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Peter Oluwakayode Adegbie - The Prophet, The Pirate And The Witch

Peter Oluwakayode Adegbie - The Prophet, The Pirate And The Witch


To The Bones That Weep

I will sing to Olodumare, who made all things,
the tale aflame in the crucible of my heart.

I will pestle consonants and vowels in a rhythm
till idioms stir and begin to live. I will leap

as one intoxicated with the treasured wine
of the oracles. I will roar like Sango

the G-d of thunder, whose axe sculptures
mountains in the sun. I will sing

of ancestral wells, I will sing of Yemonja's
breasts. I will sing of the ways

of merindinlogun, I will sing of the sacred
secrets of Ifa. I will sing of the wells

of knowledge now forgotten like roots
in Sahara sands. I will sing an elegy

of coastlands where bones weep. I will sing
of lands mined and shelled in oil, wasted,

so 'sweet and light crude' can flow, where
life bleeds and souls decay like seeds

planted in fetid soil. How long till I'm weary
of songs? How many more messiahs?


Who should bear the blame of ruined lives?
This pawn-play of masters who insatiably

contend on the oil-soaked chessboard of the dead
and dying, those without reprieve? Our

sacrifices are warm on clay altars, the blood
we shed thicker than oil in our mayhem

of lust for power and struggle for wealth, yet
the G-ds have not smiled. How long

will the land languish as souls sigh and youths
are spirited away to an eternity of agony

to lament their unfulfilled dreams. I will sing
for the living who envy the dead in five-

hundred-billion-dollar bottomless black-hole
greed, where youths wait in vain to live.

Olodumare, how long? We cover dead skin
with fine robes as marrow wastes in toxic

fumes that serpentine heavenward as bones crackle
in the heat, flesh sizzles and our tears fry;

how long shall we sing, bruised, crushed, throttled?
We grasp at pipes, till rivers of blood flow

with the devils' excrement--the oil that they seek.
I will cry like Job in Satan's smouldering furnace,

I will cry against the ravaging AIDS, the damaging
poverty, against the odious arrest of my song

in flaring gas, I will cry till aghast with deep rage,
till my tears irrigate this forlorn earth; perhaps,

ample tears will salve addiction to this opium of oil;
let me cry freedom, freedom for Niger Delta

--that cesspool where oil addicts shit and vomit,
yet insist on more. Let me mourn the graduates

and undergraduates out of the colleges, destitute,
jobless, destined to a bleak future; let me

voice the anxieties of civil servants pushing
the system, hobnobbing with conmen

hunting for scams; let me speak for desperate traders
on the fringes, tending their cancerous anger.

Shall we continue this song in the sun,
with muddied lingerie worse than

menstrual rags? Shall we dance with shamed
and tattered robes that tear in acid rains

that burn in Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Congo,
Gabon and, above all, Mother Nigeria?

Part One

1. Lagos 1993

Eko Akete Ilu Ogbon, to ba duro ko sora
Eko o gba gbere, Eko o gba gbere rara o [1]

In slowly softening lilac mist, light rays
rip clouds like fingers cotton wool,

Lagos, the ancient city of our fathers waits;
she waits for sunrise, for the horizon

to lift its mask, for the day to break out,
for dust and rust to drift in the air,

for birds to twitter and soar, for the rush
and crush to begin; she waits till

'bus boys' begin to yell their destinations:
Ojuelegba, Yaba, CMS, Oshodi;

And bodies will cram into tin boxes --'Danfo'
will pack in sixteen with bus boys

dangling by the tail for tickets; 'Molue'
will load up ninety-nine for its space

of forty nine; in the roasting heat and sweat,
chaos will crawl in the sun; in crowded

streets, urchins will hustle, dart, skip
and hop over potholes, daring traffic

and death, peddling pirated books, newspapers,
CDs, DVDs, cassettes, cell phones, fake drugs.

Fraudsters with sugar-coated tongues will sell
cure-all potions, African Viagra and charms.

Drivers honk and honk; tyres squeal, rubber burns
in the smog of running engines, as eyes smart,

and nostrils drip; men, women and children
will flood the streets like termites in holes,

with deft hands and swift feet. Evangelists, too,
will jump from bus to bus brandishing Bibles,

spitting hell and fire: 'Lagos is a talking drum
without a drumming stick; its rhythms

have faded; Lagos is a book of clichés and platitudes
that no-one wants to read; can you not see

how Lagos serenades the rich and ignores
the poor; have you not heard of sheep

without a shepherd, waiting for a messiah?
That is Lagos, a ship at full sail, heading


for the rocks--yes, heading for damnation, final
destruction, unless political leaders repent.'

An old woman with blazing eyes concurs,
'Don't scare an old woman with a huge penis!

We have seen it all; these leaders are witches
and wizards; they will never repent of looting

and their do or die elections of terror; like
a goitre that engulfs a neck, they are entrenched

in wickedness; even now, their kidnappers
are deployed to prowl to abduct man, woman

or child for ritual sacrifices and quick money;
so you who claim to be men, hold on, hold

your balls with both hands, brush not against
strangers lest your balls vanish into calabashes

spewing fresh devilish juju money; and you
who claim to be real women, hold on, hold on

to your breasts against foreign hands, for shameless
leaders have raped Lagos. They will rape us all.'

[1] Lagos, the home of wisdom, if you stand, be sure to stand with care, Lagos tolerates
no fool

2. The Making Of The Prophet

At twelve I began to learn the secrets of Ifa,
secrets you never tell; after school,

I would sit in father's room and watch him light
incense amid musty smells of ancient books,

fat books that sat pompously on high shelves,
beyond reach, books I had not begun to read:

Seven Books of Moses; Secrets of the Kabala;
Ancient Oriental Practice; 'They wait for you!'

father would whisper. Father was a mystic
with a marketing degree earned in London

with an eye on the oil companies that were the talk
of the nation, in every city. He would remove

his red and yellow mats and the beaten leather
of antelopes--his hunting trophies--from the floor;

he would mark the ground with chalk and align
triangles and squares with the glow of the sun.

He would anoint me with oil from a pouch;
he taught me, not with seashells or cowries

but with white paper, folded in four, each sheet
hiding a symbol. 'Ifa is mathematical,'

father would explain: 'It's a spiritual code
that rules our universe.' Later, we would sit

listening to spirit voices, to the pulse of our
street, to the heartbeat of Lagos, to hawkers

calling their trade, cars driving past, dogs barking
at strangers, radios crackling, children wailing,

women chit-chatting--melodies of my youth
that contest the secrets I share with father, secrets

that mother, strictly Catholic, must never hear.
In father's desk one day I saw an envelope

with my name, my heart skipped a beat
when the words leapt at me: 'He is a prophet…'

3. Home, Sweet Home

It was how Ruth said it, ruthless concern
wrinkly on her brow, her scarf hung

angled like a soldier's beret as she wept;
quaking mildly, breasts heaving.

Ruth, my mother's best friend at school
where they taught nursery, spoke of Jesus Christ,

who delivers from hell; she spoke
of the cross and pain that took sin away,

the blood that paid eternal debt and restores.
I would become born again, if I accepted

Christ. I would become forgiven, liberated
and free. Her words were seeds on freshly

turned soil; her tears were dew on my heart;
I wept. Her passion was more than mother

ever showed: when I asked mother at home,
she said, 'Son, the Bible is life,' but dad insisted,

'Son! Be wise; learn to tell good from evil!'
Then he dashed off to take up a job with a newly

arrived oil company, to mother's distaste.
I lamented life, at that fork of indecision between

my mystic father and catholic mother.
I watched the masks each wore--their anger,

obstinacy and guilt--but I blended in, as a river
into a harsh sea, as their beliefs tore them apart.

'How dare your dad, in good conscience, leave me,
then use oil money to get another woman?'

Mother would sulk while I bit lips of discomfort.
At college, I met Segida. Lecturers were on strike;

we began to trade in cannabis. I became a businessman,
facilitating 'grass' from the village to the city crowd.

With Segida I made money to supplement college
upkeep; I became a 'senior boy' with cash to spare.

4. Mimi's Joint

Segida and I are delivering grass in Mimi's joint.
Mimi serves 'crack', 'NNG' [2] and liquors; with flair,

her waist is adorned with beads, visible threads
under her gown; incense burns in the corner.

She glides across the floor, from one customer
to the other smiling, swinging; she laces

our gin with dongoyaro herb--the malaria cure.
Everyone comes here as moths to flame.

'Shinning tie' is nickname for a jobless graduate
in threadbare suit who rails against the state,

'This government is shit, pure shit. There is an echo
of agreement. 'That's why Fela Anikulapo calls them


VIP, Vagabonds in Power; Dem All Crazy. Yes
we are all Demon Crazy!' IMF austerity

measures have demonized us,' someone quips;
'Ali Mazrui calls us a laboratory, an experiment

of western, Islamic, and traditional Africa in a melting
pot, may G-d save us all!' Mimi's Joint rocks

with laughter, and music; Bob Marley's poster
is held up by chewing gum. With lungs

burning, we are haloed in dense smoke like flared-off
gas in the delta; we drink, we smoke, we shake

our heads, not sure whether to laugh or cry.
Some day, perhaps, I will grasp what value, if any,

is in the stoned-out vacuous soul--the mindless lone
traveller trying to make sense of the quarry

where men are stones hacked and chipped into shape
by conditions, flattened into footpaths for others

to tread on. At Mimi's Joint, we dreamlessly gaze
and let marijuana play games of imagination.

[2] - NNG or Nigerian Natural Grass was coined by Fela Anikulapo Kuti as street name
for Cannabis

5. Falila

She ambles in, stealthy, elegant as a star
of the East, cool as night; we are entranced.

