The Evil Forest

Just beyond our tiny village

Miles afar from the big city

Stood a forest dark and evil

Greatly feared by young and old

 

There the trees made a large canopy

Under which dwelt the wildest beasts

Amidst them the yellow woodpecker

Picking at the bark of the sacred tree

 

The green mamba watched in silence

Waiting for the right time to strike

Its slimy body splattered by litter

Droppings of the lousy owl above

 

At the edge of the evil forest

Where the trees were fat and short

The tree-canopy bent to the floor

Reaching to the leafy shrubs

 

There the little black mole

Ran for his precious life

Pursued by a wounded viper

Hunting for an evening meal

 

At the centre of the forest

Where no foot must ever step

Sat the ancient boundary-stone

Set in place by our fathers

 

Standing tall among the trees

Of the dark and evil forest

Is the great ‘iroko’ tree

Still regarded as the greatest

 

Now I see it from afar

Towering above all others

At the centre of the frame

Giving meaning to its name

 

I should never hope to rest

‘Neath its giant leafy structure

While it’s sitting at the centre

Of the dark and evil forest

Toyin Taiwo © 2012

Choose, Now!

You do not have all the time

To choose to do right in life

If you think good today

Then do it right away

 

At first you feel you’re young

All in shape and strong

But soon you’re old and frail

And can do nothing again

 

You thought your days were plenty

But then you say in pity

“I am only one among many

And my days are not many”

 

The choice to do what you think

No longer rests with you alone

 

If you must make a difference

Then you must act in time

For the days are soon coming

When you can do but little

 

Then you only hope and pray

Others will do what is right

 

If you are one and limited

And have a mind that’s righteous

Then spread the word to others

And multiply yourself

 

Choose to do right today

And help someone do it too

So when your days are ended

You’ll be glad how you spent them

Toyin Taiwo © 2012

You

You always were my focus

At the centre of my locus

Of you I thought day and night

Whether in darkness or in light

I feared to let you out of sight

For fear that you might not return

Or into something else might turn

 

You later became my poem

For me you turned to an anthem

Of you I wrote myriads of stanzas

While I sat under the canvas

Searching badly for the answers

To scores of questions about life

Causing problems that were rife

 

You have now become my song

The only one for whom I long

Of you I sing with harp and lyre

For you I wish, crave and desire

With passion that burns like a fire

That leads me like a guiding star

Till I find the place where you are

Toyin Taiwo © 2012

The rolling hills of Afikpo

There at McGregor, out on the parade ground

You can see afar, for a hundred miles around

The town of Afikpo looms in the distance

Beckoning to you, who looks at it askance

 

Between the both of you, staring but unseen

Are the ageless hills, looking lush and green

They are undulating, gentle as a river

Beckoning at you, calling you to come closer

 

Away from McGregor, as you go to the North

Abakaliki calls, calling you to come forth

Its busy shops await you, to buy their many wares

The motorbikes are waiting, to charge expensive fares

 

On your way to the North, Ezza will wave at you

Wishing that you will come, to see its people too

Its many clans and houses, have empty rooms aplenty

If only you’ll be willing, you’ll live and bask in plenty

 

But wherever you choose, to stay in Ebonyi state

Then choose to not forget, not by an act of fate

Those ancient rolling hills, which you see at McGregor

As I am well convinced, that is what you are there for

Toyin Taiwo © 2012

NET

I carefully attempted to find my way through the messy puddle that the road had become, because of the rain. The same rain was responsible for my plight: having to find my way on foot through this long distance. The buses were not moving because of the hold-ups caused by the messy roads that the endless rains had caused, and now I have to wade through that same road under the light drizzling rain that caused the problem in the first instance. I just plain pitied myself and my country, whose government was responsible for the bad roads contributing to this whole problem.

Then I got a surprise call from one middle-aged man. He wanted me to come. I wondered what for. But he just asked me to come. I beat my chest to be sure I was the one he was referring to. And he was insistent. I wondered what kind of help this kind of man could need from me. I took another look at him. He did not look any inch like a beggar, although he wasn’t gaily dressed. But then one can expect anyone to beg these days and in these parts – they simply do it in style. I tried to estimate the risk: there was none. It was an open road and so many people were passing by. So I turned to heed him, and got the surprise of my life.

I had been wearing the “NCCF Ebonyi” shirt. So he had decided I must be a corps member. This Yoruba man who called me wanted me to come explain to his Hausa opponent what the term “NET” meant in the game of table tennis. The Hausa guy, who did not understand Yoruba, felt he was being cheated, and he could not trust the only other person there either. So I was brought in as a neutral person and as an interpreter to explain to the Hausa guy whether he was right or wrong. It turns out that he was wrong. The ball he played had hit the net and returned and he felt he had not lost a point, claiming that he was to re-serve since that was “NET”. I quickly explained what the term really meant and told him he was wrong. The man who had called me thanked me, claiming his opponent was ignorant.

