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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ephesus: She told me:

Ephesus: She told me:: "he is my son the first gift of my womb and of my pain as soldiers line six deep at high noon to return to him the fruits of his labors the ..."

She told me:

he is my son
the first gift of my womb
and of my pain
as soldiers line
six deep
at high noon
to return to him
the fruits of his labors

the roar of the watching crowd
and cries of those he had sent
sometimes at dawn
to their deaths
were sound beds to her request.
she said,
I have suckled him
with hopes of a better day
but he laughed and scorned
as I wept and moaned

now dry eyed

she watched unflinching
as the guns boomed
his body limp
on the drums to which
it was staked.

She signed the papers
to take him away
for burial.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My name is BABATUNDE 2

Later in the evening, he still smarted from the teasing of his mother and his younger siblings. Their father had marched them back to the farm not saying a word throughout the silent ten kilometer journey. The day at the farm had passed silently. First he had been furious then gradually he wondered how he could have that stupid. Of course there was no such thing as tree spirit. He cringed inwardly at the thought of any of his educated friends who came from rich homes discovering that he had taken to his heels because he met an Iroko tree spirit. He refused to take part in the moonlight tales or offer answers to the riddles.
Those riddles used to interest him as he would attempt to anticipate the answers but he had refused to be drawn and he also noticed that Papa had been more withdrawn. When they came from the farm he had called him aside and questioned him closely about the old man. That had set him wondering why his father had been curious. He saw papa go into the room he slept in alone and close the door. That indicated no one was to approach him. Some two hours later he had emerged in his evening native wear and gone out. It was close to the curfew time and he started worrying if his father was coming back in good time else he if the hunters that watched over the town caught him he would be asked to sell bean cakes for the rest of the night.
It used to amuse him as he wondered if they actually make them sell bean cakes at night and who was going to buy. One night Uncle Osupa had been caught late and he was asked to hawk bean cakes. He remembered not sleeping for most of the night as he listened to the hoarse voice of his uncle going from one end of the street to the other asking people to come and buy bean cakes! His mother had been upset and angry. The next morning though a weakened uncle had laughed at his troubles. He had asked who actually made those bean cakes and uncle had laughed
“It is not real bean cakes son else I would have simply eaten them and given them their money but rocks arranged in a basket”.
“Yes son and well I did not know I had taken such a long time, plus my captor was my friend really”.
“And he could not simply let you go”?
“It is the law. I would have done the same to him, no movement after ten p.m, so” .. he shrugged and groaned flexing his muscles.
It was the emabarassment of being berated by your wife and the women in the house that usually brought the men to their beds early. In a farming village as his , he guessed it was the best way to maintain security. Most men lived often on the farm especially if it was the cocoa season. It was really a tedious job, you cut the cocoa pods and then handed over basket upon baskets of golden yellow cocoa to the women who would sit in a circle around the growing pile, deftly cutting the pods in two and using their hands to empty out the creamy seeds in into big bowls. When he was much younger, he would take scoops of the creamy seeds and suck them. He would get slightly tizzy and chase his sisters round the farm or go crab hunting with his friends.
It was a life he had been very happy with until he got admission into university and he had to leave outside his immediate environment. Each semester, he needed to return to the village so he could work on the farm. It was the only way he could be able to have money to manage his financial needs. Each time he needed to adjust to a different pattern. Rising very early for the farm, having only lunch of sometimes just fruits from the farm and then coming home early evening for the one solid meal which was usually pounded yam with lots of vegetables and the occasional game if Tope had been particularly good.
That was another thing, Tope had a strange way with animals and beliefs too. He said certain types of animals may not be easily killed in case it was some witch or spirit using the body of that animal to hunt in the farm. He used to be horrified and would be reluctant to eat some of Tope’s game in case it happened to be human. His half brother will tease him and make strange sounds and they would argue good naturedly.
One of the things that had bothered him when he got admission was how he was going to relate with his brother seeing Tope was the older one and by Polygamous hierarchy ought to have been the one in school. He was half brother as Tope’s mum was the senior wife of the family. Everybody called her Mama. Even father did, which was the law for she was the one who laid down the law. She hardly ever slept in father’s room and always woke up late. She would call all the children to her room for the compulsory herbal drink they all had to take each morning., including all the younger wives.
She had a special herbal drink for the men, that is Papa and his brother uncle Osupa. It was a fairly peaceful polygamaous home, an indication that Papa was in control of his family. He gave his senior wife a farm of her own and she generally planted yams, some cocoyams, pepper and okro on the farm and would go to her farm every morning. The other wives were given small portions.
He used to wonder if all his father’s wives actually loved him equally but well, that was just speculation as he was sure that his mother at least did not care much for Ronke’s mum. She would purse her lips and sigh but not say much. Ronke’s mum always had a reason why she was too tired to pound yam and would be sharp with Ronke if she stayed too long in his room. His mother would then start singing and one day he listened to the songs. They were jibes directed at a woman who had a weak woman since all her witch making efforts had only succeeded in making her have only witches like herself.
Mama had come out of her room after listening to those songs and said nothing. She just stood there and after a while, the angry songs had faltered and gradually stopped while Ronke’s mum who had been in tears simply picked her headtie and said she was going out.
He jerked out of his reverie when he had the front door open and Papa come in with an old man. His heart almost stopped as he stared at the man. The man winked at him and said nothing. His jaw dropped. The old man followed Papa to the room and he suddenly shivered. He was sure that was the old man that had given them a bad fright. What was he doing with his father? He tip toed to his father’s room thinking he might hear what they had to say. He was also hoping he might be able to catch the old man’s name. But there was only faint murmuring from the other side of the room and then silence. He quickly rushed back to his room and quietly closed the door his heart thumping. He listened for the outer door so he could go and ask his father what the old man was doing in his room. Papa had feigned ignorance of their reason for flying home. Was he playing a practical joke on them and using the old man to check on them?