Segida hisses and mutters, 'Ashewo!' [3]
'How do you know?' I retort, furious.

Her figure locks into my stare, she sits
by me, sips ogogoro [4], lifting her ganja [5].

'Call me Falila and light me up!' She purrs
in my ear, like a cat, so fragrant; I nibble

her ear; she flinches; she touches my cheek
tenderly; I tingle as her fingers linger;

her smile is coy; we lock eyes, smiling
and clasping hands. Then police sirens

blast rudely; the joint explodes; lights
flicker and pan; a harsh voice jolts us:

'Stay where you are! This is the police!' Fear
grips like cramps; Mimi turns the light off;

a gunshot cracks out, rifles are cocked; tension
sharp as razor draws out blood; then we

scramble, like demons on fire. I duck swinging
batons, hit a policeman's nose; my face is wet

with his blood; a baton hits my shoulder, stings
like pepper on open flesh. I dive into a maze

of cubicles, race past a scrap of stalls; scurrying
over a wall, I startle a squatting lady who

drunkenly jerks up and rambles off. I crouch
in the stinking piss and vomit that irritate

like pricking needles: if I can get into Rose's room
they will not catch me! I wonder if Segida made it?

[3] Prostitute
[4] Ogogoro is locally brewed illicit gin, mixed with local herb dongoyaro, it is reputed
to be a cure for malaria and an antidote.
[5] This is the word for cannabis or Indian hemp made popular by Caribbean reggae

6. Rose's Bar

Policemen barge in, breathing hard, ignoring
the jolliness and music in Rose's bar,

peering at faces they want to pin down; they trawl
table to table, but none will grass on drinking pals.

Rose meets me in her secret room.
'Wetin happen?' she asks.

'Na raid! You fit get me clothes?'
'I go try, but you no fit stay here.'

She brings a shirt and gropes me lustfully.
'Rose not now!' I protest.

'Which time we go see then?' 'Next week?'
Back in the bar, the lady I startled at the wall

babbles to a cop who shields his nose from her
flying spittle. I tap a lady, whose painted face

stares back at me; her lips crumple a cigarette;
thin like a mannequin, she stinks of beer,

'Oga you want fun?' she asks.
'Na how much?' I whisper.

'Make we go talk?' she winks. Grey hair
peeps under her old wig. We lurch

to the door; she holds me like a trophy.
A sergeant stops us. She rubs her chest

with my hand, sticks out her tongue and giggles.
'We dey go my place?'

Sergeant makes way in disgust; we stagger out.
On the street, the victims of the raid in a van

curse their luck, pelting police with invectives,
but the drunks begin to mock, wagging fingers

at me: 'See mum and son!' Suddenly, a man
yells as a sergeant at the door hits him,

slams him against the door; other policemen
begin to rain baton blows on him.

The man holds the door knob desperately,
bemoaning his bad luck, turning attention

away from me; he appeals to the drunkards.
A crowd begins to gather; one onlooker

attests his innocence; then I spot Falila
in the police van with Mimi. I slip

out of the lady's hand and shout,
'Falila na you be dat?'

Falila's face lights up with disbelief.
'Sergeant see me see trouble o!' I plead.

'Who are you?' he demands.
'Na my sister O, this stupid girl!'

Bank notes slide into his shirt pocket.
'You, come down here,' he calls her,

glancing at his pocket; I add more.
'You know this man?' he barks.

'Na my brother,' she answers.
'Get down! Na your mama G-d save you;'

I slap her face; Sergeant restrains me;
the old lady watches us, poking


her nose with her little finger. I offer
her loose change; she walks away.

I slap Falila again; she yells; the men laugh,
leaving us alone. I drag her down the road

till we stop round the corner, panting, giggling,
shaking; we hug and kiss; no words

are needed, her eyes hold promises, her kiss
speaks volumes: 'My place or yours?'

7. In The Lair

Later, languid in her bed, he sits,
bathing in light rays that kiss

his naked flesh through lacy curtains;
he feels the enchantment of morning.

He is caught in the femaleness of her room--
the aroma of her; the bedside table

strewn with oils, lubricants, creams, perfumes,
as her spirit pervades the room; her shoes,

belts, bags, make-up, lingerie, clothes
all neatly set in hues and shapes:

'Gone to work, shut the door.' He kisses
her note and finds his clothes folded

neatly beside hers; he buries his face
in her clothes; her scent fills his head;

he is ensconced in her fragrance like a bug
in a spider's web. The risk of her rescue

was worth their fiery dance at dawn!
The day shines with new sparkle;

he hums a song as he steps out
to hail a taxi, unaware of Sikira,

Falila's mum, who waits in the car.
She waits and watches like a vulture--

stringed neck, dirty beak, talons
sturdy and all--she waits to scavenge.

Sikira watches till Isaiah taxi's off,
then she enters Falila's flat to search,

upturning every nook and corner;
her face lights up in devious glee

when she finds used condoms
discarded in the bathroom bin.

8. Lydia's Altar

Lydia's battlefield is the patch between
her bed and closet. She kneels

at her makeshift altar, where her knees
would bleed on the concrete floor,

where her prayers have received many
victories before; she contests

with powers in spirit realms, contending
for space in heavenly places, displacing

forces of evil, taking demons captive;
she is a gate-keeper in the spirit,

bargaining for people's destinies.
The street lamps cast a sleepy glow

on her window; someone had touched her!
She sits up, feels the handprint still fresh

on her flesh, she knows she has to pray;
something ominous was about to happen;

she must intercede. She grabs her Bible
and stares at the sky; she begins to pray

in 'tongues', seeking the mind of the Spirit,
travailing to enter the spirit world.

She seeks the peace of His presence--
that serene clarity of thoughts,

the elimination of doubts--she struggles
to remain in thresholds of radiance

until embers of glory twirl and shine--
she is caught up in the splendour, in floods

of inexpressible ecstasy; her altar
is dense with revelation: suddenly

she knows it is about her son--
she sees that Isaiah is in danger.

9. Falila

She is a deep lake; her eyes
are tunnels into the darkness;

her voice is a broken song;
her life is a scarf flung

in the wind; her fragrance
is now as crushed petals.

She was once the light of summer.
She was once first rain after harvest.

She was once clean cotton in the sun.
She was once a flowing stream.

She was once a chrysalis waiting to open.
She was once a waterfall in first light.

But now she is a gravestone;
her heart is dark as a root;

she craves the love she lost
and roves in misty plains--

a bird seeking a branch to settle on;
when will her salvation come?

She is a sacrificial lamb on an earthen
altar abandoned by the G-ds.

10. Nightmares

'Falila!' I demand, trembling; 'three
nights and I can't take it any more!

Have I dived into water without
knowing how to swim? Have I

gone to bed with a snake on my roof?
Tell me, do you have a mermaid spirit,

or some jealous spirit husband?
I have heard stories of ghost girls

who disappear while making love;
but who are you? After three

sleepless nights I must ask you
what's going on? The nightmare

begins in your bathroom, as we lathe
in gels under the shower and a rain

of continuous melody drains off, as we
swathe in fragrances and music sieves

through every pore, a sharp cry abruptly
cracks our rhythm, a piercing evil

that lacerates the ambiance and then birds
begin to flap furiously at frosted glass,

you turn to me and say, 'they are mine,'
then your pupils begin to dilate, your face

becomes enraged, your bare teeth like a dog,
you begin to throttle me, pinning me down.

You metamorphose, ageing before me
into an old woman with deep-set eyes

that threaten to swallow me in a vortex
of unblinking stare. Then you hit my chest

with your palm and I float out of my body
like a kite gliding in the sky above the city,

till we hover over a brood of men
and women in hoods, prancing

round and round a crackling fire.
Behind them, a river ripples through


a spire of trees that circles the groove.
In the centre is a huge tree, its roots

gangly like an octopus and its branches
reaching at the sky like beggarly fingers

seeking alms. We wait in naked terror.
I begin to bargain and plead with G-d,

a repentant Jonah in the whale's belly.
As I pray, tearfully, there is a rending

of lightning, then rippling thunder
shakes the purple skies, a flow

of raw electricity sizzles and strikes,
it splinters the tree; the roar echoes

long and shrilly; we all stand still
till the rock of the shock finds

the bottom of our well of fear;
then it's mayhem as cultists scatter,

screaming; a gust of wind blasts out the fire,
sweeping embers and briers, away; I tingle

all over, air rushes through me like a ghost
and in a flash I am standing over

my body, a foetal curl on your
bathroom floor. I reach out

to re-enter my body but will not fit;
fighting like a swimmer against

the tide as a horde of demons
runs towards me, to drag me back

into the evil vortex; as they close in,
I scream, my lungs raging as I wake up,

thrashing wildly, sweating. Falila, three nights
I've had this same dream! What's going on?'

11. The Witch

Flashes of anger in her eyes quickly
fade like the sparkle of a shooting star.

She stares ahead, speaks in soft monotone:
'I'll tell you the story of a happy girl

who loved nothing more than a swing
in the park, to have winds in her hair;

she was a giggle, a delight to other kids.
But, one day, her joy ended. Her brother

Fatai died. He was her only brother,
he was like her twin; although everyone

knew she was her Dad's favourite--
his special queen. Isaiah, I was that girl!

My Dad worked for Madras Singh & Co.,
and our house was the talk of the area,

filled with decorations, many souvenirs
of Dad's travels. Our evenings were taken up

by one thing only--the television. We had
the only set in the block of six flats; it sat

in a corner like a G-d in a sacred shrine.
Kids would crowd at the window

and parents often sat on the settee or floor.
It was my pride and joy and I would

threaten other kids with my TV
I was the most popular girl

till my innocence came to ruins
one night, in pitch darkness

of the usual electricity blackout.
Kids all ran out in glee to play

hide and seek. I hid away
in my mother's kitchen, watching

flames dance in the silver Tilley lamp
perched on the kitchen table.

