Prosper C. Ìféányí

African Sonnet

Shall I run, shall I walk, will I catch up to the Oba?
Shall I run or shall I walk? The tale is all abroad
that the Whiteman’s taken captive even the Oba
of Benin; and they are deporting him. Shall I run,
shall I walk? Can I catch a glimpse, O! What a tale!

              [A Ballad For Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi]

The trees are gnarled. The earth is desolate. There is no love here.
What drums are singing this slit elegy? What piercing instrument
of the clavicle stretches towards this sunrise? On all four, I watch
the mornings crawl back to me. My tongue arrives earlier than the
stars—native chalk drawn all the way up to my throat. Nothing can
hold. Minds feasting through the dark like warring termites do the dew.
From the roots, we try to speak of it. Speak of it as a worn out coat.
If I said the ridge in the field was swallowing everything before it; if
I said the pianos were plotting silence with the fingers, would you think
it to be a joke? A reminder of dry riverbeds where strangers’ weary feet
are eroded walking across homelands. Slavery is no love; so we come
with kernels, oil, and pomades. They reciprocate heat, and the salt it
thaws. They talk with bird mouths, things pleasant to the ear. The ears
now have edged out cold. Swollen with absence. There is no love here.


Prosper C. Ìféányí writes from Lagos, Nigeria. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, his works are featured or forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, New Delta Review, Salt Hill Journal, South Dakota Review, Magma Poetry, Obsidian Literature, ANMLY, and elsewhere.