Uche Nduka - it is only in the oblique gaze and the excessive and errant language of poetics that we manage to travel to where the rationalist analytics of the social and human sciences do not permit


Uche Nduka, Ijele, Overpass Books, 2013.

A similar trickster aesthetics is at the heart of Nduka poetics. A Nigerian writer, working out of Germany and America, Nduka, like Göransson, has the unbordered tongue of an immigrant. Also like Göransson he suggests that it is only in the oblique gaze and the excessive and errant language of poetics that we manage to travel to where the rationalist analytics of the social and human sciences do not permit:
“you can be as oversubtle as you want. i’m not interested. why deny the vigor of discordant anagrams. the city-hearted will express errata. disillusionment will grow old between coitus and faux pas. take on magnetism: taste paragenesis. there is no escape from this becoming. you take a step towards a memo for lobsters. i shall mislead all these tourists asking for directions uptown.”
Nduka misleads us through complicated questions regarding multiple migrations, invasions, post-colonial freedom, and the ability to board international flights. His incessant pulsating weaving of innovative poetry with freeform prose brings us deep into the insider/outsider consciousness of the borderlands.
At its very essence, Ijele is a collection of mini-snapshots of “recollections for the tattooed ears of the wind,” a way of remembering—as if exile and recall joined to unravel an autobiography in debris. The text is saturated with references to historical and literary figures: JP Clarke, Achebe, Obafemi Awolowo (“that country? ‘mere geographical expression.’ some historied sepia. my room rejects drapes. chimera is something else.”), Yakubu Gowon (“once a year and once upon a bear. an allergy that needs to be heard. you do sugarcoat it. a solidarity abandoned. who believed that tripe: ‘no victor, no vanquished.’”). But this history never confines or closes the book.
“miles away from where snapshots are,” Ijele’s errant eye scans scenes as an outsider or camera eye to unsettle and fray familiar settings. But his surveillance is not that of the security camera. It does not support – realism, mimesis – for narration, but is rather the narrating force:
“at the soul’s Sulphur Springs, i took photographs. when i went into a darkroom to develop them, the negatives went into a coma and never woke up. say something. break out. break out from twisting your grunts around a bus stop.”
Using both hyper-focus and the long gaze, he draws the reader’s eye to the corners and seams of these spaces, slowing us down, shifting our focus to unseen details, asking us to seek possibility in a hyper-paced present tense. This is the potential dynamite that resides within the image: it both marks and explodes time. And in the perpetual movement and migration of his language, Nduka cleaves a living language open to touch, transit, the transformation and the translations of what is yet to come.
In this disruptive geography it becomes possible to rethink the limits of the world and the modernity we have inherited; it becomes necessary to “countervail rudderlessness with rootedness”; to open a vista on another world, other ways of being in the world; to “eat chocolate and play a piano.”
“must you stage an escape? Must you paint a skinscape? date blunder, not plunder. kick a habit, not a rabbit. intrude on vixens and wizards. shine on roof and briefcase. till the soil of lunatic aromatics. moving like a caterpillar. how do you handle a stressful situation? you eat chocolate and play a piano. are those actions vague and wooly? no. are they palliatives? no.” - Stacy Hardy

The poet Uche Nduka works hard at defying labels and definitions. His new work Ijele, published by Overpass Books, Brooklyn, N.Y. only deepens the enigma that is this seer. Who is Nduka? Well, if you group Nigeria’s post-colonial literature by generations, starting with Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka et al as the first generation, Niyi Osundare et al as the second, Nduka would belong in the third generation. From my perspective, this generation is probably the least studied, which is interesting because they have put together a robust body of work over the years.