I heard anxious mothers shouting
at children to be careful; I heard

footsteps dragging up the stairs.
They stopped at our flat and I peeped:

it was my mother I saw, giving away
Fatai's shirt to a woman in the doorway,

but she was in tears; fear struck me!
A knot in my belly began to choke me!

Pee trickled down my legs, and pans
and pots clattered around me!

Mother's visitor scurried down
the stairs; my mother demanded:

'Who is there?'
'It's me, mama!'

'Did I not warn you not to eavesdrop?'
'We are just playing hide and seek!'

'What did you see?'
'Nothing Mama, I saw nothing!'

Her face was a grotesque mask
of hate in the flickering light

as she un-wrapped a dark parcel
which stank. 'Eat it!' She grabbed me,

she pinched my nose, she force-fed me
till pain tore at my throat, my belly

burst into fire. She led me and sat me
down in my room: 'Lie down!'

But I could not sleep: something
began to move inside me.

The next day, Fatai fell sick;
he began to wilt like a vegetable;

he died that day at the hospital.
I asked Dad about the wriggling

thing in my belly. I wanted him
to touch it; I wanted him to comfort me,

to feel the eel-like creature in me!
But Dad's eyes became a pool

of torment; he ran from me in terror.
That was when he called Olosanyin

the traditional healer, who said,
'Too late, his flesh has been eaten,'

and I recalled the rotten meat I ate.
When Fatai died, father tore hair

from his skull with his bare hands.
After his burial, Dad accused Mum

of witchcraft; verbal abuses and fights
erupted; thrown plates splintered

on the wall and the neighbours came.
I was unnoticed, confused and helpless.

Mother threw things at Dad; the neighbours
wept; father cried, refusing any comfort:

'My own wife has killed my son!'
Two days later, as Mum still raged

in her anger, father left us. Our TV-
watching neighbours became

strangers. The TV, broken
in a corner sat in the shadow,

a sad reminder of my shattered life.
It was then the nightmares began,

same as you are having now; there
were nights I knew Fatai was across

the room looking at me. I would
open my shoebox, bring out Dad's

empty Old Spice bottle and Fatai's photo,
blotted with dad's tears; these I would

hug tight to my chest as I tried to sleep.
Then the bird I had acquired was fed

by mum and her friends, till it was strong
enough to fly. That's how I became a witch.'


'Falila! Dress up, you are leaving now!'
Isaiah flings clothes at her, eyes wide

as he backs away; the room steams
with fear. She dresses up silently

in the dark gulf that seems to suddenly
separate them.


He hears his Mum,

in her room across the hallway,
shuffling. Lydia begins to sense

danger and her prayers erupt suddenly
from behind her door as Isaiah leads

Falila out of the house into the street.
'Isaiah, don't leave me!' she pleads,

holding on to him. Isaiah doesn't know
what to say or think, but finds strength

to stop and turn; he is scared.
'Isaiah, I swear, I'll never leave you;

I love you, you can't leave me now!'
She grabs at him. He jumps back.

'You'll come back to me!' she threatens.
'You will come back and I'll be waiting!'

12. Prophet Obadiah

The prophet is buried amidst flickering
candles, ringing tambourines, beating drums,

as ecstatic chanting devotees dance
in white garments. Lydia and Isaiah

listen to the bells, to the rhythm
of feet on rock; they are entranced

by the transcendent cadence
of Prayer Mountain, where life

stands still as the sick and needy
come to drink from the springs of grace.

Like island garlands, clouds
rest on protruding necks of rock.

The mountain of prayer glows at dusk;
it is Prophet Obadiah's home;

it is where men and women come
for answers, and Lydia has brought

Isaiah for deliverance from the nightmare
that engulfs him every night--the old

woman and her horde of demons.
Isaiah expected a tall, bearded man,

like Moses in the movie 'Ten Commandments'.
But this prophet is smallish and clean shaven.

On his second night, flames of vision
consume Isaiah; a deluge of words

infuses his being, like petals unfurling.
He begins to dance to the music of words;

truth and peace embalm his heart,
till he is so inflamed with words

he chants, orgasmic in an unknown language:
'You are a prophet, Yahweh has chosen you!'

Prophet Obadiah's eyes brim with meanings.
'But son, you must flee away like Joseph

and Jesus to Egypt; you must serve G-d
to be safe. The mantle of Yahweh is woven

upon you--the mantle of prophecy. May
Yahweh wash your eyes with salve; may He

bear you on eagle wings, carry you across rivers
of dreams, return you from this mountain

purified and at liberty; may His countenance
shine on you and may you enjoy His grace.'

13. G-ddess In Slacks

On a sun-drenched day, perspiration
is fresh in the nostrils as tingling heat

clings to the skin and waves hiss
across blades of grass on the football field.

Isaiah still savours the heady scent
of Prayer Mountain; it's been two weeks,

yet he wears his new-found spirituality
with awe. In college, Segida is curious

to know what has transformed him so.
When Falila steps out of the taxi,

she is simply a stunning G-ddess
in red shirt and black slacks.

Isaiah knows he is no match
for her elegance, beauty, subtlety,

or her determination. As she gets closer,
he decides to hide in the box room.

'Segida! Please tell her I am away!'
'You're crazy, she's so beautiful!'

Segida lets her in and makes excuses.
'When will he be back?' she demands.

'I don't know--want a drink? No?'
'I remember you from Mimi's place.'

'Oh yeah!' They laugh as she recounts:
'But for Isaiah I would have been jailed!'

But she must take the taxi back.
Segida is excited to have met

the 'working girl' and in disbelief asks,
'Why ditch her? She's crazy about you!'

'Nightmares!' Isaiah replies. 'Nightmares!'
Segida doesn't understand, but laughs and laughs.

14. The Tigress And The Bear

Falila was still madly in love.
She wanted Isaiah to know

she was pregnant, and with his baby.
'That should jolt him!' she thought.

But she met his best mate, Segida,
who promised to bring Isaiah to her.

She found him alone, at the hotel
where he'd gone and booked a room.

She was suspicious, but confident
she could thwart his advances.

She should have left; he was
too desperate; he ignored her protest:

'But, I'm your friend's girl!'
Segida swore he'd rather die

than leave such a beautiful girl
without making love to her.

After much struggle,
as he was too strong for her,

she gave in; later, resting her hand
on his chest, she traced incisions

on his shoulders, on his back,
marks on his knees; she saw

those deep cuts on his elbows.
She recognised immediately

the tell-tale signs of initiations
into the higher occult. She recognised

who he was--a wizard ranked
higher than her in the spirit world.

Falila stared at his naked back.
She did not know what to think.

15. Farewells

We were nervous after final exams.
We had no prospects as fresh graduates:

the hopeless eyes of recent and older
graduates hanging around the street corners,

still unemployed, had taught us to fear
for our lives. Segida and I had grown

apart; for hiding my letter of admission
to postgraduate school we had a fight;

but I forgave him. Yes, he wanted us
to continue business together,

but I knew my path of life
had changed on Prayer Mountain.

I also dismissed his claims that he
had slept with Falila: excitement

about our degree results overtook
all else; also, National Service called

and demanded that we return home--
Segida to Port Harcourt and me to Lagos.


16. Madam Ibadiaran

One night I nearly died--a casualty
of stray bullets--like those commuters

shot by policemen who demand bribes
at the roadside. Yes! I could have

disappeared, like those unfortunate victims
of kidnappers, mutilated for quick money.

But it was destiny that stopped my journey
to an early grave. I had protested against

my father's letter to Madam Ibadiaran,
but he prevailed. 'She is very influential!'

'Dad, I don't need 'long legs' [6] for National Service!'
'Just get to know her; she is well connected.'

Curiosity led me, with a letter in hand,
to Madam Ibadiaran who dated a politician

in the political era and now dates a general;
it is the military era, you see! She is stunning,

as ageless as she is charming.
'How is your Dad?' Her voice is silken.

'Okay, leave details there!' My dismissal
was with a sweep of hand; then, she asks,

'Do you smoke?'
'I beg your pardon, Ma?'

Fingers on her painted lips, she puffs,
she hits her head--it's the street sign

for cannabis. I'd been tempted
to smoke on my way (I was nervous,

you see, about meeting her) but her
mischievous eyes made me relax.

'Bring some for me next week,' she says.
Subsequently, we drove out to share a joint

and talk. She was such fun! Beneath
her enormous wealth and a streetwise mien

was a lonely woman; she would call,
and I would sneak in like a thief.

In her arms I fell from prophetic grace
and became her willing student till, one night,

exhausted, side by side in her bed,
the General banging on the door furiously,

urgently, her CCTV revealed three men
and armed soldiers standing with him.

She hounded me into my pants, down
the stairs into the cold kitchen store.

A coup d'etat had taken place.
Maradona had just stepped aside;

Sanni had chased him off the booty.
These two wolves did not need sheepskin.

These were days of national shame,
days when drug barons roamed freely,

days when a get-rich hysteria gripped
young and old; when men sold their soul,

and women peddled virtue for contracts;
when national morale was as valuable

as tissue paper--good enough to wipe
a dirty bum; cults of terrorists

sprang up everywhere; soldiers invaded
the campus for sex, and every pretty girl

was good for the picking on the bed
of stolen money; gangs roamed

the streets as state security bullied,
killed, arrested and tortured

any opposition. No-one was safe:
despots scurried to build empires,

hiding their booty overseas;
and lion-faced Sanni, he wielded

brutal power and an insatiable libido.
His harem of fleshpots was not enough:

he ordered Asian pussycats
to be delivered to the state mansion,

and he died in style, shooting off.
What a presidential dispatch!

