PEACE FOR THE WICKED


There is no peace for the wicked,’ saith my God. But is there peace for the righteous? Is there peace for the millions who before you shed suppliant tears, who anguish over the evil affairs of this earth?

The labourer will work his hand coarse and still will have scanty bread on his table; the mother will cry her heart out but her ailing child will still die in her arms. The man who refuses bribe will still go unpromoted. There is no recompense; there is no mercy; there is no peace: there is only wretchedness for these hordes whom you have pronounced peaceable.

O my God, walk my street and do not turn your face away! Look, the offscourings who litter the walkway, who stretch out hands for mercies that come in trickles, for whom no sun brightens their countenance, for whom no rain refreshes their soul. They are the remnants of a nation which cannot sustain itself; nay, they are the filth of a nation whose bourgeoisie feed their dogs with gold. The rest are hollowmen, soulless indwellers of your earth whom no music can rouse to a dance. Aho! What plaintive cadence can rouse their forgotten selfs? What alien hope can infuse life into their inexistence? There is no peace for them, my God.

But there is peace for the wicked. There is peace for the looters of the national treasury. There is peace for those who make bonfires with naira notes to warm the houses that have become cloyed with comfort. There is peace for those who drink from chalices of gold the sweat and blood of their fellow citizens. There is peace for those who wad currencies in their sock away pits, who erect edifices for no man’s occupation, who run to foreign lands to heal a toothache. For these first sons there is peace.

There is peace, my God, for those who mock your name on the pulpit. There is peace for those who use your name as bait for their victims. There is peace for those who build temples for you but turn around to inhabit them, who defile your temple and defy your power. There is peace for those who rob in your name. There is peace for those who ride on your wings while treading on the souls of your redeemed, the seventh sons of your calling. Yes my God, there is peace for those who defame you.

They have peace who trouble others. They have life who kill others. They have families who wreck other people’s homes. They have children who enslave other people’s children. There is but one death for the man who had killed a thousand. There is but one charnel-house for the man who had buried a nation. They have love who incite others to hate. They have peace who incite others to arms. They have tranquillity who set afire other people’s homes.

What speak of justice? What speak of the tens of thousands who have grown decadent beards because Justice does not know their ilk? What speak of the outlaws whose dark deeds have been whitewashed at court sessions? There is justice for the master, O my God; but where is the justice for the servant? There is justice for the herder, but where is the justice for the oxen? O God of Justice, are these whom Justice embrace your children – and are these many others the condemned, the unknown, the Ishmaels who may weep in vain for a drop of comfort?

Talk then of justice and peace for the meek! Talk of the meek who are now the carpet for the wicked’s trampling. The meek are not the possessors of the earth, my God. The fruit of their kindness is bitterness. The hand which gives, the heart which aches, the soul which forgives – there is for them a common denominator of sorrow! Men will trample upon the flowers of the earth and it will go well with them. Men will uproot refreshing seeds and still live their full terms of life. The wicked spreads his memory abroad – on edifices, on statues, on parchments. Yes, even at death the tombstone of the wicked keeps him alive. But for the meek there is no stone to mark his grave; no eyes had shed tears for his passage; no clouds had gathered to mark his fall. In death, as in life, the meek remains barren – the meek whom you have proclaimed the possessors of the earth!

My God, speak of guilt to consciences deadened with evil schemes! Speak of guilt to souls alien to goodness! They will know no heartbreak who break the hearts of others. They have paramours in dozens who seduce the faithful man’s betrothed. She who has lived her whole life in concubinage will marry and birth children, but the chaste lady will wither in helpless spinsterhood.

There is neither peace nor justice for the righteous, O my God! The earth is not the possession of the meek. Happiness is not for the heart which aches for you, nor song for the mouth which supplicates you.

But for the wicked there is peace!

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THE SUPPLICANT 


(for Bunmi…)

Chilled by the desire

For your nearness,

My heart trembles, seared

By the fires of your lambent eyes

Whose ardour mesmerises me…

Drunk in passion

My brain labours

To extricate itself

From your magic hold

But how tenaciously you persist!
Repeated are the moments

When I am lost

In your elusive phantasma.