Nduka’s generation of writers is mostly scattered all over the globe; the democratization of writing through the Internet has dispersed their works all over the place and it is hard to pin their works in defined volumes. Who are these writers and thinkers? In addition to Nduka, I am thinking of writers like Olu Oguibe, Afam Akeh, Molara Wood, Lola Shoneyin, Victor Ehikhamenor, Abdul Mahmud (Obemata), Obi Nwakanma (Rex Marinus), Sola Osofisan, Obiwu Iwuanyanwu (Obiwu), Chuma Nwokolo, Nnorom Azuonye, etc. Some of them, like Nduka, Akeh, Osofisan, Oguibe, Obemata and Wood, are elusive, if not reclusive. Almost all of them are defined by a common trait: They are not overly eager to publish. Several years ago, when I first came across them in a listserv (krazitivity), I was struck by how much they obsessed over each word of their work, employing rigorous and sometimes brutal peer review to polish their works. The good news is that many of them are finally coming out of the literary shadows. In addition to Nduka, Akeh has a volume of poetry,Letter Home & Biafran Nights coming out soon, Ehikhamenor just released Excuse Me!(Parrěsia Publishing) and more works by these writers are on the way. You don’t have to wait for published works though; simply google their names and feast on the prodigy of these renaissance artists.
I enjoyed reading Ijele. For one thing, it is different. It is billed as poetry, I am not sure we are to call it that. It certainly makes one reflect on how poetry is defined today. Nduka is not merely boundary bending, he is not bothered by it; he leaves that issue to the reader to resolve. By the way, I love traveling everywhere with a book of poetry because there is no pressure to finish reading it ever. I play this game where I randomly open the book to savor a literary treat. Ijele did not disappoint, it is full of treats. Take the piece Rough Plaster; how can you not be intrigued by these delightfully rebellious lines? 
you can be as oversubtle as you want. i’m not interested. why deny the vigor of discordant anagrams. the city-hearted will express errata. disillusionment will grow old between coitus and faux pas. take on magnetism: taste paragenesis. there is no escape from this becoming. you take a step towards a memo for lobsters. i shall mislead all these tourists asking for directions uptown. (p 6) 
In Ijele the poetry seems disconnected from space and context, chock full of enigmatic lines, curt, rebellious and uber-cool. The reader is forced to appropriate and own the poems and assign deeply personal contexts to them. And enjoy them. Ijele is impressive, a pretty little book pregnant with lovely divinations. I was struck by the lunatic, mathematical precision of Nduka’s genius. As an example, the piece, Exit Trampoline is a puzzle; its lines read like concept titles for long poems in the head. 
i will flash you 3 times and then strip. if the sky complains throw it down from a balcony. The dawn may or may not squeal when it falls. razor again but textile not steel. (p 2) 
Ijele is shattered shimmering brilliance, white flapping wings of dying innocence drying on clothes lines, soapy, reeking of malarial feverishness. Nduka is quietly defiant and unapologetic about his life, the sum of his experiences. He declares at the beginning ofIjele, “three continents converse in me, no one can stop their arguments.” (p 3) Indeed, in Nduka’s peripatetic musings the restless angst of exile is acknowledged – and abandoned. In Not Surrendering, everything comes together nicely in a loud vulnerable sigh: 
i see you as you braid her hair, orchids of mire, seven-petaled night. beyond needing time to nurse a child. the art of breaking hoops. Soot undersung otherwise. I must understand & not mock my task of flight. I need your attention. Venice can wait. Someone like you walks through faces i can fade into. the hidden lust of a star teasing the sky can’t stay hidden any longer. i did not know what to say when she told me he kicked her umbrella off her hand into traintracks. the sidewalk painters of prince street need your attention. my seabag hangs on a wall. (p 4) 
There are things the reader sees in Nduka’s words, he blindsides the reader with the cool torrent of his words: Exile, longing, despair, narcissism, all wrapped in the toga of invincibility, of coolness, defiance, even. Here, defiance is an art, a protest march in one burst of a movement. In the lunacy, chaos is disciplined into focus – sheathed machete writing, writhing in pain, refusing the anesthesia of ogogoro. Cool scared, a careful riot almost at the tipping point of manipulative contrivance. We are scared still because we are boys still: 
