Born, Clarius Iheanacho Ugwuoha. Studied at the Holy Ghost College, Owerri and the University of Lagos, he is currently based in based in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Clarius is an Engineer, Poet, Playwright, Novelist and Short Story writer, his works have appeared in various websites and international anthologies.He was a contributor to the Africa Fresh! anthology published in the USA in December 2005 and shortlisted for the 2006 Blooker prize. He has published three books: MONARCHS OF THE FOREST( 1999), BEYOND RIVER URASHI(2002) and A SAGE AND THE THRONE(2006).
You Must Stand Up! Why? Why d'you lie crouched Others up and about Your eyes yet to attune To the fevered approach of dawn? Get up! rise up! Wipe your eyes clear Of this poisonous sleep The aging day throbs With the scattered enfilade of drums! Why Why d'you have to lie like a log Numb to the bone while others sweat The harvest field is bare And the barn stacked full with yams While the fireside dimly gleams With the dying embers of the hearth Getup! it's not too late Get up it's yet another day Brother you must get up before the earliest cock You must not lie down dead To the fevered approach of dawn! Clarius Ugwuoha DARLINGTON: We Little Know You will Die…. That harmattan morning you were born Swarthed up as you were In the cocoon of childhood The sun shinning The wind blowing We little know you will die so soon And leave us to mourn You lay calm upon your infant snug That flash of innocent smile was there Your fist clenched, now and then, Kicked to and fro, darlington... You were full of life and warmth Coarse and rugged like the igneous rock You grew stout amidst Storms of illnesses Lived by your rules Owned up our crimes That father beats no one... Darlington so full of life You left us so soon In a deluge of grief. Mum is shocked, Father is in grief. Come back today, Do you hear - Darlington! Come back today That mother may cry no more! Clarius Ugwuoha Keep It No More! Look at how you cradle it That instrument of death As though it were a baby's toy Look at how you caress it That destroyer of dreams Like it were a woman's love. Do you love it more than life? And now as you clutch its bloodied mass Do you at all retch At that unwholesome stench? Get it down and use it no more For it has done evil on earth Its thunderous claps are but of death And in its beautiful form Lurking with horrific claws Is the monster That'd driven people out of Their homes and sanity. Alone in the chilly embrace of dawn Get it down and keep it no more Brace up for peace - the war without gun Keep it no more For its beauty is the beauty of death. Clarius Ugwuoha. TENANT IN THE CITY: BY CLARIUS UGWUOHA Lagos, NIGERIA - The houses have deserted their occupants The road runs faster than the traveller! YESTERDAY If you sit in the shade of a neame tree one tired afternoon towards evening, my story is at once the salubrious breeze and the bumblebee that alerts you in all directions. It begins from the day before my departure from Lagos. For several months, I have flirted with the idea. Now I have made up my mind: leave Lagos. Leave the city, Lagos, which is where I have been for almost two decades and which has almost become another home? Yes. The tortoise does not cast off his shell when the weather is hot, he simply changes environment! I can make nothing of the world around me, this feeling that I am tucked in the wrong corner of it. There are better ways of correcting a mistake but not certainly with another, probably worse and gnawing greedily in the fabric of the society. The recent increase in fuel price is one too many and has shifted the equilibrium of the city to the far left. My landlady, Madam Onita Imran, whom we call Iya ibeji, taking cue, has also increased her rent twofold. I can easier afford to die than to cope. I have to trek to work in Apapa, between it and my apartment, two hot and sweaty miles of jumping out of the path of molue buses. And once out of this enervating exercise is the leather factory where, in the words of workers, you are milked dry and given a quaff of water in return. It gets me down. Across from the factory, towards Yaba Road, is the humid whiff of the city. If you face up north, to your left is the mainland and to your right the island. Where the other is the exact opposite, the mainland is a bad piece of poetry, which I encounter everyday with all concentration, read and digest it piecemeal, fretting out odds and ends of meanings. Afterwards, I will think back and disgorge -- every bit of it. Sometimes, in the dusty, chaotic atmosphere I have the feeling that time and space have shrunk into one instantaneous moment of lies, bribes, sweaty touts and louts weeding acres of human cassava fields; the truly disarming noise is one thing. Back at home, is the children, underfed with sickly, watery eyes, running nose and protruding abdomen. I sweep the room with my eyes. The upholstery chairs are laddered up. As if that is not bad enough, the curtains of watered silk are all in rags, monuments of the good old days that mock the present times. The room? The painting has peeled off and there is this semblance between the walls and the warts of a toad. Algae have colonized a portion of the roof where rainwater shed right through to the floor. And this room is also luxury, now far beyond the income of the occupant. Only one thing can kill the dream of a man, that is, suddenly getting too old for one's challenges. So many ideas crowd my mind now ... Every tendon in me is stretched to the breaking point. It is a very tough decision. I can make nothing of this situation. One of my closest friends, Nwajeihu (not real name) has taken to a shady business, struck it rich and now embarrasses the neighbourhood with his retinue and hangers-on. In a world of zero values, where sense and reason wear into mere appendages of filthy lucre, there is little anybody can do in the face of this. He goes and comes, whips from place to place. His target is a foreigner. I do not know how