A dreamland where you reign

Centre of every other sphere

An ethereal Queen whose light

Infuses goodness…

Your eyes dare the sun

The smile on your unblushing cheeks

Effervesces across a million galaxy,

Ripples of inexhaustible charms…

Your distinctive form, unpossessed yet by any,

Breeds fancy in men, draws angels

To a dance of guilt…
O, for a one so richly adorned!

Were I a painter, Bunmi

I would sit for days on my drawing board

And spill all paints to capture you

Were I a musician

I would summon all sweet cadences

To your adoration

Were I a poet

I would invoke the muses

To breathe words to my ink…
But alas, untalented

Ungifted in coquetry – 

I come to your supple altar

O Bunmi, deign

And touch your earnest supplicant

Let not his prayer go unheeded…

TEMPTED


She came unsought

Smooth sail into my broken life

Gift unasked, I opened my arms

To embrace, but

The air undeceived my grasp

Gossamer my faith, so was

My gift: nothingness

The shadow of my pursuance

Was gone with the wind

 

In vain I stood, longing

Long after her departure

Then it came, a voice as of old

‘She is gone, son

Because thou canst have

A phantom for a gift.’

But Father: she is real!

‘Yes, son, and so your doom with her’

O Lord, such wreath

Crown of thorn

To lure my empty heart!

 

O fool, even now revealed

The tempter’s tool

Still must do its bidding –

For though out of my life she went

She lives ever still in my mind.

 

© 2017 Joshua Omenga

SOUL-BOND



In moments like this, when my spirit is at its lowest, when all else deserts my mind, and in the emptiness of my soul there is neither comfort nor hope; at moments like this, I find you are there. You are among mortals my sole heart craving. Not for what you have to give me, nor for what I have to give you. But this, this inexplicable attachment, this soul-bond between us which we may deny but is always there. It’s what keeps me coming back, even when weighed by anxiety, and with nowhere to rest my soul,  I come to you. I know that you too, in your loneliness, think of me, though there’s in me no comfort for you. I know and so do you that we don’t crave comfort from each other, nor satisfaction, nor even hope; we need but the awareness of that kindred spirit which far or near still elicits the bliss of agonized souls. 

Ah, we are here now. Someday we’ll not be. You’ll look for me and not see me; or I’ll look for you and not see you. We shall have succumbed to the inevitability of mortals… And yet when that moment comes, when you find I’m not here, you shall not look for empty hope, for the feel that has ceased inexorably, for that small voice that delighted you… none of these false hopes will tickle you, but yet you’ll survive. You’ll survive because in you shall be the fond memories…. Nay, not fond, just memories of our togetherness, of our yearnings, of our inexpressible bond. So shall I, in that moment when I shall look for and not find you, when the mourners bear your coffin away, and people whisper and voices wail true and false… I shall be silent, I shall not observe, I shall not hope…. But in me will be the little glitter left of the shiny days, in me will be the memories we have shared. In me shall be the remnant of that fire that sorrow has attempted to douse… But in my silence shall be our reunion. I don’t know what lies behind mortality, whether men shall ever be as they are now, or if religion has deceived us all. Sometimes in the chaos of existence, I entertain this hope, this longing for another life, for a life that has no end. But shall we, dear one; shall we live again? For you see, if it does exist, and if ever it is meant for men such as have lived on the earth, we shall be there, even if in its removed corner, observing those worthier to occupy its elegant part. All we need is our togetherness, and the earth might apportion to the rest as it wishes…… 

Have you tears to shed? Have you laughter left? Have you in this world moments we can cherish? O dear fearless one, remember me in your sorrow and your joy. I may not always say it but you know I love you. Yes, even if the time comes when neither you nor I shall mention love, we’ll know it is part of us, indelible. And what are words to souls that know the eternity of feelings? If all fails, who lives should remember : there was US. 
©2016 Joshua Omenga

MEMORIES, Of the One


Joshua Omenga

The most dreadful moment in your life is the moment when the one you love is lost to you; when, in the dreams of your night you strain to grasp her shadow but she is gone. You will hear her voice in silent places, see her face in crowded markets, feel her touch in your loneliness – but the moment you reach out for her, she disappears. She is the phantom after which your longing desires shall never sate. But you do not believe it because you cannot bear the stunning reality.

