“Children, I said to her. For the first little while, they not exactly human, you don't find?”
Nalo Hopkinson

Monday, September 12, 2011

Chris Abani Is September's Poet.

You know how someone can read a certain person's writing and then see the world differently?  That's what Chris Albani's writing does for me. Abani's poetry is more than words; it's art, truth, and healing. My view of reality becomes more whole. 

It's very difficult finding his works of poetry in the library so I will post what I can. When I have some extra money I"ll be able to buy some more of his work. For now I am posting what I can find and like online and I have one of his books coming from another library (hopefully)!

Chris Abani was born in Nigeria in 1966 and imprisoned thrice by the Nigerian government for the writing of his the novel Masters Of The Board and participating in theatre groups.  What happened to him makes me so grateful for the freedom I have.  Albani is a big good-looking man, but more importantly he writes beautiful poetry and wonderful prose for everyone!  I'm not sure what books these poems are from, but I will find out and post later.  Bio info

At this point the search for the killer(s) of Phylicia Barnes have lead to her half-sister's boyfriend who may have been the last person to see her alive.  He has been questioned by the police over a dozen times and there is a suspicion that child pornography may have played a part in her death.  This link from Fox 45 in Baltimore tells a more complete story about how there are still no relevant leads:
Phylicia Barnes is the reason I started reading poetry.  Her murder was like joy poured down a backed up drain.  I have few words to express how I feel.

"Auckland" by Chris Abani

"The only land I own is that between my toes"       Hone Tuwhare

This is the measure of it.

Norfolk pines on Stanley Point, like pagodas
On an imagined horizon, descend the hill
To dip their travel-weary feet in the salt water.

On North Head, where the rock curves away
Like the broadside of a giant back, is a cave
That catches the sweetness of the full moon
Rising over the lips of the waves. An ancient
Buried there stands in my mind blowing a conch
Calling, calling, calling, calling,

The way Tutanekai played that horn
With a desire and tenderness Miles never could
Each note a drop, like pounamu on a string
Pulling Hinemoa across the water.

In front of St Andrew’s is a rock, recalcitrant
In the way only old stone can be. Until Yang
Lian’s tears watered it with all the purity of rain.

That rock is a tongue chanting the names of the dead
To all who pass, and even those who don’t.

My kiwi friends and I make fun of tourists. Coming
Up with new schemes to fleece them – no pun intended.
We plan to get a matching pair of fluffy Kerry Blue terriers
And pretend they are sheepdogs – a new species crossing
Sheep and dogs into two prototypes we name Baawoof and Grendel.

The museum on the sacred hill reassures
Me that all old cultures are more the same
Here there are the two staples of my people – the Igbo
Yams and kumara, the limbs and intestines of
A sacrificed ancestor who gave us life.

I enter the room with all the artifacts. Tracing the lines
On a Maori ancestor’s face, I remember in this action,
My grandfather’s face, cut deep like the grooves scoured
By blood, marking him as a warrior, and I am closer
To home than I have been for a very long time.

Tapa cloth against my skin recalls
A blue night in Timbuktu, where a lone
Star filled the maw of darkness.

In a radio station studio, Yang Lian and I
Face off like warriors. But this meeting
Is an embrace, not death. And his word:
Before I came to Auckland, the sea was a distant
Idea. When I came to Auckland, I put my hand
In the sea and felt only the points of separation.
It took five years for me to find the sea inside my body –
This is true: words are bridges linking people
Defeating the abrupt betrayal of piers.

Tin of cocoa
Tin of cocoa
Tin of cocoa
Car tow-er
Signal me that another ancient language is being
Mangled in the clumsy mouths of a newer people.

Yet even this clumsy gesture is better than the erasure
My language suffers, because all gestures point
To a horizon of possibility.

Kauri trees are chained to the earth on Queen Street
Where the land ends in the sea. I wonder if these
Chains keep the kauri from returning to their relatives –
Sperm whales calling in dreams the path to freedom.

All of me meets here, an alchemy of parts –
The Pacific of residence, the Atlantic of birth
The English of heritage and a culture, like mine,
Old enough to have words for birthing the earth.

The glass arch of Grafton Bridge curves around
Me in light, like the dazzle of the sun through
A dragonfly’s gossamer wings, protecting me from
The old cemetery below. And that light, I think
Will light my way home.

From Hands Washing Water,  published by Copper Canyon Press in 2006.

"Jacobs Ladder"

Release, alive, from Kiri Kiri
is rare.

They hand you what is left of
your personal belongings

in a polythene bag. Everything
they did not want.

You step out and stand in the
sun thawing like a side of beef

from a freezer. Yet you are afraid
to proceed more than a few

steps from the gate. Convinced you
will be shot in the back.

Or that people will recoil from you
knowing you carry the stench

of death on your now paler skin.
But nothing happens.

A gentle breeze ruffles your shirt and
a dog menaces a parked car.

The smell of frying plantain,
carried gently hurts inexplicably.

Cold, sweet Coca-Cola stings you
to tears.
From Kalakuta Republic, Saqi Books, 2000.

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