His mother’s gentle touch woke him. He opened his eyes to a dawn. The house was silent and he sat up with a jerk. What? It was morning. Everybody had gone to the farm. He was going to beat the living daylights out of Ojo. Imagine! No one messed with him not even “Gbangban” the feared wrestler. One minute he was talking to Anike and then Ojo had the gall to come over. What was he supposed to do to the wretched boy. He looked at his mother. She was considering him with worry in her eyes. He shrugged her hand off and asked if he was the only one in the house. She simply nodded yes.
He swung his feet away from the edge of the mat and checked for his calico top. He also checked for his cutlass. His mother asked him where he was headed and he said he was going to the farm but would check on his palm tree to collect his palm wine for the evening. Besides he had promised the hunters good wine for their meeting. Two good kegs. He planned on keeping a small gourd for himself.
He walked briskly along the farm road, it was fairly deserted as anyone who had any business would be on the farm now. So he made his way to his palm trees. He wanted to check one that had only just started giving out palm wine. It was very milky, and very sweet, evidence of its newness. He planned on making that his own as it could be very strong. Its sweetness would ensure that he would get a good bargain as palm wine sellers would mix in a little bit of water to dilute and have more wine to sell. Arranging his climbing gear near his waist he considered the tree. Not that tall he might just climb it without using the gear he thought to himself. Good practice too. So he clambered up like some squirrel and he suddenly thought of Ojo as he climbed. The idiot wouldn’t be able to do this and he wants to compete with me over a girl. He got to the top of the palm tree and checked the gourd. It was half way full. He decided he should take that and replace the gourd with a fresh one. As he leaned over to untie the knots he had used in securing the gourd to the palm tree, he lost his footing and came crashing down.
Everything went black.
He did not know how long he had been on the ground. He opened his eyes slowly to see a pair of eyes watching him speculatively. He tried to turn and the eyes told him to lie still.
“You had a fall you know”
“I know stupid”.
“You are the stupid one I think”
“Who said you could think?, it is obvious even to a blind fool”
“Okay I will come back when you are ready to talk but chew that leaf when your back starts to hurt” the eye said and receded.
His back hurt and sharp stabs of pain shot through him. He couldn’t lift his leg neither could he lift his left arm. His head felt as if it was on fire, he groaned, remembered he had been asked to chew on a leaf so he looked round with his other arm felt around him.
“It is on your chest stupid” a voice said
He used his uninjured arm to pick the leaf and thrust it into his mouth grimacing at its sharp bitterness. He swallowed severally, tears coming into his eyes from the sharp pain. He drifted off to sleep after a few minutes. It was a deep sleep for the whole day. When he opened his eyes again he could move his arms, both of them. He felt light and thirsty. Where was he? Then he remembered he had fallen off his palm tree! He raised his shoulders as he tried to rise. He saw that he was some distance from the tree. His cutlass was some metres away as his gourd of palm wine which was shattered. He looked up at the tree and shook his head.
That was some fall he mused
“One hell of a stupid fall if you ask me”
“Well I did not ask you did I?” he retorted looking round him to place the voice.
A very small being walked up to him and regarded him solemnly
They both stared at each other.
“You are kind of tiny aren’t you” he asked
“I have better sense to go climbing trees especially when my mood is wrong”
“I don’t recall asking for your opinion”
“Yes I know, so how is the back”?
“It was you who placed those awful tasting leaves on my chest”?
“You ate them right?”
“Well I did. My back was hurting really bad”
“Okay, I know that. You will have to lie still today too”.
“Hmm I am thirsty, be a good fellow bring that gourd over there and tip it into my mouth will you?”
The tiny fellow smiled and simply went over to the left side of the gourd and brought out a small shell from which he fetched some liquid and without a further word tilted his head up and poured it into his mouth. He slept again. He became friends with the tiny being for the next three nights. It will come, observe him and then give him a nut or fruit to eat and then leave. On the next night he got curious enough to ask him the name of the leave he had chewed the first night of his fall. Tiny as he called him shrugged and said he was not concerned with names but asked him to take a long look at the leaves.
“When you want to heal anyone with a bad fall, ask them to chew it and swallow everything. Talk to me before you need to pluck the leaves or friends of mine then we will put the healing property in it before we give it to you. Will you understand that”?
“Pluck leaves and herbs only early in the morning and late in the evening, that way we get a chance to put the properties inside before you take them away and we also have a chance to move out”.
“Hmmm…. But why are you telling me all these, I am going to be a palm wine tapper not a herbalist”.
“I knew you were stupid but I guess I have to tell you. You are going to listen? It is important you listen, you smell”
He was outraged “I beg your pardon!!!”
“All humans smell and wear funny clothes”
“You don’t smell so nice yourself fancy pants”
But that had been on the third night, he had been so irritated that he went searching for a stream the next day and had a wash.
The next night when he woke up, he was very refreshed and had a sense of well being he had not felt ever he stood up and stretched, no pain. His back was healed. He looked round for the tiny fellow he had chatted with but saw only the shell and nothing more. He wondered if he should head home. He would be missed, He had been away for almost five nights. His mother would be in a real panic by now.