He must have arrived, pants down,
thinking of billions of oil dollars

stashed away, left behind.
Good riddance to bad rubbish!

If the general had had a key that night,
or had forced his way into the flat,

I knew I'd be dead meat--shot,
for stealing from the honey pot.

I left madam, shaken but thanking G-d
I'd survived the coup and the Madam.

[6] Corrupt means

17. Restoration

My farewell to mother is on the unisex [7]
Mountain of Prayer, a picturesque

togetherness as we pray and she restores
my spirituality; mother sings and weeps

and her tears wash the mountainside
with tenderness like the dew at dawn

that wets our heads; mother and son
wait for the day to break; she hugs me,

tense lines on her forehead, her grey
hairs are more noticeable now; I wipe

tears off her cheeks as the mountain stirs
with the call to Prayer and people respond;

prayer bells jingle, mother smiles at me,
'I'll be praying for you.'

I will never forget that moment
holding my mother, making a promise,

the sounds of the prayer bells tinkling,
the coldness of the stone on which we sat,

the damp air of morning, the aroma of lemon
from the grass, the smell of her Ankara,

her tears in my palm. I am resolved
to take on the world and succeed; gazing

at the rising sun in the horizon, I submit
myself solemnly to the will of G-d.

I leave home to confront National Service
and the new world with enthusiasm.

[7] Mountains of Prayer in Nigeria are classified; some are for men only, others for
women only, and yet others for both men and women.

Part Two

18. Segida - The Pirate …

To make him a pirate
took more than howling seas,

more than the windswept splash
that ravages the beach.

To make him a pirate
took more than irate storms,

more than palm trees raining
down a patter of coconuts.

To make him a pirate
took more than wind melodies,

more than salty sprays that fill
the hair with grainy sands.

To make him a pirate
took more than starry nights, in dug-out

canoes cruising the sea-scented throat
of the river, hailing sea and the sun.

To make him a pirate
took more than acquaintance with nature,

more than the knowledge of earth's murmur,
more than the cry of intimacy within his soul.

To make him a pirate took manacles,
the shackle of oil pipes, the lament


of chains on land, the spills
and the suffocating oil fogs.

His fate is open for all to see
like sunshine on a lonely crag.

He's seen the nakedness of power,
the use of fear in the fight against freedom,

he wishes that, when his sun falls,
when his earth sleeps, that he'll be remembered

as the man who overcame his fear;
the man who lived and died for the land.

19. Masters Of The Creek

Segida returns home, where oil is drilled
like water but clean water is as scarce as gold;

he finds old friends too old, smoking cheap
rolled tobacco under the smog of gas flares.

He'd left Lagos an economics graduate, ready
to take up a job; to settle down; to follow a path

different from his father; to join politics; to find
a way to rescue his people from their misery.

He drinks with Solomon his father on his first night;
listens to the stories of the frenzied seventies,

the carefree days after the civil war, the many
foibles of oil boom and mindless spending sprees--

days when men had money for a second, third,
even fourth wife; when every Dick became

a contractor; when millionaires sprang up
overnight like cornstalk; when middlemen--

importers and exporters, forwarders
and back-warders-- mushroomed in the cities;

when farmers abandoned hoe and cutlass
for suit and tie; and oil--that jealous new wife--

drove aground every other industry; it was those
days when the shift and pull of market prices

began to rage like wildfire, when IMF kicked
us in the teeth with structural adjustment programs;

when the marginalised and exploited minority
were left behind in the mad scramble for

resources--left to pine in pain, without a voice--
left to bargain for the crumbs under the table.

So, Solomon and his friends took to piracy.
The sea was the only friend they had left.

20. Rotten Marrow

Segida walked through his childhood haunts--
creeks, brooks and streams now shallow

graves of freedom fighters against state
and oil companies. Solomon had taught him

to love this land, to understand the secrets
of the forest; the voice of herbs, the measure

of brews, the weight of words, the whisper
of gushing rivers, the echo of fear

in the hiss of darkness; he knew how to
dance to the songs of the howling ocean;

how to embrace life as a blending melody,
one unending symphony-- now a dissonant

scream and the sobs of loss, the frail voices
of the exiled: men and women, flora and fauna.

The boom is long bust, and some wives
have become prostitutes out of necessity;

Segida's economic theory was becoming real:
he saw the genocidal mutilation of the land,

the looting of property, the blatant display
of greed by authority figures. Where

were Greenpeace and Amnesty International,
the Worldwide Fund for Nature and UNEP?

Solomon welcomed his son home
with fresh tales of woe:

'I lost your stepmother to brutal soldiers
who shot her in the back. It was a dawn

that exploded with grenades and gunfire.
Soldiers ripped apart our street--rat tat tat

boom! Rat tat tat boom! Machine gun,
and then grenade. Fire engulfed

several houses. My friend Douglas
and his family were burnt alive.

I ran with your stepmother
past children with broken limbs--

past men mutilated by bullets--
past women who sat deranged,

confused. I carried her when she
was shot, with blood gushing

from her punctured chest.
They attacked us because of riots

at an installation; we knew nothing, son!'
Segida could see his father's tears;

his own mother had died at childbirth,
but his father had married again

however since his stepmother's death,
he'd vowed never to marry again.

Men and women had mocked him
in a community where polygamy

was accepted, but he did not waver;
he had a new cause now, to lift his people

out of misery. Solomon laughed
when it was rumoured that he

was impotent--how could he be?
He, to whom women came for fertility;

young girls for love potions; men for power,
virility and wealth! Can that repository

of healing be impotent? Segida
had arrived in the land of bones

that wept; he vowed to restore
to the bones the justice they deserved.

21. Andoga

Solomon had a nightmare
on the night before Andoga died.

It was a premonition of sorts:
they were fishing together

at night and a fog of darkness
had enveloped their canoe;

it also draped the moon until
it was pitch dark. They began to row

for the shore and it was calm;
then, as the darkness wrapped them,

the sea erupted into sudden
violence and their canoe capsized.

Solomon felt the sea dragging him
down and away--and then he woke up.

But then Andoga rarely went to sea;
Andoga was a farmer.

But as Solomon pondered this dream,
the wail of women and uproar

got to him; Andoga was dead!
But Andoga had no wish to die,

not with his two eldest sons!
But the growling earthmovers--

monsters in dawn's twilight,
belching out smoke, saluting

the blue light of day--provoked him.
He saw the tractors grinding

his crops, cassava and yam tubers
being squashed under tyres;


he saw the huge pipes lying
in pyramid piles to replace his crops,

for the encroaching tycoons,
to further line their filthy pockets.

Andoga charged mindlessly with machete
at gun-wielding soldiers. No,

he had not said goodbye to his wives,
nor his two boys to their mothers!

Before the sun mercilessly beat
their corpses that day, their machetes

had severed two soldiers' heads.
The village went on the rampage

at the sight of their dead, determined
to blow up oil installations! It took Solomon

hours to calm their rage
and desire to avenge Andoga's death

as the oil-dredging company dug
into Andoga's land. Segida became more

determined that foreign oil companies
and their cronies must face justice.

22. United Nations Day--Port Harcourt 1994

It was a celebration of a heritage
under threat, yet they marched.

It was the United Nations Day,
celebrating indigenous people.

Three hundred thousand people
prayed for reason and attention.

They chanted and marched--for respite
from the spills and flares, for justice

in polluted marshland, for the innocent
massacred, those buried in shallow graves,

and others nursing unmentionable diseases;
they marched for a fairer share of oil revenues.

'We want justice! We need royalties, not diseases!'
These fishermen and farmers--men, women,

walking, talking, chanting--had not
reckoned with the 'kill and go'--the mobile

police unit standing by, reputed to inject
'crack' to be inhuman, ready to smash

children against walls and to rip women
apart with penis one foot long. The 'kill and go',

encouraged and funded by oil-mining
companies, will gladly impale men

on bayonets to suppress the march;
the money is bloody in the hands paid

to protect who kill the innocent. Segida
met Umuechem village mourning; saw houses

smouldering; heard of men killed, women
raped, children abused. The 'kill and go',

and the State Attorney General who resigned
to get employment with an oil company, will have

judgement in heaven, and the Attorney General
was even a son of the soil; what a shame!

23. Yolanda

The butchery attracted no worldwide interest;
the oil companies and cronies ensured

it was another paraffin wick in a tin can lamp,
with no oil, soon forgotten. Yolanda's story

infuriated Segida the most. He fell in love
with her solitary figure at her daily shrine;

he understood her need for solitude
at the watery grave of her son.

Yolanda's husband Basil and her baby
died because of the Bakassi oilfield dispute

between Nigeria and Cameroon. Basil
was born and bred in Cameroon, a Nigerian.

He traded across the border as his father
had done before him; he was returning

in a truck with his pregnant bride,
that cruel night of gunfire.

They were attacked; two tyres burst;
the lorry toppled, dragging bodies; flesh

peeled on the tarmac, breaking bones;
screams of pain lacerated metal cracks

in the carnage; bodies were flung like
dolls and lay still. Hostility had begun

between communities who had lived
and intermarried for generations.

Now they fought as enemies, while rigs
like giant mosquitoes drilled and sucked

out their land's resources--their life blood--
leaving parasites and a fever of death.

Yolanda was barely alive when Solomon
arrived and found her, with foetus aborted,

her womb torn; Segida met her in mourning,
mourning the bite of unborn gums

that she would never feel on her engorged breasts.
Basil's relatives hardly waited for his body

to turn cold before scrambling for his property.
They threw out the young bride and hinted

it was her witchcraft that killed Basil
and their baby; only Solomon stood by her.