until the tackle took you. i was charmed by your seminars swear words. stay or be away. damned either way. we lose the world the moment we define it. the clutter of yesterminutes. connecting boundary to source. you rolled into mornings, yestermornings. furnished or not, no room escaped our love, pulse and pause: our entanglement. this clarity of hair-hold. (p 8) 
In the stunning lines of Pedigree, the reader imagines the power of words folding the past into the past, threading the present into the past, and willing a future that is now: 
your appetite parts the day. breaks the day into two. on one side a house. on the other a wilderness. you cover both sides. what stresses them. not departing birds. there are plenty of bridges still to burn. sometimes shriveled flowers. what stresses them. not harmattan threshold. there is still the tooting bamboo. perhaps nailhead perhaps white paper. like leaving a toll gate. one half is a wisp of silk; the other a conversation with bass clarinet. discourse on her abandon. the wanton, the sultry belle. she is at the north gate. in the hallway. at a foyer. in an emergency. her fireflies are wind-bled. (p 9)
Coitus is a recurring encounter. Semen drips from the pages into damp dank drunken stairwells, odes to broken men, women and dreams. The narcissism, the fuck the world attitude never truly overwhelms because there is the constant re-imaging, re-booting of self. In poems like Tactic or Reprisala and Any Way You Want, the reader’s mind is fixated on this intrepid wanderer: You wonder, where has this poet been? Where have those hands touched, what? 
You dared and joined the nudist circus. Later you had nightmares of trekking around town naked, not finding clothes to wear. You remembered Auntie Joy’s store at Ajegunle where she sold 7Up, Maltex, trebor, bread, peppersoup, Gala, kolanut and beer. You recalled me testing how fast my fingers could lift a coin or two from her wooden cashbox without being seen. You knew she occasionally caught me during those pilfering sessions but hardly rebuked me. Instead she always pulled the box nearer her at the discovery of an invasion or impending invasion from me. Most tomes she delighted me with offers of soft drinks and pieces of fried meat. Now these are recollections for the tattooed ears of the wind. (p 44) 
In Estate Too, Nduka alludes to our daily war. In this new war, all we have are words, and we are not winning this war – of words. For they have the machines that staple our angry words together into meaninglessness. 
must you stage an escape? Must you paint a skinscape? date blunder, not plunder. kick a habit, not a rabbit. intrude on vixens and wizards. shine on roof and briefcase. till the soil of lunatic aromatics. moving like a caterpillar. how do you handle a stressful situation? you eat chocolate and play a piano. are those actions vague and wooly? no. are they palliatives? no. (p 53) 
Nduka writes about sad days. And happy days. Everything is mixed up; it is a rich mess, he chants, cowries aloft. He is right, the poet sees. The poet is a seer. Nothing escapes Nduka’s brooding gaze, not even hickeys; I must shroud my lusty neck in turtlenecks. This is not the seventies. This volume of poetry is the sum of the poet’s experience, smashed, broken china in the rain channeling JP Clark hung over from his rage. Periods, full stops, bear sentences like burdens, each almost unrelated to the next. Do not even attempt to connect the periods. For each line is a poem. Brilliant.
With Ijele, one soon ceases to be shocked. You have to read Coming Apart (p 63); these are words trekking onwards with more than a sideways glance at Nigeria, that geographical construct the poet is not coming back to because he never really left in the first place. The poet says these boundaries live rent-free in our heads. There is something schizoid about these lines, feverish, alternating among shades of darkness and light, the clashes blinding the eyes. And nightmares return in reverse order: Aluu, Biafra. 
six children burnt in front of their parents. dying for what they knew nothing of. that country? “mere geographical expression.” some historied sepia. my room rejects drapes. chimera is something else. I whiz with it… this won’t do. this won’t do for meridians or for you. once a year and once upon a bear. an allergy that needs to be heard. you do sugarcoat it. a solidarity abandoned. who believed that tripe: “no victor, no vanquished.” miles away from where snapshots are. 