I could not help laughing as I walked away from the scene. I had been called by two old men to come explain a term in tennis. I found many things funny about that. First was the zeal of the man who called me as he enthusiastically claimed his opponent was wrong and should be so proven. Next was the ignorance of the opponent who did not know what the term “NET” really meant in Table Tennis, yet he claimed to know. Then there was the fact that the opponent, a Hausa man, trusted my judgment, mostly because I was, as supposed, a corps member. He even asked initially if I was from Hausa land. But he believed me all the same. The discontent that had earlier occupied my mind merely a few minutes earlier now forgotten, I kept laughing to myself as I tried to pick my way through the roads that were still very messy, till I found a bus that took me to my destination. Even then, that scene stayed glued to my mind. Wonders shall never cease…

July 4, 2012

Stay

“Welcome home. You will stay now, won’t you?

While you were away I hardly slept

Countless were the vigils I sorely kept

Now that you are home, I pray you will stay”

“While I crossed the sea I was thinking of you

Deep, wide and endless, matched by no other

Akin to your love, unsurpassed by another

But still I cannot say if I really will stay”

“When I close my eyes I dream only of you

Standing like a tower that never can fall

To be with you I long for, far above all

But I only wonder if you still will stay”

“I never dreamt of anything apart from you

Wondering if and when I’ll return to my home

And set my foot on its friendly ground of loam

Never again to wander but always to stay”

“If you so desire, then do what is in you

We will live and work and do all things together

And then build a home that will last forever

But then you must promise me that you will stay”

“It would be my pleasure to promise to you

Never again to leave the shores of our land

But if life should lead me beyond where I stand

I’ll be unable to keep my promise to stay”

Toyin Taiwo © 2012

To Daniella

Beautiful and fiery, you swept me off my feet with your charms, and you knew it. You did not hesitate to let me know how much you meant to me. You had a place in my heart and you knew it. But your attitude left a lot to be desired. At some point I was scared that if I continued with you, you would lead me to my death. Your incessant quarrels and endless nagging were giving me a headache, and you knew it. You thought you could get me to do what you wanted by forcing me to seek peace. But you failed to take note that there were several ways to seek peace, one of which was to leave you. You counted on the fact that such an option was non-existent. But how wrong you were! Even now, I am not a man to bend his utmost convictions for anyone. Those convictions were not acquired overnight. They were acquired through severe trials and testing that proved that they were my only options for living a fulfilled life. Not even a passionate lover could separate me from such fiery convictions, especially not by employing such methods as you did!

I remember the day I made up my mind to leave. Even I could not believe I had eventually come to the point where I was giving up what I had sacrificed so much for. I guess that is how God works. One does not know what he can do until he is pushed to the point where he is left with no options. God proved to me that He could make me give up what I had valued more than Him by creating a higher need that strongly competed with my relationship with you – the need for peace. And so our once beautiful, passionate and undying love for each other would be sacrificed on the altar of peace. It was clear that there was no way I could find peace with you. But I would not have believed even if the most genuine prophet had made that statement two years ago. I hesitated briefly at the door as I packed my things together to leave. But my hesitation gave way as I considered my doctor’s health report. His advice had been simple: avoid heated discussions, worry or any other factors that could stress your body any further.

You did not think I would see it through – our separation. And so you were shocked when I visited you at your office with my lawyer to sign the divorce papers. You were further shocked when I agreed to let you have the most of the property we worked for together. You did not think that day would come when our blossoming relationship would wither beyond the point of revival. Even a plant when cut off, blossoms at the scent of water. But this plant had been uprooted, passing the point of revival. And so it was that you gave it all up – it was never up to you to keep it anyway. I had always been the one to insist on our staying together. But you enjoyed it all. I gave so much to keep us together. But not only did you not appreciate it all, you ignored it all and went on like a mad sow to rip apart everything our relationship ever stood for. And now, we are left with nothing but the ashes of our love.

I have moved on and found peace since our separation. The absence of children in a marriage that lasted about a year made this easier for me. I cannot imagine having to bring up my children in this kind of messy situation. No, that is not the life I planned for them to live. And I thank God they were not here to share in the pain that characterized our fateful separation.  I would certainly tell them the story when the time comes, so they can avoid the pitfalls I could not avoid. The scars of that damage remain deep inside my heart, though I appear to be doing well, having escaped the worst that could have happened. Rebuilding my personal finances has not been as easy, but I was never one who cared for much wealth anyway. I have learnt to be content whatever my state.

I still think about you though, but not with the hope of us coming back together. Instead I think about you with a firm resolve that I should never find reason to join business with you or with anyone of your kind. For I am becoming more and more convinced that you were sent to pull me down, to destroy me and see to my end on this earth. But God did not permit that. And only that same God can now help me to really forgive you, for all I have done is to put away thoughts of you from my mind and move on. Maybe someday I will really find a place in my heart to truly forgive all that you did to me.

