Coming to Lagos
The landscape is first within. But
the stream of crab buses
makes calls into spaces, perches for
gregarious birds. One laying
on you as awareness. The bodies
are hurried motion, blending
through distance. The metrics on a
dioptra are found vocabularies,
motioned eloquence articulating
the depths and meters; hoary
metals troubling through a climb:
the arcing ebb towards the Island.
Then he is welcomed by the gust
coming for everything and the hinge-wise
unloading of bucks, herds and the
seaport. Nations in conversations and
the notion is geometry, coloured
boxes of meanings. Men and women
greeting within smiles’ cusps, brisk
as moments here. The resulting
measure – half concerns, ‘no
waiting’, ‘no hawking’, swaggering bodies
in a milieu wrapped in the cheering
of the city, the wind lifting the birds.
Breath of life, I know of water. I
teach my son the dance
of ripples before the clattering
breaks. As the water flows,
I am thinking distance is where
peace doesn’t come from.
What should I hold in the glide
new animals of my hands;
the sea bore slaves centuries ago,
brought whales, a decade.
We dance now at the shore, learn
how the ground sinks us
into its bodies. Badagry knows. The
wind that grinds on us.
I am making my ground where I’ve
been standing. It is the steps
that break the earth. I am thinking
the water climbs over
the threshold of a dirge before it
claims us – pouncing laps,
coyote’s strides. Head in the crown
of a sun I will never hold,
hands in shards of the emptiness
I could reach in the earth shaped
by tears, I am hunting for the next
squall and the shifts of sand,
I am lifting my dunes to the
inquisition of an explorer and there
are new painful ways to think of
sorrows, one is of forgetting.
My littoral prayers give me the
eyes that stay with human truth
when the world holds down its
darkness into its cherished jewels.
Water temple I am making my
ground where I’ve been standing.
Sea tide when I am floating,
what should I hold in the glide?
Sometimes I think I am hearing the
chain clangs of history
in the beach’s fancy, but you show
me it’s the shells, flashed
teeth of the earth in the palm of a
child whose eyes could
lift the sun, but mine are fixed on
the cockles that never rise.
I’m teaching my son the dance while
the horizon is opened wide,
and the water’s rolling over. Breath
of life, I open my verse to you,
take it, take my song, let us
together meet at the rise of the seabird.
This is the dance, floating, lifting
yourself to yourself as if to make
the image in the water whole,
making the ground into broken footprints.
Adeeko Ibukun is an award winning Nigerian poet. He was awarded the 2nd Prize in the Sentinel All-Africa Poetry Competition in 2012 and his poem, ‘A Room with a Drowning Book’ won the 2015 Babishai Niwe African Poetry Prize in Uganda. Ibukun was also a festival guest at the Lagos Poetry Festival and Ake Arts and Book Festival in 2015. He lives and writes in Abeokuta, Nigeria.
Cover photo credit, Jide Alakija.