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By Uche Nduka

 

 

 

 

 

There are two boys on the avenue

Those my eyes call to me

Two pigeons also on the telephone wire

And my flying thought thrown halfway

To the doors of neat bars

Thrown knowingly to Hamburger joints

And glitzy cocoons

And roadside tarts

And fashion coves

 

I am praising the boys

For the joys tossed at my feet

For the glances hurled at my shirtfront

For the impressions leaping on my head

For this is a buzz and a vault

Into the brash caravan of the avenue

 

 The distance is not the road

The voyages are blue

The land is not yet a land

The moving lives are the hints of life

The running wheels are the hints of life

The good is of the good

The bad is of the sickening brood

And the avenue’s got a song

Seeks no sense in the raunchy throng

 

Swelling pants and sparkling pendants

I leave home and go home

In the awesome chemistry of daybreak

I am bared to the cheating graded road

To the bed spaces I dare not see

To the creamy bodies I dare not touch

 

A pilgrim of the great untamed…

Out, Out, Out on a prowl

I fireball into the blinking page

Of the blinking neonlight

I spit out my bone from my skin

Call for a dialogue at the bridge

Where the ladders are boundlessly bright

Before the driftwood comes to dock again

 

I am built for this role, they say

Welcome to the speedway of my day

To my shuttle, to my seablue chuckle

Turn, Turn and don’t sigh

For no jewel need cry

When the poem rides into view

With extracts from a suspicious mind

 

Wait if you are for the downhill fellowship

For the new tricks in new suitcases

For the weeds and debris of the wet road

See see my hands survive

What’s coming through the air at the outskirts

Who’s coming into my life at last

48 hours from the coy rider

 

Turn on me house to house

Speed on me junction to junction

Listen to the horn nagging the air

Touch this memory

Or go through the haunts if you will

 Hand round the glasses if you can

A rolling love is my home town

 

Haggling under the canopy

Stabbing in the city

C’harming cruisers crowd the mainland

No store is vacant there

No billboard is alone there

No ware is neglected there

No warrior, no warrior, no warrior surrenders

 

How wild can you get

Just how wild

When every conman wants to milk your day

Or skin your voice

Or change your face

Or hang on your shoelace

When your turn comes on the sunpath?

 

You are kin, kin

To the famous guards,

You are one with flashy cufflinks,

Packaging, laundry and 168 desires.

You are dating death and currency signs

Among the regiments of merchandise.

This is your home ground

 

I give you a test

What are you? What are you not?

O button-pushers, pulpitarians

Politico, middlemen, media messiahs

Glitz addicts, gold-getters

Some gangs there are

Whose goodwills never wane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cockroach is on parade

Is it time to advance or time to retreat?

Isn’t there someone

The remembrance of which is a sound alone?

A speedway links them – love, light, life

That doubters may believe again

The web – the delicate web – that was woven

 

Not hungry yet not full

A spider mails a hug to her lover

And the truth arms her soul

All at full speed, all at full speed

And different poses divide her phrases

As different scents romance her senses

And the year overwhelms the convulsions of the brain

 

These steerers of traffic, how weightless they are!

with money as their flag

And bummers as mumblers, how weightless they are!

Who are those hiding

who are those hiding

Between the thighs of the avenue?

They’ve found Eden inside the avenue

 

Youths do furnish a city

But I cannot paraphrase a life

A shawl, a sunglass, a shout.

Painting a scene and preening the fodder

Sword and scabbard preening the fodder

A fussy ambition strikes the air.

Booze. Smoke. Rock. Girls.

 

Another corner. Another Teeming zone.

‘Am I the poet of these figures

Or am I the conscious allusion

To their soundable vibrations?

Jugglers, taste-setters, they live in ambush

Against the unbuyable beauties of peace.

I walk on their visible sideroads. I walk

 

And I might suddenly loom around a corner

Like the news of an oncoming war

Or like wet air signalling rain.

The multiple images of flowing heads

And cars might also turn on their sides

And hurriedly flow into me, not denying me,

But generously hold me to themselves like a brother.

 

For they own too the laughing tracks

The drift of malicious scourges

The talking metal

The trance music

That haunts every shy slave

And fastens him to their ideal

At the Southside of the town.

 

Care-free days, champagne, cognac

Come on the cruise, Mary

This is Allen’s song,

 Swanky and charming

They hustle to be seen

I have not lost the picture

A castle still rules our Allen

 

Lower your dream

Lower it between the curtains

Darkening your naked body

Lower the gallows of your life

Lower them as they bite into your laughter

Follow, follow the road

Running between bodies and flowers

 

Hear: maybe I should wait again

For the sound of Bread and Butter

For the voice that whispered and cracked

Or better still, I should return again

To the mouth that held my kiss

To the hug that fed my breast

Or simply rise to my feet and belch

 

It’s a place, it’s a whim

The tyres are hungry for the road

The houses still speak to me

Unlike the jacketed owners of my praise

It’s a site, it’s a pavement

Such is the identity, this shiny junction

This tricky bone, this longing that screams

 

About the author: Uche Nduka was one of the earliest to be published -and come to reckoning -among the Third Generation of Nigerian writers, the post-Osofisan/Osundare generation. It is the generation that came of age at the time of the first great collapse of both the Nigerian economy and the politics that shepherded it. The Third Generation wrote mostly in verse and found its voice in the trenches of the anti-military rule campaign.

ALLEN AVENUE is one of the 10 Poems in the collection Second Act, Nduka’s second book of poems. The collection was published in 1994 by Journoblues Communications, publishers of Festac News, a community newspaper of which Nduka was editor.

Nduka left Nigeria almost immediately after the publication of this collection, and moved to Germany after winning a fellowship from the Goethe Institute. He lived in Germany and Holland for the next decade and immigrated to the United States in 2007. Some of his numerous collections of poetry and prose, since then, include Nine East (2013), Ijele (2012), and eel on reef (2007), all of which were published after he arrived in the United States.

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