn, not drenched, not drowned,

not having to breaststroke again in the morning.

Poets react series: "These corpses must speak their names"

Samuel Ugbechie

READ ALSO: Nigerian army reacts to report of weapons discovered in coffins

Samuel Ugbechie won the Sentinel All-Africa Poetry Competition, was a finalist in the 2014 RL Poetry Award (International), and longlisted for the 2014 National Poetry Competition.

A testimony: of edited stories

As soon as my breasts were ripe

juicy & firm enough to touch

and be touched with eyes

and hands of juvenile lovers

the women came with a sharp knife

to edit the story between my legs

they did the same to my sister

but as she screamed and struggled

they deleted her complete story–

a flood of blood & water gushing out

it is a common mistake, they tell my father

she is a strong woman, she is

let her stand under sun for six days

nothing will happen to her

my cousin asks how it feels to be cut

how it feels to have one's story edited

how it feels to watch blood flow

like a river through the v of one's thighs

and I tell her: sleep, dream, be strong

by tomorrow morning you too will testify

Poets react series: "These corpses must speak their names"

Ehi’zogie Iyeomoan is a Pushcart nominee, Sscribbles have received awards from the Korean Cultural Centre, Nigeria and the University of Trieste, Italy. He recently received the UNESCO sponsored Castello Di Duino poetry prize for his satirically political poem, a dead poet’s table of content.

These Corpses Must Speak Their Names

They have bobbed-up belly-wise,

Like fishes drawn out of water;

There's a message in the white of their vacant eyes,

And we are left the riddle to decipher.

The river does not swallow

What it did not chew;

So she has rejected them

Like the fart from a harlot's anus.

We who watch them lifelessly float drown internally,

As we drink the scene with voracious thirst like famished camels,

And let the message of fear written on their faces

Sink effortlessly into our minds like stones.

Their adept and inert swimming skills we gloat,

Those autonomic reactions, those untrained eyes;

Their rather calm behavior,

It all smells like foul play.

So I ask,

Were they passive or active in this strange task

Of burying themselves

In a watery grave without a coffin?

We question them to explain

But amnesia they feign.

The doctors claim they have suffered great hypoxia;

The matter is sapping, spent is the oxygen in our brain.(24)

But on this issue,

Sleeping dogs will not be left to lie.

For our sons are no bastards,

Only young prodigals that have forgotten their fathers' names.(28)

There's a vasoconstriction

Restraining the flow of truth

In their stiff veins;

But today the tree must be known by its fruit.

Though they deprive us of oxygen,

Still we shall have our justice;

For no fragrant perfumes will hold back

The stench oozing from their orifices.

Yea, these corpses must speak their names.

And though they char their remains in capricious flames,

Still we shall attain the open secret,

From the lips of their ashes.

Poets react series: "These corpses must speak their names"

Soonest Nathaniel

Soonest Nathaniel is a passionate journalist, an editor with Naij.com, his poem "These corpses must speak their names" won the Gold Prize at the 4th Korea-Nigeria Poetry Festival.

Source: Naija.ng

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