Then he opened his eyes straight into that of Papa. There was concern in Papa’s eyes.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes” he nodded
“What is your name”? it was standard to test to know if he was normal. So he grinned.
“My name is Babatunde” he said then paused and amended, “no my name is ALALE OSUPA, the owner of the lunar land”.
Papa smiled, “Welcome home, grandpa, I was told you were back and I did not know it was you I thought you were in Tope”.
Then the old man stepped forward a smile in his eyes.
“Remember me?”
“Yes fancy pants” Babatunde snapped.
The old man grinned and raised his lantern. He stared, “so it was you.”
“You ran boy, after all that trouble of looking after you, making you a successful medicine man, a powerful one from the way I heard them say, you ran when you saw me. They never knew why you never liked palm wine after that fall of yours, or why you will sit in a corner and talk to yourself. You couldn’t tell them that you talked to spirits right? Now you are back learning fancy medicine in fancy schools calling those leaves by some fancy names and you call me fancy pants!”
“What are you doing here now, I…”
Things were getting blurred again and the old man with his lantern was receding, someone was shaking his shoulder and he struggled to be conscious as he screamed
Wait!, come back we can teach the modern ones too. We can show them the medicine of the old, how it worked. He looked round wildly then into his father’s alarmed eyes
Papa, don’t let him go, he means well. He taught me medicine
Who are you talking about
My friend fancy pants, you know, when I fell from that palm tree he healed me.
His father was gentle as they brought a cup of herbal tea to his lips urging him to drink it. “You will soon be well. I have sent for Ojo to consult with him. I really should have told you about talking to strange human beings on your way to the farm. I did not know you really took him in. I know you do not like Ojo or his type of medicine, grandfather also did not like Ojo’s father, heard they were once rivals”.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My name is BABATUNDE 1

