In two scintillating poems, Echezonachukwu Nduka takes us on a voyage through the River Niger while immersing us in the waters of its glory and beauty, and invites us to observe with him the lives of ordinary people at an unknown boardwalk.
Notice the gait of tourists on a summer noon:
Catwalks on wood are for onlookers, who like the ocean,
rises & ebbs for sanity.
A young couple across the casino calls out to their daughter
Lisa, whose dance steps betray the beat of the passing music.
Love-struck partners kiss to the silence of passersby.
No, the one who kneels to propose draws cheers & applause—
phone cameras record the new phase as viral online content.
Near the main pathway to the beach, a grey-bearded man sits alone,
cross-legged, eyes fixed on the feet of strangers—as if he is keeping
records of shoes & sizes.
If shoes could talk about those who wear them, the man would
have his whole body full of stories so that at dusk, when the beach
reclaims her song & stalls close in honor of the arriving moon—
he would have gained more weight just by sitting at the boardwalk.
On the Niger
The bridge across the face of Niger is not as old
as stories about a certain discovery. An explorer’s fable,
history, and the politics of dredging embrace the water
with questions. Onitsha craves to flow with the currents
of Niger, hears her silent pleas and thunderous fury,
the deep secrets of her journey northwards—
sounds of pearls cast from her depths to markets and stalls,
and watches her graceful dance to the rhythm of drums.
Upper Iweka sits on the surface of bustling harmonies,
traders compete with chorus of profits. But homeward
students in multicolor uniforms sing that water, even the Niger—
does not wash away the stains of history.
Echezonachukwu Nduka, poet and classical pianist, is the author of Chrysanthemums for Wide-eyed Ghosts (2018). Recipient of the Korea-Nigeria Poetry Prize, his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Indianapolis Review, River River, Bakwa Magazine, Bombay Review, Jalada Africa, 20.35 Africa: an Anthology of Contemporary African Poetry, Saraba, among others. He currently lives in New Jersey where he teaches and performs as a pianist. He can be found online at www.artnduka.com
(c) Featured image culled from Wuzup Nigeria
Author image courtesy of the author