Then shall you walk the streets with face bent to the ground seeking to find the unfindable. You shall look into your troubled mind for the moment when she was yours. You are content with a few moment of laughter with her, her face so near yours you choked with joy… In your search into the past you do not know when you are smiling, and hands are pointing curiously at you, and wagging tongues call you madman. O how you want them to know we are all mad; it does not matters how we express our madness. But the striated soul will keep bleeding, and nothing but time can heal it…

You wonder if you shall ever wake up from this. But you do not truly desire to awake from this dream, because in this dream she will be yours. It is at this moment that truth is your enemy. Philosophy is not for your wretched soul – you are willing to buy any lie, believe any hypocrisy, so long as your beloved is given back to you.

Listen, listen, O eremite – is not hers the yonder melodious voice? Hear it as it peels across the stream. The lapping water brings her joyful cadences and her melody is all over the plain. Will you not harvest them – the songs of your dear one? Now shall you know pain, when you hear that voice that shall no more be yours, and you strive after her but do not see her. Every turned back is her wraith, and away from your longing grasp she ever keeps…

Dare you turn away from the stream now? Dare you close your ears to the familiar voice whose softness now rings like funeral chimes in your ears? Nay, you do not mind the pain, you do not mind the agony, so long as you see and feel that flesh from which the voice emanates. Like a giant spectre you lift your feet to seek her. But a voice says after you: ‘Son, do not seek her. Do not go after her for she is not yours.’ You open your protestant mouth to tell the voice that it is wrong, that she is yours, has been yours, shall ever be yours… but the old wise voice has receded and you are left alone in the closing dusk. The world is going to sleep. You are the lone creature in the wide world, and the wicked stars are grinning at you.

Bend your head, mourned one; bend your head and weep. Weep for that which you have lost. Weep for that which you shall never have. Weep for that receding figure which this closing darkness shall swallow forever. But your tears are inured. Your eyes are two embers popping out of lifeless sockets. Your voice has withered in your throat. You need no voice for the ears which have closed themselves to your hearing. You need no eyes for the ghost that ever flees from your sighting. You need no hand to feel the once sensate flesh which now is hardened in the maws of inexistence. You need no nose for that smell that once reeked beside you in the bed… Let sorrow overwhelm you! Submit yourself to disgrace’s emphatic embrace…

What may you not think now? What may you not imagine? As you pour the sand on your sweating head, you raise your head and remember the lullaby your mother had sung for you; the lullaby you shall sing for your offspring:

‘Sleep, little one

God watches over you…’

But now it reeks of lies… You cannot sleep, because the serrated soul can find no solacement in closed eyes. Sleep is the balm of the soul whose desires have been granted. You raise your head and ask, ‘God, do you watch over me? You dozed off and calamity overcame me. You turned your eyes away when my beloved was snatched away from me. No, dear God: you do not watch over me.’ Your utterances are blasphemy: you know it but you do not care. You know that you have come to the crossroad when you may utter any anathema because salvation is no more for you; no, you need no salvation…

You do not need the salvation in which you shall look for your beloved and not see her. You do no need the golden house decorated with precious stones in which you shall wake up to the feel of loneliness. There is no Elysium for you without your beloved. When you recall your pastor’s telling you that when your eyes are closed to this world, they open in heaven in the dazzling presence of God’s glory, His hands stretched out to rake you in embrace – when you recall this, you laugh at your pastor’s ignorance. To you heaven is no heaven if you search among the innumerable angels and cherubim and not see your beloved. It is for her alone that you care; God may keep His angels and make them purer still…

When you have gone through this experience, when you have gone through this chastening flame of lost love – then shall you behold the world in a different light. Nothing will hunger you anymore. You will pay no heed to wealth when it shakes its tail before you; you will grin at fame when it comes luring you. When an angel human comes to knock at the door of your heart, she will find it firmly shut against all enchantments. You do not want love because you think love has ceased to exist: it has fled with your beloved. Only memories remain, memories of bygone bliss whose sweet unreality will never be repeated.