The dawn was still a few hours away. It was the time to start for the farm. He did not particularly like the practice of waking up this early. It always gave him goose bumps because he was always afraid of meeting the spirits of the Iroko tree who he was told would just be going home into the big Iroko tree by the particular time. He would wonder about what he would do if he was to come across one. Tope never seemed to have any problem as he looked very much like an Iroko spirit anyway. He left the bed reluctantly and still half asleep groped for his basket, and cutlass.

Tope was up slapping away at his face. It was odd, tope always slapped himself as he wakes every morning. He had been curious enough to ask him why he did that and Tope had replied that he wanted to confirm that he was still alive. Crazy fellow was his quiet dismissal of that habit. He also had the irritating habit of suddenly wiping his face with imaginary cloth while he talked to you. Ige his brother had told him that Tope was by all accounts a strange fellow. I mean he could decide to head for the farm all alone himself.

He watched him as they all moved towards the front door. His mother called a good morning from her bedroom and he grunted his reply. She asked if he wwould check on her pepper farm, he sighed and wondered if he had the time to go to her pepper farm. They were going to the cocoa farm and it was some ten kilometer walk. He was not keen on taking a detour to the pepper farm. Tope answered for him saying if they finished in time they just might call at the farm adding that she would have to promise that there would be hot pounded yam waiting on their arrival.

His mother laughed a reply back saying he was a poor provider as a husband and bantered with him as she came to the door of her bedroom to bid them goodbye. She always called him her husband as he was the eldest son and her step son. In the culture of his tribe, she was not allowed to call Tope by his given name. He had refused to Tope brother as they were only six months apart. Tope didn’t seem to mind all that though. He just did not seem to mind all types of things particularly his face and his stature. Short , almost squat, he had not seemed to mind that he could not further his education and had seemed to take to farming very naturally.

He also seemed to like his younger step brother and would tell him tales of the spirits in the Iroko tree. He did not like the stories though as it tended to give him the creepy feeling that someone was going to get caught one day by these spirits. Each evening as they came home from farm work, Tope will regale them with the exploits of his favorite spirit. Since they usually heard the tales in the dark while they waited for the hunters bells to announce the village curfew he always had problem sleeping.

Most nights, while Tope snored he would be awake going over the fantastic tales of the exploits of these spirits. His world was of spirits, good ones, awful ones and some really rascally ones. He just didn’t like Tope’s penchant for telling them the really awful horror spirits of the Iroko.
They made their way sometimes in single file when the road got too narrow to the farm. When they get to a farm belonging to someone they know they will make farm calls. That is you cupped your hands over your mouth and you gave a long whistle like call. You were not allowed to use normal human language in case any of the spirits happen to be still around so you never called out names nor speak normally as these spirits could copy your voice and use it to your disadvantage or take it to a witch. When he was younger he had had fun doing the same things as Tope but now home from holidays he found he was suddenly embarrassed to use such language. It did not make sense to him and he also did not want to endanger his brothers by using proper language so he would keep quiet.

