We move out from the park, through a circle of chairs,
And pass a sleepy-eyed attendant from whose mouth
Igbo language moulds concepts like chunks of meaning. Ikpoba hill
Descends on us as a woman seductively unwrapping her dress.
The landscape still spells Benin with red sand and
Perfervid sun. Suddenly, it becomes green with envy
That I am leaving. I too feel guilty that I am abandoning
Home for another home after crossing the Niger.
I try to get lost in my phone but reality strips me of that lone feeling
Of bliss whenever my network signal deflates. One bar cannot retrieve
Messages from WhatsApp while our driver is wild on the wheels,
Chewing gum glumly, steering on with perilous grace.
Delta is wide, blanket of greens covers her sides. Agbor
Appears in itself: A hub of township lifes. Cows graze on grass,
And I imagine blood, smoke and severed heads, fallen bodies resembling
Mine. And then I forget quickly, the bus having passed the mirage.
Asaba is in a new year eating up the flesh of the old one.
Light green and white coloured streetlights adorn her
Roadways. We speed fast that I am too excited to find a
Qualifying word. The driver is shouting into his phone now,
Talking to someone, his manager, I think. He is still chewing gum,
Refusing to part with the already devoured elastic. Niger Bridge
Looms over. We climb at a pace: No speeding. No slowing down either.
‘Welcome to Onitsha’ greets us and is soon left behind.
Anambra is the way to Igboland: The Gateway State.
We soon empty the roads that it owns. We enter Mgbidi, Imo is here.
We can feel it. The raw, untouched smell of the East.
Owerri is proud, huffing and puffing with teeming vehicles
And monuments that spell Rochas Okorocha without failure.
The journey is marred by the dwindling blades of the end. And as I
Get my bag, my eyes catch the glare of the sun and quickly turn away.
The eastern heartland is never stingy with hugs. Here, I am accepted.
Fresh from Benin, I begin to
Absorb Owerri’s colour.
This town is where a bar makes faster welcome
Than a cathedral. Light bulbs flicker;
Power supply hangs in the balance of postcolonial misgivings.
Greetings are bottle-green while everyone’s eyes carry
A story, no matter how drowned in Igbo.
Extracting the priceless artefacts take
Hours of bar-worshipping. Tongues soiled with the
Brewed liquid, spurting violently but stabilised
By looks from other eyes. He speaks about himself,
Says he’s a walking museum, a courier of tales.
And we sit and talk into the night, watching the moon loom
Over our heads. The music is loud. Flavour is singing of
Ladies’ waists. Nearby a drunkard sinks into a
Gutter. You can tell that home is far away. But tonight,
Home will be a hole masked with vile things.
I think it might rain. The man says rain here has a habit of
Coming with rash winds. I am not surprised.
A beer bottle rolls from a neighbouring table, falls,
And breaks into 250 ethnic groups.
We ignore it. Another will come,
Life is a few volumes short of happiness.
So we splash liquor on its body and pronounce it happier.
Michael Akuchie is an undergraduate student at the department of English and Literature, University of Benin, Nigeria. His writings, mostly poetry, have appeared in literary journals and blogs. He writes calm poetry, sometimes preferring to explore the pathways to depression. He’s a lover of football, books and things that bring him joy.
Cover photo credit: Ifeanyichukwu Ibe