You alone know who you are: you are the man who has loved and lost. You alone can look the world in the face and tell her the truth. Now are you fit to be a prophet.
©2016 

AS I LAY DYING 


Joshua Omenga 

How was I to know that this day will ever arrive when I will look back at all my years of living, all my strivings, all my loves and hates, all my desires and loathing, all my years of devotion to religion, all the pains and travails of my life, and the moments of laughter with friends and wild jubilations for things achieved – that in this moment, as I lay dying, I would look at them all and sum them up in one word: Vanity? Not a prophet could have foretold this…

Now I see clearly the road which I have traversed in this life, the crooked and the straight, the ones in which I have made diligent efforts to choose, the ones I have chosen impulsively; that all of them, the road taken and the road not taken, lead, in this inevitable hour, to one end. Wherefore is that voice that in life warns man of making bad decisions? Is this not the fruition of it all, this narrow end at which all life’s journeys converge? What means the telling of different stories when each man’s story must have this sad ending? O child, do not wet my deathbed with tears! Don’t weep for the life which has ended; weep instead for your life, and if the mist may clear from your eyes, learn what you may of this unvarying tale, for one day, you will find that all life’s end is the same.

I cannot say, ‘Life has given this to me’, for none of life’s gifts is permanent, and none of them is of any use to me now. Shall I talk of the wealth that I have acquired? Shall I remember my tardy expectations, my shrewish bargains, my unreserved husbandry? What do my toils mean in this last hour? What consolation may I derive from them? That they will be for my children? What joy is there in this knowledge, when I shall close my eyes to all affairs, to all sensations, to all knowings? No, there is nothing in it for me except the knowledge that I once had, that I once possessed; yea, that I have…

As for these children that I have shed many tears, spend untold hours to wipe their noses, wrung my heart in worry over their sick beds, held their little hands as they took uncertain steps in this uncertain world, smiled at their full-throated laugh – what are they to me now, when I shall behold them no more, when I shall think no more of them? What does it matter that they think of me when I don’t know that they think of me? Where is the truth in the aphorism that they are an eternal heritage, these children which this closing night will erase their memory from my head?

O child, listen wisdom is nothing! Knowledge is nothing! I have accumulated knowledge, known many secrets, read many books; but O child, they are to me like all the rest of my acquisitions! What is the knowledge that will decay with my brain, the wisdom that will not circumvent this moment? Ah, the philosophers are to blame for elevating wisdom, for parading knowledge as though it is anything. Don’t listen to them:  they all lie! When this moment arrives, you will find that there is no difference between the brute and the sage.

All is lie, child; all the things you hold sacred are nihil. There is no recompense for them all. Shun that voice that tells you to live good; shun that voice that tells you to live evil; shun all voice but yours. Choose that life you will, live it, and when it comes to an end, when this inescapable moment arrives, you will have nothing to regret. Yes, child, for in this last hour, all life is the same. I testify that when life has come to its end, it will not matter what road you have taken to reach it.

What dreams I will encounter in this eternal sleep I do not know. I hear the Voice, the Voice which had sustained my faith; It says, ‘Sleep and be with your God.’ I have believed this Voice, this God; I have laboured in this affair called religion – but what is religion when I close my eyes? What is God when I cease to exist? Is he not for the living – the living who go on suffering for Him, the living who hope to reap the reward of their devotion when they are dead? Whose then is God – the dead who will not have him or the living who will die for him? Ah, where are you God? Will you lend me your hand to feel, tell me what lies ahead in this inexplicable journey of my embarkation? Do not forsake me now, when all else has become nothingness. Or are you too, like them, nothing in the end? Are you merely the conjuration of religionists?

I have heard that it is the soul that you care for, not the body. But of what use is my soul without my body? I want to have my body; preserve that for me and you shall have justified my years of religion. I have tried to imagine the abstraction called spirit and if it is real, if ever in this vast cosmos one may point at a thing and say, ‘This is a spirit’, I see no reason why I should desire it more than other vain things that I have desired in life. I see no reason why, for the promise of a life away from my body, I should spent years of penance and self-abnegation, seek after the justice that the whole world is bent against, and endure persecution for the sake of pleasing you. How clearly I see all things now, when there is no remedy for lost things, when I cannot turn back and follow a different route. But all routes are the same. O vain, this life; one may plan and pray and still come to the same abysmal end. Wherein lies this hope that faith infuses in the heart which believes?