Daniella! Such a beautiful name; such a scary memory! My worst days yet have been spent with you, and I would rather live alone all my days than spend another minute with you. I remember the early days of our acquaintance, when I was drunk with the wine of your love and swept away by the aura of your presence. Your carriage and conduct did more to me than years of training and education could withstand. Nobody warned about such charms as yours. You were simply too much for me, and I could only be grateful I had the pleasure of possessing such a treasure as you. Your eager submission and cooperation in those days had a conquering effect on me that most arguments and intellectual discourses have not been able to match since. And I should hope never to be conquered in such a manner again!

Your transformation into the woman I came to detest seemed to be sudden. What went wrong? Where did I get it wrong? What did I fail to do? Or were you just a time bomb waiting to explode? It is only because of the mercies of the Almighty that I was not consumed in that explosion. You suddenly became dissatisfied with the life we lived and began to pick quarrels at every opportunity, even creating opportunity when there was none. You seemed determined to push me, to force me to make our life better. But I thought our life was good. I thought you knew that. But I was wrong. Were you letting off steam you had gathered over a long period of time? Or did you make new friends who taught you new things – things that scattered our marriage? I would often wonder if life alone would not be better. I guess it is, after all. You took it too far when you began to refuse my advances in bed. It was bad enough that I was eating out to escape the judgment of starvation you passed on me; but to refuse me in bed? The marriage might as well have broken down!

I bore it all, hoping we could make some compromises and rebuild, but you were set on making demands I could not meet, and had therefore set the course for the eventual breakdown of the marriage it cost us so much to build. Daniella, even now I remember with sweet sadness our last moments together. Sweet, because I knew I was soon to be free to live in peace again, but sad because the break-up represented a failure in my own life and decision-making as well. But a living failure is better than a dead hero-to-be. The living still has the chance of making a success of the rest of his life, but the dead is gone and unable to finish his heroic act of saving a marriage that was bound for destruction. And I am alive to tell the painful story of our short-lived marriage; that is a plus for me.  As I put my pen to rest, I pray that God will heal all that is broken in me and give me grace to forgive you. I also pray for strength to live the new life that I have found after being separated from destruction, the destruction that threatened to cut me short before mid-life. And on a last note, I pray that God will rescue every other man from you, and then rescue you from the hands of the Evil One, who so threatens to make a mess of your transient life.

Mental Block

I stare in vain at my screen. Today makes it exactly a week that I have been trying to write. It feels as if I’ve got something trapped deep within me, trying to find expression. But I cannot find words to articulate it. My computer screen glows white, waiting for the command to start generating characters. All the letters of the alphabet stare at me from the keyboard, creating a kind of collaborative mockery. And the computer lights blink on, signaling their readiness…

I feel despondent as I sit there, trying to figure out what exactly it is that would give me relief. Like a computer system that has hung, trying without success to make sense of all the information bombarding it, I struggle without end to return to balance – that state of calm and satisfaction that has so eluded me. But all my trials end in nothing.  “This is not my normal self,” I reason, but then normalcy is fast becoming a strange word in the light of my most recent experiences.

I try to think of something beautiful to write about, a kind of utopian reality that would bring me that feeling of having had a breakthrough. But nothing lends itself to my assistance – not even my spongy memory can evoke any beautiful experience to write about. I consider calling this experience a “mental block”. That would be a good name for it. Yes! As if an invisible hand were detaining a torrent of ideas trying to surge through my mind. If only I could get that hand off my mind…

I think of my past. I consider myself to have been relatively fortunate in life, with an early successful start that boosted my confidence and gave me the guts to tackle every challenge thinking I would win. That winning attitude kept me till I started learning the realities of life – the stark truth about the inadequacy of every man that dwells on the surface of this planet, and the possibility of failure every time anyone called ‘human being’ tries a thing. I learnt about success before failure…

The future waits to be explored. And it carries with it the mystery and secrets of the challenges that will yet confront every human who reaches it. The future holds within it promises and threats, assurances and uncertainties, hope and despair. But all these remain unknown to all except one who holds time in his hands – the power that be, or so I have come to believe. Nevertheless, our part is to hope, and believe we will fare well in that future, the details of which we know not…

A multitude of ideas suddenly barrage my mind. But I am none the better for it. From philosophy to politics, I have a billion things to write about. But topics don’t provide a way of escape for me. I still need substance. And several topics do not seem interesting enough to venture into. They are just attractive white tombs. On examination, they are full of rotten flesh and dry bones, the likes of which causes a man nightmares – nothing that prospers human existence, just plain old theories…

I’ll have to stop now. Life is waiting to be lived. And the direction in which I’m headed is yielding nothing yet. The frustration of trying again and again to produce meaningful material through repeatedly unsuccessful efforts is getting at me. I’ll have to get something someday. Luck has to be on my side. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll find something meaningful and worthwhile to tinker with, and maybe tinkering will lead to some serious effort at producing substantial literary stuff. Just maybe.

July 4, 2012