Nduka the poet is a weaver-bird that has witnessed things. There are words in these meanings weaving more meanings from the diarrhea of the mouth, stages of needy grief, defiant, aloof, defiant, and needy. Nduka the poet is an imp, a mad, brilliant imp. You break into an impish grin at these lines in Counterfactual: 
at the soul’s Sulphur Springs, i took photographs. when i went into a darkroom to develop them, the negatives went into a coma and never woke up. say something. break out. break out from twisting your grunts around a bus stop. i throw way salute-0. Man no die, man no rotten, you may prostrate before those vengeful elders but don’t do it on my mat. not even between clauses and golden pots. (p 67) 
Fascinating. Sometimes you imagine this mad man in the market place wandering around muttering to himself picking up unrelated trash by dusk. And the clutter is art. Sometimes you think the poet is talking about you. There is sense in the broken shards of broken men. You are filled with wonder as you find the eulogy in the lunacy of the lines of Slow Trek and your heart breaks into applause: 
what is connected disconnects itself. grief raps loudly on a windowsill. you head for the fast track ahead of earnest scavengers. in this season of financial homicides, bills rig your worth. rig your worth. but you keep a date with mourners for no one is free from the madness of death. of course the last gasp remains a prophesy on a slow trek to infinity. it badgers wine, flowers, meal for two. it is the voice that speaks undisturbed. a drop of water is its drop of seed. it teaches what holds, what thaws, what delights. hard lives pluck dignity from ancient experiences. (p 69) 
Sometimes the self-absorption grates the poetry into overbearing nonsense. Read Into The Fray and you shake your head at lines like: who gives a shit about how much ice is on your Rolex? (p 71) You want to know and perhaps own the poet’s demons. You have a sense of an interesting, perhaps, dark existence lived in luscious painful narcissism like the rest of us. In Branching (p 72) the bemused reader asks: Why do we waste our lives so? Nduka doesn’t seem to give a rat’s arse what you think. He has written. You figure it out. He has spoken. Listen to the wind-rush of brilliance and lunacy. (p 72)
In Likeness and Impasse (p 73), Nduka is at his most powerful. He keeps the reader at bay, helpless. With the context withheld from view, the reader flounders and begs for context, crack cocaine between the covers, emptiness and nakedness, natural allies in the buff. There are all these phrases twisting in the wind, tart, bad attitude. And funny as hell. The lunacy is almost contrived but not quite. Everything is in place in the way a lunatic’s things are not in place; carefully strewn about with the careful carelessness of a diviner’s cowries. All the emotions are here carefully sifted from the silt, exquisitely calibrated.
Is this poetry? I don’t know. I don’t care, I am a consumer, mine is to enjoy it. This is different, it does not fit anywhere. I don’t obsess so much about the lines of poetry. I simply enjoy them. I enjoyed every morsel of Ijele, even those I disliked. That is the beauty and genius of Nduka’s brooding insouciance. Music is the result. Joy triumphs over the banality of heartache. Listen to the dibia in Through the Gap (p 81)
To countervail rudderlessness with rootedness. I can’t love you unconditionally, you said, I won’t hold that assertion against you. The caucus is of no interest to a poet waiting tables.
Applause. Dambudzo Marechera would approve. - Ikhide R. Ikheloa

“BEAUTY WILL BE CONVULSIVE or it will not be at all,” André Breton thunders at the conclusion of his 1928 Surrealist novel Nadja. But nearly one hundred years later, how potent is the Surrealism Breton championed? Can juxtaposition, surprise, enigma, antithesis, and nonconformity still form a convulsing engine that emits the pulse of force we call beauty? Or does twenty-first-century Surrealism deserve (and prefer) a small “s,” being a well-worn bag of tricks nullified by poets’ non-investment in the political force of poetic form? Does contemporary Surrealism fail to convulse? Does it exist at all?
