As we age, each little grunt at a time,
The relic of faith kept crossing the Black
Atlantic, the vined bodies that come with this
Crossing, weigh as anchor, immutable
Suns, and their last shadows, setting behind
Us. And we are a bit like asterisks
Flattened against inaccurate numbers, statistics—
That mock a fast descent through the spliced
Shallows, the white beaches where we have joined
The American revellers of Key West, to sun our bodies too,
And be part of the cult of nudists and swingers.
And half of me surrenders to its stealth, and the
Candle inside lights and wakes a kitten sleeping alone
At my doorsteps, just as an age rows by, altered—
In the Negro shacks I have visited in Georgia as a tourist,
Contrasting the ostrich-plume circus of speeches I have given as
An invited guest to Aspen, where I laid a remembrance wreath
To the things I forgot in Africa.
Here then is an unfinished story about my father’s barn: I
Was sent to thresh and gather the grains, and be spined by
Experience, and age gracefully—
I am to spend many nights with the keeper Hypatia,
Watch her unveiled in the sunrises, hide from the sandstorms
And monsoons of my youth, chew a little cud, and
Return to green pastures. But I have strayed far too long—
And I fear I bring home only a sick ram afflicted with gonorrhea,
From the swirling circle of an odyssey into the rich and abundant
Barnyard: and I will cause the land to scream.
And so we must age, each unsure step at a time, shaking
Like wet leaves fostered in the light. The lances of the rain that come
Must pierce us, and we must wake diminished by the gross weight
Of time, or rouse, and remember when the rain began.
Poet and literary critic Obi Nwakanma teaches creative writing and literature of the black diaspora at the University of Central Florida, Orlando. His third collection of poems, Birthcry, was reissued this summer by Kraft Books, Ibadan, and he is currently working on a new cycle of poems around the subject Hermes.