September 28, 2018

For Daddy:

 How to contemplate what outlasts what. How laughter is sometimes so involuntary nothing should be said about happiness. How companionship is not necessarily supplied by friendship, instead its central mystery. How a lamp is left on throughout the night, to keep wake, to keep wake. How a beard, months after being worn, fathers a face, that face orphaned when shaved. How to transfer a man’s consciousness to those he leaves behind. How I am still with you. How it is still too early to say however. How I dread the afterimage. How the palms, long after they are held open, resemble a book, hence letters. How a tree does not know you. How you will cease to be known by your body. How little you know of me, and how your estimations are right. How I love my mother. How I love my father. How I love my sisters. How I love my brothers. How long I would remain surprised that anyone reaches a great, old age. How long you must suspect that anything I write is rinsed in sentiment. How a son is a father doubled, or halved. How quickly I wrote this. How no two breaths are of the same duration. How God. How to recite a psalm without weeping. How I am still with you.




September 21, 2018

Dear Christopher Okigbo,

All day I am translating your other name. “Ifekandu.”

Something bigger than life,
Something better than life,
Something bigger and better than life,
This thing cannot be equated with life,
Life is too small in comparison,
Teach me to number my days, to apply my heart to something besides this life,
I have measured life and found it small in comparison,
Why speak of life in this world when you can speak of someplace better,
What is life compared to something vaster,
There is something better than life.



August 17, 2018

For Chinua Achebe:

In 1971, soon after the war, he published a volume of poems. “There is some connection between the particular distress of war, the particular tension of war, and the kind of literary response it inspires. I chose to express myself in that period through poetry, as opposed to other genres.” His explanation was published in 2012.

In his memoir, when he turns to prose, his sentences are written with restraint, without imaginative flourishes. The book, besides the poems he includes, is a compendium of personal and historical facts.

It has been said that he was silent about the war for forty years. And suppose it is true, that even his poems constitute silence—so what? So what, if on days when he attempts to tell a story, and senses afresh the depth of horror, he finds it difficult to write a novel that is not belabored by disenchantment. So what if he stands from his desk, shuts the door, and never writes a word for months.

Dear Chinua. Someone has whispered in my ear that it is possible to run errands for a previous generation. Send me forth from your silence.



June 27, 2018

Dear Isabelle Eberhardt

It comes to my mind like this. A crane, a migrating water bird.

Palamedes, it is said, invented the alphabet after watching the patterns made by flocks of cranes while in flight. That would suggest that each letter depicted corresponds to the spectacular swerve of a bird.

Some days everything depended on how well the crane could be observed. Their flight marked the turn of seasons, or remnant sources of water in the desert, where birds came to rest between Africa and Asia.

The metaphor gets even more multilayered: Ancient augurists believed that if you found a knowledgeable bird, who had flown high enough to have seen the whole world, it could tell you where Utopia was.

I can think of no other example to illustrate the fusion of nature with writing, the freedom of the migrant with the vastness of the world.



— Emmanuel Iduma


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