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DO NOT BEAT ME, IF YOU DO NOT WANT ME TO CRY

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Do not beat me, if you do not want me to cry.

For cry i will and quite loud you can bet.

I will wail in such a voice as will shake the earth, that even the neighbors farthest to the north will hear.

Do not beat me if you do not want me to cry.

Why would you expect love, when all you give is hate.

Why should i listen to you, when you stuff your ears with mud, that my cry of anguish, is a silent movement of the lips.

Do not beat me if you do not want me to cry.

For you abandon me in the scorching sun, while you rest in shade.

I am sitting on an anthill, while you sit on cushions.

Don't you see, I'm being eaten from the bottom up?

Do not beat me if you do not want me to cry.

For i have a hammer and nails For a chair, but the wood is in your house.

How can i tap the wine,if you've taken the palm tree?

I have sharpened the knife but the yam is in your house.

Do not beat me if you you do not want me to cry.

When you leave me with a sharpened knife, hammer and nails.

What do you expect me to do with them?

Do you mind if I ask?

Do not beat me if you do not want me to cry.

For wail i will, make no mistake about it.

That's the only other way to assuage my pain, or i might be forced to use the sharpened knife, hammer and nails.

© Ngozi Ubogu 2021.


Stuck

by ,

On the corner facing the path that led one out of the compound where my grandparents lived was a magnificent view of a date palm; other trees flocked the scenery, but this tree was different. It was almost ecstatic, the way it calmly jetted towards the sky; how its leaves folded towards the tip, and made an effort to see the nurturing of the seeds that come from time to time.

As a seven year old, the palm trees fascinated me. I had the luxury of leaving the entrapment of the city during the holidays and every visit seemed to raise a different war in me. The countryside was always different. It was less conspicuous. The people were more indulging to the fanciful ideas of timid children. The city could be harsh and one dimensional but the countryside was a dreamer’s haven and I longed to always feel its pulse.

It was not just the fantasy within that spurred my love for the village and its rather simple air. I was also drawn to the mystic that floated in the caution that hounded my grandfather’s room. I never quite understood the rules but I kept them because the consequences felt steeper than my seven-year-old mind could fathom. Those early years were filled with the search for wonder. Little drifts of my nature slipping into the oddity of the quiet that surrounded the compound.

Grandfather was the kindest heart I knew; even though he was not one to smile, I always knew he felt more than he could let on. He was the silent type; he loved to brood alone in the open space, stuck in a conversation that only he could understand. As kids, we would watch him; wondering what he was looking unto, sometimes we tried to play with him. He always obliged and was gentle to our burning souls. He loved his grandchildren; we were always sure of that.

He grew weaker as we all grew older, and for a few years, the rush of the city meant that we could not return. When I made it back to the compound at 15, he could tell that I had changed. He watched as I looked casually at the figures of masquerades long dead and he knew I was stuck. He watched as I drifted out of the country life that I so much loved. He knew that the race of the city had been clinging to my heart. My desires were not of the village, nor was I comfortably a man of the city. I was stuck on the middle road and it seemed to chisel into my fears.

“Brother,”

He fondly mused as we sat under the burning wood, roasting a tuber of yam.

“It is easy to get confused in a world that feeds you two suns”

He continued gently. His eyes became narrower as he stared into the burning coal.

“It was easy for me to choose the path to go. I was born only in a place where the laws of the land where the laws of our spirits, and I loved every part of it. I found God in my twilight years but I was still a man of tradition. For sometimes, I could see that the idea of faith and love crosses over the boundaries of beliefs. I say this to you because time is changing”

He turns the tuber of yam and gently touches the burning coal without wincing in pain. I watched it gently.

“Your mother, my daughter; she comes from a different time. A time when we knew the white man’s words. But she is different; for she knows the statues of the land she has grown in. It is you that I am most in awe of.”

He pauses as he sets the roasted yam off the fire and breaks it into pieces, handing me the juicy end.

“I worry that you are still in search of who, and what you are. You have the tongue of the white man, but the heart of the land; constantly you stand between these two masters, fighting to win. I watched as you struggle to fit into the same life that you loved so much before. The village has left you, and you are nowhere”

He mused oddly.

We stayed in silence as the drumming of the masquerades erupted in the near distance. I stared at his face, the gray had flowed into his wrinkles but he seemed at peace with the coming end. He seemed to smile more as he grew weaker but I held his words to heart.

Each time I struggled to blurt out the phrases of my mother tongue, I remember his words; I was truly a stranger to the lands that had been and did not know how to move forward.

The pain feels great when I look and see pieces of me in every youth. All of us moving to nowhere, leaving the tongues, the ideals, and the mirrors of what once had been. I should try to cry but I wade in the guilt.

It is not too late to find my path. I am neither much of my past nor all of my present, but both will find me as I travel, through this abyss of the unknown, into a future that will either define me or kill me.

THE STORY IS AN EXCERPT OF “THE AFRICAN ROMANTIC: A POETRY EXPLORATION” BY ELIJAH ABUNI PETER