It was law that he had to join his brothers to the farm each time he came home on holidays and so he was compelled to follow them. If he did not join in the cocoa harvesting there would be no money to take back to the city nor pay his school fees.
“You are quiet this morning,” Tope remarked looking at him keenly. He returned the look with a shrug and said he just did not feel like yakking so early in the morning “besides I need to conserve my strength” he added.
“This city adventure of yours is making you soft” Tope replied spitting chewing stick saliva to the roadside.

That was another thing he didn’t like. Chewing stick, especially the one made from the branch of bitter leaf. It was always very bitter and he would complain to his mum asking her to get the ‘Ijebu” type but she would insist that the bitter leaf one was good for his health as it had anti-malarial properties.
Suddenly Ige froze and stood still. They bumped into him and he signaled furiously for them to be still. In the distance, they saw a moving light. His heart jumped and raced. Ige whispered from am almost strangled throat if they should run. They all three were petrified. It could only be that an Iroko tree spirit was going home and if he met them on the path he would do them harm.

His hands went clammy and he suddenly felt like peeing, his saliva thinned and he shivered. Ige was simply rooted to the spot. Should they pray? To who? He was not sure the Almighty had ever heard of these tree spirits! At least his Bible knowledge teacher never ever mentioned them. The light moved closer and he suddenly became aware that the whole forest path was eerily silent. He had heard tales of Iroko taking its prisoners into the Iroko tree and making them work endlessly. He wanted to be a surgeon. Finish school and get his mother to leave the village. Now he was going to be a slave to an Iroko spirit. He shivered, as the light moved closer. Tope started a chant and he hissed in his ears to shut the hell up so they can make good their escape before the spirit got to them. Ige asked if a cutlass could be effective on a spirit. Nobody answered. He closed his eyes and suddenly prayed, but to no particular deity. That was the problem, which deity was he going to ask to protect him from an alien spirit? Someone touched him and he shivered, opened his eyes straight into the face of an old man holding a lantern up and peering at him. He swallowed and stared back at the old man.

He gave a respectful greeting in a thin voice and the man simply nodded giving a very thorough once over. That unnerved him. The old man said nothing just simply stared. Ige had been standing rigidly straight, staring ahead,eyes almost popping out of their sockets. They all remained like that for a full minute after the old man had passed and then Tope started shivering, his teeth chattered like ,he stared at him alarmed.

What is wrong with you? He demanded
You mean you don’t know who we just saw? Tope asked in an almost strangled voice holding himself and shaking.
An old man returning from the farm
No! That is the spirit
Shut Up!

He knew he was frightened but he was expected to be the educated one and besides that really was an old man not some damned spirit. After all as the story goes these spirits generally tend to have one eye in the middle of their forehead and would be very short with a certain evil look and smell. So he looked at his brother and sighed trying to sound sophisticated. In a lazy voice he gave Tope and Ige a smile, “you bush boys want a spirit by any means right?, that was an old man”
Tope was angry, “so where is he coming from?”

I do not live with him he shrugged and looked round. He wished Tope will just crack any of the outlandish jokes so they could move on as they seemed rooted to the spot. His head felt light, and he goose bumps riding all over his skin. He held himself rigid with an effort. Ige was making no pretence about his fright and asked plaintively if they should return home.
He was brusque asking why he should return home.