He took her in, fed her, watched over her
like an elderly uncle a beloved niece.

Yolanda had nothing to live for.
Segida resolved to fight for victims like her!

It was a cause to live for, a cause to die for.
But then he met with more deception.

24. Deception

Segida heard of Falila's pregnancy
and found good cause for fighting

another fight. He bought her costly gifts
to assuage his conscience, for his

deception in getting her to bed.
He became obsessed with thoughts

of her carrying his child
and invited her to meet his father;

he proposed marriage and paid her dowry.
Segida began to love Falila

with all his heart and, months later,
Jemima was born. At Jemima's celebration

Segida was reminded of his resolve
to give his people a better life.

He watched the dancer shake
her waist; watched as bangles tinkled

on her ankles, and big earrings
dangled on her ears as she welcomed

everyone. This was the dance
for the new child coming out

to meet the world--but the drums
and the village poet sang a dirge;

they sang the history of the tribe;
they sang of the signs of the times.

Segida watched the dance and drama
as the dancer stopped and paced

back and forth, striking the back
of her palm on her other palm

again and again, asking what life
held for the newborn.

She began to dance again, this time
she dipped her feet one at a time


into a large basin of water, lifted up
the calabash in her hand, waved it

to the left and to the right. She then
placed the calabash in the water.

The women had eyes brimming with tears.
The little girl's fate was now with Yemoja,

the river G-ddess. The priestess began to chant.
But Segida knew that rain had not fallen;

the fishes that once graced the river had gone,
and farmlands had been excavated

for pipelines, without compensation.
Segida was determined not to wait

for Yemoja; he joined the Black Fist
so Jemima could have a better future.

25. The Black Fist

Solomon sent for them to gather
in his 'Adullam'-style cave--and they came--

the angry, the disenchanted, the dispossessed,
the jobless; without regard for age or rank

they came from everywhere: Warri, Sapele,
Patani, Degema, Ughelli. They found in Solomon

the passion for the unity they needed,
so they heeded his call to fight together.

They met in a cave: Ijaw, Urhobo,
Itshekiri, Ogoni and other youths;

they sat by a fire together, listening
to the tide's incoming lap-lapping splash.

Solomon's goal to overcome disunity--
that bane of life in the Niger Delta--

was becoming real. Years of protest
and crying for reparation had failed:

government programmes had been
abortive and oil-company efforts futile.

Bloodshed was fuelled again and again
between Urhobo and Itshekiri clans

in isolated communities, and payouts
for damages to farmland only sparked

more distrust and a scramble for more
payouts. These youths knew each other

by reputation from campus social clubs,
cults and fraternities; gangs with names

like Vultures, Pirates, Black Axe,
Mafia L-rds, Eiye, KKK--all veterans

of bloody campus warfare now faced
one enemy-- the government! They stripped

naked and swore an oath to stand together;
to fight as one; to die for coastland,

community and country. Alhaji Shalizo
Mujahidin Brown, the military adviser,

like others had turned to militant Islam
for ideology: at the collapse of communism,

he had assumed his Muslim name
and took interest in learning the Koran.

Shalizo, former college Trotskyite, trained in
Tripoli then Islamabad, now trained the Black Fist.

26. Pirates Of The Delta

Elders from Andoga's village said to Black Fist,
'We will fight to the last man, woman and child.'

The community called for an election
boycott, but Black Fist made other plans

to avenge the men and women, and children
who whimpered in corners with mutilated

minds--the stain of innocent blood on
the conscience of a nation. Yolanda,

code-named Tarantula, sat up on the bed
of an engineer at base camp; she

had secured details of security arrangements.
The D-day was calm; the sea was blue;

but shadows of mangrove trees held death.
In the serene forest marshes, men waited

with hearts pumping; they waited
for Shalizo's signal, whose gunboat crew

had just overrun an oil-flow station
where he had set demolition charges;

another group waited for the boat
bringing workers from the offshore rig.

The blast shook the entire area for miles!
Later, on CNN, an oil-company spokesman

appealed to Black Fist for the release
of two British, an American and five

other hostages. Shalizo, who was once
a Pentecostal Christian but now an

ideological Muslim, addressed the captives:
'Gentlemen, you are here to experience

our pain; to experience the consequences
of your actions and inaction. If you die

during your residency here, then
it is fate that you die; I assure you,

you will not be missed! If you live,
then you will be our messengers; you

will take the word out to the world.
You will tell them our breath costs us;

our land and waterways kill us; we
are prey to the most callous genocide

on our homeland; we are a generation
that must redefine history!'

27. The Messenger

Martin Dodd would not argue with anybody.
He was not keen on ideologies, he was

a home boy from North Dakota. No,
he didn't want to die in this cave!

The rust of the handcuffs was beginning
to irritate his fair skin. He struggled

to collect his thoughts wildly running
through a maze of confusion; would he see

his family again? Tied up in damp darkness,
he reflected on his life. He reckons he's had

a good life till now--a good education,
a good wife, a young daughter. He'd never

thought of these natives as people with families
too, with children who had aspirations;

he was just an engineer doing his job.
He'd never thought about death, either,

nor of how and where he'd like to die,
but each day in captivity had given him options:

would his employers pay a ransom;
was there a rescue operation under way?

He could not stop imagining--would it
be a bullet through his head or heart, quick

and clean; or drowning, slow and painful;
or bone-clubbed to death, messy and brutal;

or the sharp blade of the machete to the neck
or limbs; would he bleed to death on the sand?

28. Dead Man's Head

There was nothing extraordinary
about the naval boat that powered


that morning into the creek, nor
the binoculars perched on the nose

of Lt Commander Femi Bala as he
surveyed the creek for pirates.

It was a routine patrol, and he had orders
to guard ship routes. 'You never know

who is running what,' he'd been warned.
'Oil bunkering is, after all, free for all

these days--for senior officers and top
politicians to stash away cash in tax

havens and finance political ambitions.
Militants use it too, to buy arms and protection.

Pirates and militants continue to follow
the time-honoured practice of collecting toll

from ships and international bunkering
syndicates.' Bala knew the connection

of these cartels was straight up to powers
that be, which meant that no-one would be prosecuted.

The gunshot that splintered Bala's arm
rang out suddenly; the pain rattled his brain;

blood spurted; another bullet spun him
around as his boat glided into an ambush.

With his left hand Bala pulled his pistol
from holster ordering 'Kill on sight!'

But his men were no match for Segida's men,
who blocked the creek exit with flotilla

of timber primed with explosives. The gunboat
was boarded and held at gunpoint.

When Segida put a machete to Lt Commander
Femi Bala's neck, soldiers and militants gasped;

the man's body twitched as Segida
severed his head, leaving a blood trail.

Segida and his men left the dead
and the wounded behind.

Dipreye nauseated confronted Segida
in their speedboat: 'Why did you do that?

That was a man, not an animal!'
'And this is psychological warfare,'

Segida replied, deadpan: 'Let them look
for his head; let them learn to fear;

let them feel our hate and know
we can be brutal and unconventional.'

29. The Messenger

Martin Dodd dreamt of freedom.
He wasn't a religious man

but he began to pray to G-d--
each of the hostages handled things

differently. His instinct told him
Shalizo had no qualms

about killing them if it served
his purpose; his look and his tone

was that of a man consumed by hate.
It wasn't just the violence that frightened

Martin, but willingness by these men
to die! As for Segida, he'd heard of people

under demonic influence and now
he knew he had seen one.

The men had a bizarre camaraderie
and, when one of them died,

they drank and laughed and celebrated.
This was madness to Martin; he had

to get away! But then Shalizo
needed a messenger, so he decided

he would offer to be the messenger
if that would enable him embrace freedom.

He began to learn new values
in the transient captivity: moving

from cave to cave, blindfolded,
he was humbled by the hospitality

of his hosts and ashamed
at the dignity his captors gave them;

he learned the wisdom of their
philosophy that preserving Mother Earth

was worth more to all than earthly
gain to a few. Each sunrise

that stung his skin gave him hope;
the grains of sand that irritated

his toes began to feel more
like encrusted diamonds;

each breath was precious
beyond measure; when the cock

crowed again and chickens clucked and played,
when night brought a symphony of sound,

he was tuned-in sufficiently to appreciate life,
to love the cause, to become the messenger.

30. Port Harcourt Dribblers

Their visit was under duress:
the three local leaders felt no assurance

in the pock-marked face
of the military man, who smiled

as he shook their hands; his reputation
was worse than a rattlesnake;

his sting as readily given as his smile.
The Director of National Intelligence

had received the names of youths
in the community, with promises

to arrange for jobs with the oil
companies--pledges never meant to be.

Months later, the chiefs understood--
too late--that, while they were being cajoled

by the pock-faced monster, the police
were being authorised to go and, 'waste'

the youths who had been unfortunate enough
for their names to be given. It was when Chief

Barikaba naively rallied militant youths
with promises of jobs and scholarships,

that he aroused suspicion that the three
elders had sold their consciences for gain.

Many weeks later, in Bori town, on a night
when the moon was unsure about sneaking

out of shaggy clouds looking like the edge
of clean silverware--when men with rheumy

eyes drank tombo deep into the next day--
a black car cruised into the town, stirring

suspicion as it travelled down Douglass Street
beyond the square towards Romoulla Street

in central Bori. The red flash of light
only stopped briefly at Chief Barikaba's house.

By sunup, everyone knew the Chief
had visitors in the night. His broadcast

on radio later that day to rescind
the boycott of elections, only confirmed

the suspicions that he'd been bribed;
this enraged the youths, who attacked

and killed four elders--a violent
mob action with brutal police reprisals.