these victims come to fall prey of his fraud. I can only think that they live in a much more honest world than this. I am tempted by his successes. The money seems to flow like water. The first quarrel with my wife hurts even now. You see that guy, she tells me, and you are our honest man in a dishonest world. The only handicapped is the sighted in a country of the blind. I chew her words like bad meat and the tears sting my eyes. I am a stranger in the city. There are so many things I cannot do, and very few I can do. Sit in a rusty, dishonest office to the chorus of ogi, leki and moi-moi sellers below, dead to the pain and agony of choice victims? No. I am a stranger to the ways of the city. I will sit down later and argue within me that there are more honest people around me than I am willing to admit, that everything is in its proper place, and there is something terribly wrong with my judgement and sense of discerning. That way, I share self-blame and the city makes more sense. I begin to grow away from my surrounding, like a baby weaned from the mother's breast. Every teething step tells of pain and new mystical understandings. My eyes burn hot and at night the embers will blink in the ceilings. There is no comfort in sight. I will leave the city. It flashes through my mind and cramps it with nostalgia that weary harmattan evening... I remember and I am sorry, how my village has shivered and shaken apart. I am wholly absorbed in that world, the prelude to leaving for the city: If ordinary days are the noise of a market place, this is the full-throated rumbling of an angry sky. I remember it with jolt and recoil. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I shut my face as I think back -- from the dusty recesses of Lagos mainland to the moody atmosphere of the creeks. Images of Nanka, my village, eastwards as you approach the plains of Bukuma, flash through my mind in ebbs and tides. It comes blurry and dimmer, of a year, so blurred and narrow that my idea of it now is a narrow path, to its sides a rash of bungalows and thatch huts. There is a lofty hill that shelves rapidly towards the stream. From here, Nanka fans out in a narrow path that leads round. The ideal elder is as gnarled as age and one of indifference, having known much insensitivity, cowed into silence by the levers of power. He talks to his son who cradles a rifle in the creeks and does not heed. The boy is as slim as if he has been on perpetual fast from birth, you can clearly see that the innocence has fallen off. The girl holds her head high, her wrapper tied high up the shoulder to underline her innocence. May be I am mistaken; she too may also have been dispossessed of that innocence. I can savour the earthy freshness of the mud hut daubed with uri. I have the notion of mother tall and resplendent in her native adire dress as she sings her evening chores. There is the aura around her of warmth and love and this perpetual tang of birth. I remember that she straps Nnenne, my sibling, taut to her sweaty back with not, as it seemed, an iota of premonition of what is to come. The warriors of Akoko, a riverside village in our neighbourhood, have always put fingers in the eyes of our clan. There is an adjoining land rich in oil, which they claim is theirs. But grandfather, whom we call Kaka the old one, has always maintained that it is ours, that the Akoko are only greedy warmongers. I do not understand what it is to be surprised with an attack so thorough and far-reaching as that of the Akoko one afternoon towards evening. I am out in the field, ambling among the trees, hills and rocks, nature's nakedness that clothes our village. The sun has set by now and it is getting darker with the approaching dusk. I notice some noise and if I have been curious might have saved some lives. But I am entirely swallowed in my world. Undercurrents of violence shimmer. When I come to I am sorry and confused, forgetting that father did tell me to be on the lookout, that there is tension in the air. My youth and agility are the saving of me. The Akoko run forth like a stream of water down a hill and suddenly descend on our hut raining cudgels, pebbles and what-not upon the thatch, the yam barn, and the mango tree. Mother has taken off, Nnenne strapped to her back. I take off. But I can hear, behind me, the clattering and the squawking as our door, struck clean of the hut, falls to a corner, scattering the chickens into the surrounding bush, the sound of leaping feet and cursing and swearing, the shots of bullets which follow on our trail like an approaching rain. This is the last I remember of that dreadful event which has been overtaken like a giant thorn bush by even more dreadful events. If there is something in life that makes it less burdensome, it is that aspect that is its resilience. It is very hard for me to grasp the fact that I can, even in two decades, reorder my mind and think back on Nanka, my village, with something like warmth.. And this is the village, one among others in the Niger Delta of Nigeria, where militias spring up, where underfed youths fast on Indian hemp, puffing defiantly at the society that emasculates and leaves little room for individual attainment, where the fertile soil is washed ashore and the ponds and rivers are polluted, where -- worst of all these -- ignorance reigns. Yes, I can make a difference. But I am haunted by the fact that I d o not leave Lagos to the waiting embrace of mother, father or Nnenne whose memories have calcified like a dreadful monument. I can shed as many tears as I can to water those hard and unbearable memories but grief cannot conjure up mother, father or Nnenne where they are in eternal repose. I am only consoled that it is inevitable, that living kills everyone in the long run independent of our shortcomings and mistakes. It is simply an irrevocable pact with destiny. The goat may cry, yes, the goat may cry, but the knife must find its throat when the owner wills! END: PART 1 OF 3
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