Tope looked round and shook his head saying he should have listened to the dream he had and refused to rise that early/ besides there had been the strange calls of the wols all night. All that talk only served to make him nervous and he started walking. That decision galvanized all of them just before Ige looked down and gave a jump high into the air.
They turned round to stare at him, but Ige was pointing at the ground. Tope peered down and jumped into the bush. He missed stepping on a snake.
There was no need for further arguments as they all turned and ran all the way back to the house. As they got to the front of the house, they saw their dad sitting out calmly sharpening his cutlass. He gave them a startled look and raised his eyebrows.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ephesus: The Naming

Ephesus: The Naming

The Naming

Fehintola’s pregnancy was stress free and she was grateful for that. She went to the stream for her daily water and life assumed a pattern. The dreams also seemed to have stopped. Sometimes though, she would wonder if this was the calm before the storm. But nothing else happened. The young priestess of Yeye also seemed to have forgotten all about her as she did not call. That was strange and she asked her husband if she ought to visit. He grinned and tweaked her ears commenting that he had been thinking of seeing the young witch himself but because he was not sure of how he might act he had decided to keep his distance. She had been stern with him about his plans to flirt with the priestess.

Her mother then came to visit and she was surprised that for once, Mama seemed excited about the coming baby and started knitting. Her husband had taken one look at all the wools and stared.
But her mother had calmly knitted pieces of material for the coming baby. They both assumed that the coming child was going to be a girl. She had however wondered about the words of that young prophetess who had told her that she was going to give her husband a boy. Her young mate watched all the preparation for the baby saying little.

Her baby kicked in her womb and she had a radiance that made her husband joke that maybe he had best keep her permanently pregnant. One night her labour pains came and everybody went into a panic. In the midst of all the rush to get her to the hospital, she felt calm and suddenly prayed, talking to the child and asking that for once this trip to bring forth a child should be a successful one.

The lights blinked and swayed and there was sudden fluid motion, bells rang and I felt the fragrance of soft folds around me as I passed through the veils as they dropped and things gradually became blurred and the picture of home gradually faded into memories I will see now in walks through the meadows of my soul. The bands of light came ever closer, glowing in brightness and swishing over me in folds of sheer beauty. I walk through the temple. In arches of domed lights and the flute played, then through the curtains of cascading water I am immersed as things receded, as I pass through the funnel and open my eyes.

The naming ceremony preparation started in earnest and Fehintola had so many names she wanted to call the child. Ayo her husband was not so sure he wanted the stress he told her. She stared at him, opened her mouth to say something, swallowed and turned away trying hard not to cry. She had a child yes, but the child was a girl. Ayo has been over the moon when her junior wife had her boy. Pain sharp and intense shot through her and she suddenly clutched the baby to her heart. She was determined that this one will live. She rocked herself singing softly just as the door opened and the priestess stood smiling at her. Her heart gave one leap and she simply stared. She silently handed over her baby to the outstretched hands of the priestess. The priestess held the baby and swayed. Eyes closed she suddenly sang a song of praise to Numen Yeye in the native tongue. The songs brought in Ayo who saw the priestess and bowed his head!

This journey again from the Lights into this existence, I bring you the peace of Numen Yeye, from the heights of the glorious lights, the gardens of constant service. Let her path be simple, without fan fare. Let her fulfil in the simplicity and beauty of her realm. In gentle strength, I come to you, open wide your door that I may dwell with you. My path is simple, my gift from the petals of the Rose kingdom. Celebrations shall only be at the bidding of the Supreme Mother. I am like a stream, nourishing, refreshing. And will overcome all obstacles if you keep the stream clear. No one can hold the water as enemy and the light of love shines on all who wish to serve the Rose.

The priestess opened her eyes and gave them a smile.
“Please there will be no naming ceremony the like of which you have planned” she looked at Ayo and smiled “Make sure she returns to do the virgin dance when she takes up her responsibility as Numen Yeye, go back to your room and pray”
She handed the child back to the mother. Fehintola felt she was watching a play as the priestess asked her to remember the name she was given for that was the name she was to call the child in her arms now, “it is easy to remember for she told you her name yourself, she asked you if you will remember and you said you will”

Fehintola suddenly shook with nerves as she remembered. In a small whisper she looked at Ayo as she said; “I know her name”
Ayo stared at her as he asked her what was the name
Her name is “Imole Ife” the light of love.