Three poems by Eric Ngalle Charles

Picture Credit: Paul Musso Hay Festival 2019

 
 
 

    If Heaven is Her Father’s Land, Her Father Can Keep It

 

Let the rains come in June not August.

Yes,
She wants to go where Evasrikuke sings,
where she can grow Mbasri side by side,
where Ezruli sucks nectar with bees as companions
where water flows from ‘Hvako’ through rocks
feeding the grass fields of Weli,
the dwellers of ‘Namongeh’, downhill,
she wants to see Kwai dancing,
summon Ngomba, he carries Mozonje
it drums for peace
she wants to sit bare buttocks on the ground,
watch the matriarch cleanses her chest
with warm leaves from Iroko tree.

Let the rains come in June not August.

She can sing, ‘Ewuwe, Emma ma weh’
with lines across her face
like wrinkles on the face of a battled hardened soldier,
she wants to make aeroplanes
with mango leaves,
placing them in rivulets,
to follow as they go down the
gutter,
into the stream,
the river, disappearing with her dreams,

Let the rains come in June not August,
Augusts rains are crueller.

In the distance, drummers play,
chiefs and their servants gather
palm wine flowing
villagers dancing,
children hide behind windows
peeping for the face of Nganya
fierce juju
their time would come
a boy and an old man sit across the field,
wrestlers gather in Ewoka ya Wezruwa,
women dress in fine garments,
wrestlers jump up and down, bare chested
twisting their biceps,
suitors will travel from far and wide,
the mating ritual has begun.

Let the rains come in June not August.

She wants to fish in Mosreh
catching prawns
with palm nuts as baits,
to roast and dine with banana leaves,
to play hopscotch with Enanga
and learn to skip with no ropes.

When the rains come in June,
She will catch bullfrogs just below the fountains of Woteke village,
buy ripe palm nuts in ‘Zroppo Zralli’
sit under the Iroko tree
gazing at the mountains
counting the clouds as they come and go.

Let the rains come in June not August.

She can hold hands with Ikomi,
like lovers do,
play hide and seek
between boulders abandoned by the great volcano of 86
under tea plantations
and dream.

Truly,
If heaven is her father’s land,
her father can keep it.

 

Notes to poem
 
Evasrikuke: an ancient bird full of mystics
Mbasri: maize plant
Hvako: mountain
Ewoka ya Wezruwa: wrestling grounds
Kwai: a kite

 


 


    Bones

 

a distorted civilization,
buried here,

Whore house of a duke,
once stood here,

Tight fitted shoes,
under equatorial sun,
our grandparents waited here,

Sweating.

In silence,
they waited,
singing anthems to foreign kings
and their queens,
they were here.
Can’t you see the bones?

 


 

Fragments

 

Summers negative horizons pestering, dead trees not lasting, still leaves betraying their roots. Hurricanes and blurred visions, like birds flying zigzag then landing on their narrow perch. One can monitor the winds from here. Step by step they marched, singing nursery rhymes. Flags and effigies they erected, swinging in the directions of the winds.

These are not the streets I used to know.

Animals wash their bodies in fermented seeds, leftovers, Men dancing with empty bottles of liquor, a lone bee buzzes, sucking nectar from nearby hibiscus, haggard its breathing, dying with each stride, it falls. Red lightning strikes, September rain pours, the king’s whip rips.

These are not the streets I used to know.

Brown dark his hairline, preachers come and go, marchers of gaiety, lamentations from a pipers whistle. In the village of Umuofia Okonkwo fought a good fight. These winds brought quarrels, a curse amongst us hybrids.

These are not the streets of my youth.

 

Eric Ngalle Charles

About Eric Ngalle Charles

Eric Ngalle Charles is a Cameroonian-born, Wales based writer, poet, playwright, and actor. He is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Swansea University. The first part of his autobiography, 'I, Eric Ngalle: One man’s journey crossing continents from Africa to Europe' was published by Parthian in 2019. His poetry film 'This is Not a Poem' (a hymn on tolerance) is currently touring Wales and England. Eric was most recently selected by Jackie Kay in Guardian Books as one of the ten best BAME writers in the UK, and his work was showcased at Cheltenham Literature Festival as part of the International Literature Showcase organised by the National Centre for Writing in Norwich.