I have been told that sometime in an indefinite future, a vast celestial trumpet shall awake all dead to life and souls shall be restored. Which body will the restored soul occupy? A new created flesh? O God, you may keep my soul, destroy it even; but let this flesh of mine be there, this brain, this me, imperfect and ailing – let it be the object of my resurrection. What is the ‘I’ if I look for my being and not find it? I don’t want that soul whose substance have eluded men; I want this body as it is, this sensate ‘I’, this brain with all its knowledge and unwisdom, not a purified soul worthy of walking beside you.

Grant me immortality! Let there be no time that I will not be. What does it mean to not be, to cease to exist? Tell, O ye immortal – but can you, always existing, know what it means not to exist? I long to know! I long to understand this void for which I am destined! I long to foreknow, to anticipate; else how do I know when I cease to exist, when I have arrive at death’s destination? O God, if you are, if you know, teach me!

I look but I cannot see, I listen but I cannot hear, I touch but I cannot feel; everything is melting away. Nothing remains but this chasmic feel. There is peace around me, bliss ineffable. Am I this floating, unfeeling being in this vast impersonal space? What is this great luminary that provides no light and yet dazzles? I strain for this ethereal sight but I cannot reach it. All things are fleeting. All shapes, all colours, all tastes conjoin in one indescribable swirl and around me they circle; no, they are me. But there is no me – nothing of what once I called ‘me’. And yet, and yet… I grope, in my brain? I strain to think but think I cannot. Ah, this… where… may I… O? Cr… h…

Before you are here, Child 


O child whose presence the earth has not yet known, I think of you in my delirious moments, in that world where like you existence has no hold on me. It is not fantasy but a vision, a pre-experience, a feel of the future, our future, in which we shall be lost in the euphoria of each other’s presence, of our souls’ union, our transcendent expectations… When that moment  comes, child; when I am finally in your presence and I can hold your little finger in mine and watch your fledgling footsteps on this earth where giants have trodden, and hear your innocent cackle reverberate in the bowels of a troubled world… when that time comes…

I shall look into your eyes… And what shall I see, child? Shall I see me, the image of my childhood, that forgotten copy that eternity has discarded, that precious me that has become undiscoverable? Shall I find in you the irredeemable memories of my childhood,  in your heartbeat the indefinite feel of wonderment and admiration for  all things? Shall I discern in you the unwavering trust of one who has known no betrayal, for whom this world is impeccable? O child, reveal unto me! 

Let me not see in you this degraded me who seek but never find, who ask but am never answered, who look at life with disdain and see only rottenness in the perfection of existence… this me whom experience has taught to be circumspect in all things, to doubt every glittering thing, to mock rejoicing, to obtain a fool’s satisfaction from the nihilism of man’s existence – the satisfaction that I am not alone. O child, when I look upon you, let me not see this image of me that haunts me in the secrecy of my soul, in whom the rays of divine light have dimmed; let this not be the me that you shall inherit… 

When I look upon you, let me see the conquerous smile of one whose mind knows no defeat, let me see in you the courage that defies evil thoughts, let me see in you all the things I had wanted to be. Let me see in you, my child, a person to envy; when I look into your eyes, let me be dazzled by your immanence – and yet, when I reach out to hold you, let your hand grasp mine in absolute surety, for child, in you shall I find comfort for an irrecoverable past, in you shall I rediscover myself. 

And we shall romp the wild in search of butterflies, and laugh at their escape; we shall fall on the grasses without hurrying to stand, and we shall commune with them, these little things that know only perfection. And when grains of water fall on us, and wind blow our hair, and we hear around us the melody of a homeseeking bird and the intimidating roar of a lion calling her children into the den, when, lost in the wild and night approaches, and you grasp my hand in trepidation, we shall wander a little more. We shall sit on a supine tree, watch the yellowing sun adieuing the day, and the tranquil moon peering at us like playmates… We shall sit and watch the wonders of heaven, the imponderous superfluity of the universe… yes, your small eyes shall look upon them, those enormous members of our family obscured by man’s greed. And, surrounded by this vastness, alone in the wild, you will break the silence with your small voice in a praiseful melody, and I your sole human listener shall laugh with you and tell you stories, stories that will have neither beginning nor end, like this my vision…