Ken Saro Wiwa and others were accused.
The trial of the Ogoni Nine began.

31. Ogoni Liberation Song

"Naa le be gen le sii, men be puin"
Arise, arise, Ogoni people arise

We will not be oppressed!
Work, work, Ogoni people work,


We will not be oppressed!
Study, study, Ogoni people

We will not be oppressed!
Fight, fight, Ogoni people

We will not be oppressed!
Be proud, be proud, Ogoni people,

We will not be oppressed
We will not be oppressed.

32. On The Shoreline Of Death [8]
(For Ken Saro Wiwa)

You strip down, lashed at on a tatty
shore. Death washes your feet,

fish belly-up in filmy waves. Invectives
drench the fabrics of your mind.

You watch wealth raped, razed and rinsed
away. Your words splash, hurt, uncurl

and ooze. You grapple at visions with
men of prejudice on the edge of darkness.

Elders wearing garments of greed
spread the thighs of the land and plunge.

They dig graves of posterity with shelled
fingers. They cuddle with promises,

but bring death. They rip like a fierce tide,
to suck out your resolve, with bullets

and bombs; you clutch at justice, fragrant
with fortitude. You spout jets of verse,

strewn on their mounting madness.
You become a silhouette, an abandoned

tuneless light, like vestiges of a rainbow,
a gleam of tapestry at the precipice

of dusk that glints insistent, engraving
the rock of conscience, until shackles

of inequity crack off. Your soul, hustled
out of time, glides in immortality.

'The struggle continues.'

[8] First published in Dance the Guns to Silence: 100 poems for Ken Saro Wiwa: a ten-
year's memorial anthology for Ken Saro Wiwa and eight others; eds., Nii Ayikwei
Parkes and Khadija Sesay (London: Flipped Eye Publishing 2005), p. 34.

Part Three

33. Ordination

After National Service, Isaiah returned
to those austere mountains of prayer

where prophet Obadiah guided
devotees into divine presence.

It was as if sparks of light were
falling with the rain to welcome him;

the night bristled thunder; the atmosphere
heady, intoxicating, with the rhythm

of the prophet's devotees singing
in voices fierce beyond the rumbling skies.

Their faces peered at the radiant
majesty of the throne, reserved

for Yahweh on the mountain
overlaid with gold. Their ardour

infused Isaiah; in tears of delight
he was caught in a trance; he beheld

a mass of people in aimless flow
and a spirit guide appeared and pointed

at some people: 'Those are the chosen ones.'
The spirit guide was so gentle, his voice,

so soft, Isaiah barely heard: 'See, their
foreheads are marked; watch them

as they struggle against the throng';
Isaiah watched as many people struggled

on the fringe of the mob; defenceless,
they seemed to be going against the flow

and were despised by all the rest.
Isaiah was not the only one standing by:

there were other watchers, other eyes
with blurry tears; then vultures

began to pour out from the womb
of the dark clouds and to pick at random

the many defenceless on the fringe of
the crowd, till the ground became

a litter of blood, flesh, bones; then a ring
of men and women rushed out in white robes;

they began to chase the birds, with incense,
swinging censers at the birds. The angel

told Isaiah to look more closely at the men
and women in ashen robes whose

activities seemed futile: their lamps
were cold, their faces devoid of resolve

to fight the world's sin; they were
only going through the motions.

That was when Isaiah began to weep--
'Who will help these people?

Who will fight for the afflicted?'
Obadiah suddenly announced:

'Isaiah, do you see G-d's poor,
the dead and dying? These are the world's

wounded, those who did not
want to hear or accept G-d's word;

they are bound for the eternal deep!
Therefore, I anoint you today with

this holy oil. Become Yahweh's prophet!
Go therefore and rescue the perishing souls!'

34. Baptism In Kaduna

Isaiah feels the raw fear and bitterness
of Pastor Oludare's tale as he begins

to narrate his experiences with Kaduna
Islamic extremists: 'There are not enough

graves for the young here--barely born,
they are uprooted in the name of G-d;

there are no permanent homes for women
either, no sacred honour for the womb-bearers;

Mother Earth is desecrated, her blood is spilled
again and again. Where will the paradise be

in G-d's holy heaven for those who kill
in the name of G-d? Will the murderers

live forever? Will they not join their
ranks in the final Judgement?

For those with a mind to think,
what hypocrisy is hidden in the mind

of those who think G-d is an angel
of death to the irreligious? Those

who don robes of piety or white turbans
symbolic of peace will be torn, their

high wall of knowledge will fall.
The messenger of the covenant will appear,

the day of vengeance will come,
the hysteria of destruction will sweep

through the city and clean it of filth.'
Isaiah had heard of the religious riots

of the sixties and seventies that left
survivors still nursing memories of their loss;

he would never understand such hatred
from man to man--and in G-d's name?

'It began with a rumour: that someone
had torn a page off the Holy Koran,

no one saw the page, neither could anyone
identify where it took place, but there was


mayhem; Oludare was in his office, praying,
when the phone rang and Miriam, a member,

desperately warned him of the riot.
'Pastor!' she screamed, 'Run for your life!

They are coming towards the church!'
Oludare had lived through the Maitatsine riot,

which was repelled by armed military
members of the Church who stopped

the mob from burning down the church.
But this time he was alone; he heard the roar

as the chanting mob charged up the road.
He began to pray, pleading the blood

of Jesus for his safety. His wife phoned;
she was hysterical, so he switched her off;

he didn't want her to hear the mob.
Someone put an axe to the door,

and then a woman shouted in Hausa,
'Get petrol!' Then the door went up in flames.

He decided he would not wait to be roasted alive,
so he made a run for it. His exit through

the window of the toilet landed him
in front of an axe-wielding young man,

who struck him in the head like he was
a rodent scurrying out of a hole.

Life exploded into a white blur
and his whole life flashed like a film.

It was his wife's hysterical face he saw first,
then the forlorn look of his son, asking

'Where is my daddy?' He felt his blood
draining quickly out of the open gash.

Then white shoes appeared before his face
on the earthen floor, where he lay still.

They belonged to a man; he was impeccable
in his dressing and he spoke flawless Hausa;

in very commanding tones, he shouted
'Leave him!'

The axe, poised to strike his neck,
stopped in the air as the young men

looked at the stranger and then departed.
It was the stranger that brought him

to the hospital where soldiers stood guard.
Isaiah noticed the scar that ran down

one side of the back of his head
as Pastor Oludare narrated his story:

'This church was burnt down and I was
bitter for a few days, asking why?

Why did G-d not strike them down?
Why did my friend lose his wife and children?

Why were many left dead in their own blood?
But I know G-d commands us to love and forgive,

so we began again, determined to serve G-d,
and I am happy to welcome you to serve with me.'

35. Healing Missions

The sun rose, even as Isaiah was tearfully
awestruck at the mystery of G-d's revelations.

G-d's glowing presence constrained him
to worship as it flowed into his bedroom

in Kaduna--that Northern Muslim city
of religious riots, waves of violence, arson

and murder, where such latent hatred existed
between the North and South, feelings

that pre-dated independence; where the North,
ever suspicious, wanted a larger share

of resources and a hold on power using
census figures as fighting tool against their

southern counterparts. Over the years,
the fight for political power had taken

many shades and colours, and Kaduna
remained notorious for the Maitatsine riots

demanding Sharia law in the 1980s,
and the 1987 fatal quarrel between Christian

and Muslim students that left hundreds
of people dead. This was where Isaiah

had come; it was here that G-d visited Isaiah;
it was here Isaiah was to take the reins

of Victory Church for Christ. Fires of emotion
raged in him that morning as he prayed

in fiery tongues. Pastor Oludare's tale
of horror was not forgotten, he was afraid;

but Prophet Obadiah's mountain experience
was nothing compared to the majesty

of the presence he felt in his room
or the reassuring voice that resounded:

'Isaiah, what do you want me to do?'
It was the most amazing request

of his life: what does He want?
After agonising on a precipice

of indecision, he blurted out,
'L-rd, I want your presence in my mission.'

The L-rd replied, 'I will send you a woman
whose pregnancy has been held in the grip

of evil powers for eighteen months.'
Isaiah believed G-d as Moses did,

he was Paul on the dusty road to Damascus.
At Sabon Gari church that morning,

when the pregnant woman arrived,
Isaiah instantly recognised her and obeyed

what G-d had told him to do; he told
her how the forces of witchcraft

that had kept her from delivering
her baby would be defeated. Isaiah

wept as the heat from his hands sizzled
onto the woman's distended stomach;

she also began to cry as Isaiah rebuked
the witch, then he commanded her,

'In the name of Jesus Christ, run
to the hospital and have your baby now!'

Her baby boy arrived as soon
as she reached the hospital. The news

of this miracle spread swiftly.
People began to flock to see Isaiah;

each service in Kaduna became a celebration
of testimonies, of healing, of praise, and of joy.


In the midst of this ecstasy, one day
Isaiah heard G-d's voice thundering:

'I will not trade memories with this generation!
I will not trade my honour with the putrefied

arrogance of man's intellect! His pungent
ashes will stink like Sodom and Gomorrah.

Those who forsake the right path and spit
at the truth, those who kick their G-d aside,

those who will not repent? I will multiply
plague in the cities: cancer, diabetes,


AIDS, malaria, typhoid, meningitis;
heart diseases will wreak havoc as their reward,

the evidence of their indulgence; desolation
and despair will reign until my Jonah

is heard. Will this Nineveh not repent?
Will they not seek restoration?'

Isaiah was led out to see the nightlife.
He saw cars comb through streets as men

hunted for drug-crazed, scantily dressed girls
who asked in their dark chambers,

'Skin or rubber?' At the door of ubiquitous death,
Isaiah wonders, is there any dignity?

