Samuel Ugbechie works as a software engineer and writes from Benin City, Nigeria. His works have appeared and are upcoming in Sentinel UK, Wikicolumn, Jalada and elsewhere. In 2012, he won the Sentinel All-Africa Poetry Competition, and longlisted for the 2014 National Poetry Competition. He is currently working on his debut poetry collection.
You put on phrases of saffron and you color our breaths.
You color them like wine. You let the morning build its case
Against the sore drag of the weather and you let the afternoon
Wait behind by the shuffling on your door. Gamboge, a color
Of suffering and pain, a deep tone of longing and meaning,
An aspect of the inherent worth we carry, a tone of the speech
We make. Gamboge, nature’s hand in deep yellow, reaching out
To your doubts and melting them like wax; gamboge, one last taste
On the tip of your tongue, one last suffering. Gamboge, freeing
A lightfastness and letting it go. Freeing the sun burning on your skin,
Freeing everything behind—painting munificence on the walls.
In the night, rain runs through your dreams, leaving floods dragging back.
The rain pours, and the night’s sticking cold as an ice on your face.
Begin the morning like a ritual, and stand by,
and pour out, like a micturition all the night
lingered on your veins; all that the birds sang
down here like rain that’s falling on the elms.
And then, eight o’ clock, morning sprays its
dew on the trees losing skin these days.
Birds are here. And one of them, a grey heron—
A white head slender crest—calls and then wades,
and pins down a fish and a frog with its bill.
Be the eye you want to be. Be a voice.
Have melody like a canto. Have a strain.
And up west, on bent-grasses, evening lay
half-buried like a stem. And night is calling.
It’s the night, though, in our hearts we’re illuming
with love if it could. All fallen leaves are buried.
Or burnt. Or eaten. All roots remain in same spots.
And love, brittle, slim and tender, slips into us all
like a bolt slipping into place. Dawn is at four.
We all lie by the leadwoods and alders, and six
o’ clock, split into the equal halves of morning.
For instance, the cluster pines relocating to the
garden; pigeonwood, umdoni, beechwood, mesquite,
and quinine trees outliving chums of faunas.
Now listen, a white-tailed tropic bird’s humming an
aubade. She’s slim. Feeds on fishes and squids.
Maybe her tune, classic as a glissando, isn’t the
exact pitch you’d want for a morning like this. But then,
an hour later, a sugar glider walked in carrying her
young one in a pouch—a kind of sacred act, a human
thought, a vigil you wished you learned before dawn.
Cold can be act of love. Hands over you.
Words—goosebumps on your skin. A throat all open,
Her teeth—yellow and fresh. All morning, the rain came
Falling in love with everything here. Children took their drama
And plays away. I had watched them here, not too far away,
Their spits of humor and hiccups of fun; their wisdom as broken
And lowly and small. Some days, I hope to be small as these figs,
But such days will have to wait. Such suffering on the skins
of sausage and cabbage trees got me—such forgetfulness
of our very lives as trees
There’s this weight of thought on my head.
It’s a fluid. Of introspection. Of souls searching,
Of souls asking, of examen, of one fluid of lost,
Of a fluid of longing and suffering. It’s a fluid
of pain gasified into two. It’s a molecule of stress
which I recalled one morning on my way to the farm,
and then, by noon, the feeling was there. The cause
had left. And there, right there on the farm, I wept
the whole morning back again. And entered the
morning with a thought, and this thought was same
as the first. Tonight, a tree, tall and young, powderpuff
tree, folds at the end. A cycle of pain ending
beyond now. I walk my morning again and let it
come through the weaves of breezes behind me.
Tonight, I’m a tall sweet thorn, brightening shrub
In the waters. A tender element, moving fast,
The sun must have risen upon. Right now, the thought
that I’m weak reaches me at light speed, and
congeals into sleep. The thought that I’m strong
wakes me up again, and diminishes into day.
A ONE-TREE HILL
Often sticks are thrown at the birds.
As if hitting them doesn’t hurt anymore as long
as it drops them from their long flight to the ground alive. As if aiming
at something is a way of taming them down to country. I sound
the music of language and often hear
myself sounding someone else. Where we belong isn’t our world.
Where we breathe isn’t our body.
Where we hope the wood dove drops dead-
alive isn’t a nest. But a blue terrain of cedar elms. Whose branches
lie cocky and cocksure like hardballs of rainfall. Whose lead-
woods all sparse and single like a climate
they once knew. Because it ends, everything ends. I seeped
through some lines of reasoning
last night. I waited for a while. I waited again.
The secrets are unseen. Our lives are sharp as much as they’re
cutting down lies like scythes; as long as they’re piercing through
surfaces of roughness trees are desquamating somewhere here.
I want you. This rough land of cherubs they call birds
and call trees and call rocks and stones and no one
ever saw the true monody they’ve all been striving all night to be