Why would anyone despise life so blatantly,
why would anyone sell death so pleasurably?

Eager eyes peered at him each day
Isaiah preached; desperate for life,

the eyes hang unto each word he uttered;
glances and nods accented his scriptural references--

sometimes an impromptu voice of the sick--
the dying--would burst forth, and all those

who have accepted Yahweh would start to sing,
waiting eagerly for His salvation on earth.

x x x

And there was Grace, who was a frame
of bones and dry loose skin when she

came to the healing school; her husband
had died of HIV/AIDS; she'd lost

her only girl, Sandra; she and Kevin
her son tenaciously grappled for

a miracle; Grace began to sit in church
on cushions with her tender hipbones

sticking out, but soon her hips began
to smoothen out and Kevin began to play;

then Grace sat up unaided upon chairs;
she returned from the valley of the shadow

of death, her confidence in life restored;
she became the advert of the healing school.

x x x

Then came Kasangana; his family
had put his coffin by him-- the inevitability

of his death made them do so;
lack of space made them put it by his bed.

Each day, Kasangana woke up to daylight
shining over the wooden vehicle meant

to take him beyond the sea; but he defied
the darkness, it was not his time,

he wasn't ready. Can death be so mocked?
Kasangana heard of Isaiah's healing school.

He asked to be taken there; Isaiah preached
about Jesus the Christ, who rose from the dead.

Deep within Kasangana something happened:
he rose up, moved the coffin, went out

back to work; the indomitability of his soul
was a mystery! Isaiah laboured tirelessly

at his school--preaching, healing, praying
with men and women so desperate to live,

so desperate to overcome the pestilence of evil.
He caused the sick, ignorant and arrogant

to know G-d, to know that G-d cared.
Isaiah showed them that he, too, cared:

he led his church with integrity;
he counselled them lovingly;

but, in the midst of the hope, Isaiah
accepted the inevitability of death.

People with troubled hearts had found
a new prophet! They flocked to him ever more.

36. The Caged Birds

In the thickets of mangrove trees,
Segida went beyond the path where

warriors dread to tread; in a grotto
he sat, holding another human head.

He waited for the priest to take him
through the rituals. He recalled

his first initiation--how his dad had
stood, proudly observing--but tonight

he stood alone, ready to go beyond
his father, beyond the human barrier.

He was to enter a blood covenant
with Satan; to do the will of darkness;

to give everything and anything;
to sacrifice wife, child, his manhood,

in exchange for power and protection.
Segida wanted to silence his conscience;

there was no turning back now.
Falila had known when Segida's affair began--

it was Yolanda's unease with her
that gave the game away.

Yolanda looked at him in a certain way,
when he called her Tarantula--it was

with admiration. After the kidnappings,
Segida became a wanted man. Falila

and Jemima were under surveillance.
She decided to return to Lagos; she knew

Segida had killed and he would kill again.
For a while she had believed in the cause

to protect the land, to fight for justice,
for sustainable development,

to fight for the rule of law and emancipation
of the people; but there was something

more sinister--an evil spreading, a cancer
that was in his voice, in his eyes;

she could hear it when his demons
began to speak at night; when he hurt her

with rough sex; his sleeplessness
began to frighten her. She knew

he was on the edge--that twilight
between the living and the dead.

He was living on 'crack', gunrunning
and drug-trafficking; he didn't talk

to her of Black Fist any more, for her safety.
Falila began to fear that Jemima

would become an orphan and she a widow.
Segida had neutralised her witchcraft

with his superior occult powers;
she was happy about this, but soon

she discovered she was a slave
of the bird in her; a caged pet.

Since his affair had begun with Yolanda
all talk between them had ended in anger.

She decided to find Isaiah
and tell him the truth about Jemima.

37. Jemima

Jemima, who loved her mum and dad,
was now troubled: Falila, who came

to kiss her goodnight, did so without
the emotion she had known; her dad

had begun to shout at her and her Mum.
Jemima had often heard her parents at night

whisper and giggle while she cuddled
her doll, happy that they were happy.


But soon Segida began to arrive home drunk;
Jemima heard them one night, grunting

and struggling, her mum was shouting,
'Leave me, murderer! Do you want to kill me?

Kill me too! Be happy!' She could hear
blows and her mum's moan of submission.

Falila would beg Segida.
'Please let me go with my daughter!'

'She's my daughter too! Isn't she, isn't she?'
When Falila screamed with pain,

Jemima cried to her dad,
'Leave mum alone daddy, please daddy!'

The house stopped breathing;
Jemima could be heard crying and sobbing;

then Segida stomped out to the car,
the door banged and he drove off to screeching tyres.

Falila and Jemima hugged and held each other
in desperation; the eyes of Jemima's teddy

glowed in the dark room; she stared
at her cabinet, at her special pair of shoes,

that mum had bought her for the school play,
she remembered being the proudest girl once.

Falila didn't want Jemima to see
her bruises, and Jemima promised herself

not to look or touch them, even though
she wanted to. Often, she wished she

could fly like a mutant after her father;
take him by his neck and swing him

through the clouds; watch him beg and promise
not to hit her mum again or make their

household a laughing stock of the part
of Port Harcourt where they lived.

Falila held her daughter's hands,
then hugged her, ran her hand in her

hair, as Jemima listened to Falila's heartbeat,
resting her head on her mother's breasts.

38. Letter To Kaduna

Falila's career had ended abruptly:
Segida saw all her male colleagues

as potential threats; he gave her everything
but happiness. Falila wished life were easier,

particularly for Jemima; she had composed
several letters to Isaiah in her mind

but she tore them up each time, as none
seemed adequate to explain his daughter

after eight years. She had followed his progress
in Kaduna since he became the prophet

in the new-breed mega-church; she'd rehearsed
meeting him and finally one day she wrote to him:

'Dear Isaiah, accept my congratulations on your success,
which has filled the land. I've heard of your healing

schools; I'm very proud you have made such progress.
It's been eight years and I've had no peace; I owe you

an explanation; not that I did not try, but you deliberately
avoided me. You must know that you are part of me

and I am part of you forever because Jemima
is our daughter. I did my best to tell you but met

Segida instead. Now all the men I have ever loved
have been taken from me; first it was Fatai,

then my dad and now you, but if it will give you any joy,
I want you to know that the power of witchcraft

over my life was broken by your friend Segida,
my husband, though I am now truly his slave for it.

Yes we got married; he believed Jemima was his;
I have not told him she is yours. I don't expect much

from you and will not demand anything from you;
all I ask is please come and take your daughter

from the hell that your friend is creating for us,
I remain your friend, Falila.'

39. One Phone Call

Isaiah read Falila's letter, trembling
as he stared at the photograph of the girl

in school uniform; could a few nights
with condoms produce this beautiful creature?

He was troubled; was it a hoax?
But Falila could not lie, but then why

did she wait so long? Could he
have been a father all these years?

It was not an unpleasant thought; he would,
of course, insist on blood and DNA tests.

Isaiah still cannot imagine Segida married
to Falila, but he will have to respect that;

and if Falila says Jemima is his daughter
then Jemima must be his daughter.

Then a telephone call arrives that strikes
him numb: 'Mama died this morning.'

Isaiah's father was sober: 'What killed her?
How could mama die?' Her admonitions

still rang in his heart; she always desired
to see his children in her letters.

Sixty is too young to die. Was his mother
dying while he was healing the sick

in his church in Kaduna? Isaiah wept bitterly,
'L-rd, don't take her now!' Through the night

he sat, reminiscing in the dark, of his mama,
how she loved him, her incessant labour

in the kitchen, her concern and her prayers.
Isaiah sobbed till he slept, but he woke

resolved to wake her from the dead as Jesus
raised Lazarus. He read again her last letter;

why didn't she tell him she was sick?
'Dear Isaiah,' she began and Isaiah

imagined her behind the big brown table
in her room--the one with piled-up newspapers

and documents; he could see her bent over,
her glasses primed on her nose, her Bible

opened at salient passages; he recalled
the nostalgic aroma of egusi soup wafting

about the house, its pot on the charcoal fireplace.
'I hope you are behaving yourself. I have

kept my promise of praying for you
on Mountain Obadiah every week, but

despite my prayers, you must have a relationship
with G-d yourself. I think of your marriage

these days; when will I carry your children
in these hands, son?'

Tears rolled down Isaiah's cheeks
as he read mama's letter.


'You, my child, are the fruit
of my patient relationship with G-d.

You must guard your mind from
every corrupting influence so you can attain

your goals; you must teach your mind
to think along with G-d's word in His holy book;

check out these scripture readings; they are
my thoughts for you; meditate on them,

and when you have time let me know how you are.
Philippians 2:12, 'Wherefore, my beloved, as ye

have always obeyed, not as in my presence only,
but now much more in my absence, work

out your own salvation with fear and trembling.'
Philippians 4:8, 'Finally, brethren, whatsoever

things are true, whatsoever things are honest,
whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things

are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever
things are of good report; if there be any virtue

and if there be any praise, think of these things.'
I remain your loving mother, Lydia.'

Isaiah wrapped a blanket around his body
and held the letter to his chest; he never felt so lonely.

Did mama know she was going to die?
He pushed aside the blinds and stared at the night.

No stars appeared in the sky; not one blink
of reassurance. Isaiah wasn't looking for a sign

but he searched the dark dispassionate night,
wishing he could tell mama he would become

everything she wanted him to be.
He wished G-d would talk to him

but there was no voice.
Only darkness. The wind wept

around the trees; Isaiah wept
with the wind, the trees, the stars.

40. Broken Spirits

Isaiah fasted and prayed; he was trusting
that G-d would raise up his mother.

But the cold mortuary drained his spirit.
The sight was beyond the image in his mind--

the soft-hearted, soft-spoken woman who wept
on his shoulder and blessed him in prayer

on Obadiah's mountain was no more.
Isaiah was speechless by his mother's corpse.

Death was such a formidable foe, his faith
gave way to despair. Later, as her corpse

was washed and dressed for burial, he determined
to be strong, to share his faith with his father,

who had graciously accepted the responsibility
for burying his wife, although they were separated.

It was his opportunity to tell his dad that the dead
in Christ lived forever; mama was not dead,

she had only slept; Christ has swallowed death
on Calvary's cross. Mama was buried;

she had chosen to be with her maker.
Isaiah wrote her a poem--'Life is a dash':

'Life is as fragile as a bunch of wreaths,
like a march through pews of sombre faces,

a memory soon forgotten; life's last dash
is louder than the first cry, like a motorcade

from an empty chapel where the cross looks on,
it's a case now lost, or won forever. Last dash

would end in flames and ashes, or as dug earth
drawn over rigid flesh like bedclothes. Short

and long dashes from first breath to final gasp,
the path of each life, an account for each breath spent.'

41. The Reunion

Falila and Isaiah finally met
at Lydia's burial. Her smile

was brief but her voice strained
as she touched his hand to express

her deepest-felt condolences.
She was now Segida's wife; Isaiah

was now Yahweh's priest and a prophet.
The past was gone and his desire

for her was gone with it. He admitted,
though, she was still beautiful,

with those daring big eyes;
she was unchanged in eight years.

Isaiah was happy she had come.
Segida was in Port Harcourt, she'd said;

Isaiah longed to see his old friend,
to catch up on the jokes of the past eight years.

Behind Falila's dark sunglasses,
her eyes were intense, they followed him.

Isaiah could not imagine what was
on her mind; why now reveal his daughter

after eight years, and she has not told Segida?
She requests that he visits Segida's Lagos residence

to meet Jemima, his daughter. Isaiah spends time
with friends who had come to the funeral, but

his thoughts revolve around his meeting
with his daughter Jemima. No talk yet of DNA

or other medical tests, mothers always knew.
Losing a mother, gaining a daughter;

no comparisons--but, somehow, Isaiah began
to wish it were true, that he truly was a father.

42. Three Kola Nuts In A Shaman's Plate

Isaiah arrived at the address in Ikeja GRA,
pleased his friend had done well;

the duplex set back in large grounds
was opulent; Isaiah was eager

to see Jemima but Falila insisted
they have a drink and a chat first.

'Jemima is fine; she is in her room!
How does it feel to be a famous pastor in Kaduna?'

'Nothing more than being a committed Christian!
And how is your mum?' Isaiah asked.

'I haven't seen her since I married Segida.'
'So have you told Segida about Jemima?'

'Segida proposed before I could explain.'
Suddenly the lights go off; Falila stands up;

'I'll switch on the generator.' She calls
to Jemima to remain in her room.

Then something hard hit Isaiah's neck;
like the house has fallen on him;

the room in darkness spins round,
stars sparkle as his skull throbs.

Isaiah tries to sort out his neck
to be sure his head is on it;


he tries to focus his eyes, roll his tongue,
swallows what seems like a stream of blood

flowing from his lips. A glare of lights
from car passing outside outlines a man

coming at him. Isaiah scrambles away;
he is groggy as the metal bar crashes

at him again, missing his head.
'Falila, Jemima, where are you?'

Isaiah hears the door as Falila rushes in
and the man hits her on the shoulder;

she screams, sprawled under the dining table;
Isaiah feels raw and warm blood trickle

down his neck, a searing pain pervades
his whole body; his mind cannot make out

what is happening. The blackout
is not unusual-- the entire country

is accustomed to regular total darkness;
Lagos electricity chooses when to come

on and off! The metal bar flashes
and swipes again; Isaiah jerks back

into action; Falila whimpers on the floor;
'Armed thief!' she shouts. Jemima cries

for help in her room, terrified. Isaiah
watches over Falila as she crawls

into the corner; her face is a mask
of horror as the man approaches her.

Isaiah must do something; the window
lets in streams of moonlight like an evil halo

magnifying the intruder's silhouette
against the inner wall of the room.

Is this a robber? How did he get in?
What does he want? Why doesn't he

make demands? Within Isaiah's reach
is a chair that he swings with

all his strength at the advancing figure.
The metal crushes the chair; the intruder

punches Isaiah with his free hand!
Isaiah climbs the table to reach

Falila; he lifts the table and rams it
into the man, giving Falila some rope.

This rattles the intruder as the table
falls on him; Isaiah throws his body weight

on the table to pin down the intruder.
'Run Falila, run and get help; this is a robber!'

The intruder speaks: 'I'll kill you both!'
Isaiah stands up shocked; he recognises the voice.

'Segida! What are you doing here?
Falila said you were in Port Harcourt.'

Segida lunges hysterically at Falila;
he holds her at arm's length and bashes her

with the metal pipe; Isaiah rushes
to wrest the weapon from him.

The two friends glare at each other.
Segida stinks of alcohol, they fight,

they grunt, twist, turn; they grapple
for control of the bar, the bookshelf

crashes down, the glasses shatter;
Isaiah addresses Segida, pushing him

to the wall: 'Segida! What's the matter with you?'
'I heard everything you said about Jemima!'

'But I just heard that for the first time myself!'
Segida swings another blow at Isaiah's head.

Isaiah ducks and, without letting go
of the metal bar, he wraps his legs around Segida.

He knows there is something fiendish
about him; he'd been looking forward

to meeting his friend, perhaps to sorting
things out about Jemima-- but now

his life is in danger. 'Segida,
stop this madness, listen to me!'

Segida hits Isaiah; the blow lands
on his cheekbone instead of his forehead;

it hurts but Isaiah refuses to relinquish
the metal bar; he rams a fist into Isaiah's midriff

Isaiah attempts to throw Segida down, Segida shouts,
'You deceived me knowing Jemima was your child?'

'I only came to bury my mother.'
Segida tries to gouge Isaiah's eyes;

Falila's ankle bleeds; they shove,
they push, they stagger in fits of rage,

Falila grabs Segida's leg, she sinks
her teeth into it; he screams

and kicks her viciously; this gives Isaiah
the chance to smash Segida's head

against the wall until his grip on the bar
is slackened; his arm locks Segida's thigh

and he heaves up in a fireman's lift
to slam him against the wall,

'I've been in the dark about Jemima I swear'
the metal bar falls from his grip;

Isaiah steps back, he is in shock
as blood pours down Segida's face.

Flashes of light approach the house;
neighbours must have called the police

when they heard the noise and call
for help from Jemima. Falila is lying still

where she fell after Segida kicked her head.
Segida sits in the corner looking at Isaiah;

he shrugs regretfully and weeps.
'Falila,' he calls out to her softly.

Isaiah can see that Segida indeed loves her.
'I came because you lost your mum,' says Segida.

'I must go, I am wanted by the police;

tell them it was an armed robber.'
When the lights come back on

Segida is gone. The place is wrecked;
books litter the floor; the metal bar

is in a corner. Jemima is crying
in her room--mute witness

to a potential double murder.
Isaiah catches a glimpse of her--

a frightened, beautiful girl
with eyes blurry with tears;

she watches intently as Isaiah
helps Falila into the ambulance.

x x x x

The DNA test proves Jemima
is indeed Isaiah's daughter;

Isaiah is filled with awe at G-d's ways,
where the loss of Lydia brings the gift

called Jemima. Each day, Jemima
fills his heart with contentment;

how could such a mistake become a blessing?
Isaiah does not see Segida again, but hears

that, although arrested by Interpol in Italy,
he escaped to head remnants of Black Fist

and continue the struggle for equality,
justice and the destiny of the Delta people.


Falila recovers and settles in Lagos, where
she decides to return to her dental profession.

Isaiah returns to Kaduna with Jemima--
their regular correspondence is a delight to Falila.

43. Epilogue

Martin stands at the podium; lean, bronzed
by the fierce equatorial sun, his face

deadpan, a statue, he watches reporters
as one just returned from the dead.

Cameramen jostle to get their best
angles. He loathes this world now!

Yes! He longs for his wife and daughter,
but his disgust for the vanity and hypocrisy

around him is corrosive, eating him up.
Suddenly it is all very clear to him:

he was once like these people, when all that
mattered was his daily bread, to get back

home to a life, to a wife and child--but
that world has gone now, gone for ever.

He coughs, and everyone looks up, attentive.
The American ambassador, standing next

to him, puts his hand on his arm gently,
reassuringly, and nudges him to speak.

'These men you call terrorists saved me! My
name is Martin and I have had sixty days

of rehabilitation in the mangrove forest.
These men you call pirates are better educated

than I am, and I stand today to challenge
all who stand here and to condemn those

who look on and do nothing! It is not enough
to do just anything--we must do enough.

I have not been rescued, neither has ransom
been paid for my release. I stand, a free man,

for the cause I now care about and address
you all, men of good conscience, to fight

alongside me for freedom and justice!
I have lived with passionate men for two

months; these are not vagabonds, but articulate
and intelligent, yet very frustrated men.

Men, desperate, because the circumstances we
created made them so! Those in this nation

and beyond, who love this earth should weep
at the desecration, the despoliation of nature here!

It's time to demand more from us who exploit
the land for gain but give the people pain!'

The press throng him; the ambassador's face
is distraught as he tugs on Martin's arm.

He attempts a smile as he almost drags Martin away.
Questions fly and cameras snap away.

Segida heads out of the room, camera dangling
on his neck, false moustache twitching in mischief.