It does. The work of Brooklyn-based writer and artist Uche Nduka confirms the persistence of Surrealism in its classic, convulsive mode. Born in 1963, Nduka has written ten books of poetry—some published in his native Nigeria; another after beginning a life in Germany and Amsterdam in 1994; and a growing number since settling in the United States more than seven years ago. The signature of his style has been apparent since his earliest works: casual yet tenacious, easy-phrased yet aggressive, brief-lined yet indelible. In book-length lyric sequences, Nduka utilizes a speaker by turns alert to, enthralled with, and pugnacious toward the world—that hypocrite reader, that double, that frère. Take the lyric titled “Acquittal” from the 2002 volume if only the night:
I’m not neutered as you can see.
I’m raining on a town
Where cars prate
And when I move my tongue
The cars slip into my gabble.
I stand with my hands on my waist.
Hatless heads screw themselves
Into the innards of summer . . . .
I see the Gate of Order
The Gate admitting guides inside it
Admitting occasions admitting
It has more than a single wish as it
Swings. As it swings between actions
And opinions. As it opens up to
And incompleteness. I don’t know
Unites it with itself or what unites it
With cars or what unites it with me.
It obsessively sears the scenery.
You see this and so do I.

This poem exhibits many of Nduka’s hallmarks. There is the seemingly bold but in fact ambiguous title: rather than suggesting relief, “Acquittal” connotes the uncomfortable relationship of a dark-skinned man, or any immigrant, with the justice system of his host country, the provisionality of any acquittal. The first line is literally ballsy, funny, complete in itself; we imagine this speaker’s feet spread and firmly planted on the ground, the alpha male of his own poem, asserting fixity of position in the space of the émigré’s characteristic precariousness. But the next line dissolves this bodily firmness in a Surreal conversion: as rain, the speaker is dispersed everywhere, his actions amplified; cars speak his “gabble.” Next his bodily gesture causes “heads” to “screw themselves / into the innards of summer,” another lushly Surreal, improbable, and bawdy set of transformations pistoned along by enjambment. When we readers arrive at “It obsessively sears the scenery,” we must hunt back through the poem for its antecedent. The true antecedent seems to be Nduka’s poetry itself, relentlessly palpable and attentive to “the scenery,” “searing” in its potency, and never neutral or neutered.
If the strength of Nduka’s poetry has been evident for some time now—he won the Association of Nigerian Authors Award for Poetry in 1997—his three latest volumes, all published since his immigration to the United States, represent a distinctive flourishing. With eel on reef (2007), Ijele (2012), and Nine East (2013), Nduka’s writing has retained its insouciance and easy virtuosity, but it has gained consistency, resourcefulness, and pliancy. In his generous preface to eel on reef, Kwame Dawes connects Nduka’s most overtly political poetry to his (small-s) surrealism. When Nduka’s writing seems to refer to political events, Dawes contends, “The surrealism that emerges is a commentary on the violence and the horrible facts behind the poem. . . . what has become a tragic reality for many Africans can only be articulated through the language of the absurd.”
Radical proximity is a first principle of Surrealism.
I would expand Dawes’s point. To my reading, all of Nduka’s work is Surreal, and in this sense it is all political. The real is not paraphrased or commented on by Surrealism but convulses through it. The real in Nduka’s work carries the resonance not only of his Nigerian identity and experience of political violence but also the dislocation of the émigré and the frightening power relations of intimacy as mapped onto the lyric. eel on reef is a bewitchingly elegant collection of lyrics, and part of its convulsiveness (which in this case might be described as ambiguity taken to its violent extreme) comes from Nduka’s placement of phrases within the whiteness of the page, a whiteness that then beats with competing and deafening resonances. The volume opens:
a season trembles.
the sentience of a season
quivers inside water.
the sun slaps a wall.
where is your face?
tuck your hair
into a band.
where is your face?
pat back your hair
let me see your face. . . .
i wish i could
estrange your starfish
from a pebble.

The poem begins drenched in Rimbaud, alluding both to A Season in Hell and to the fraught tableau that opens Illuminations. The trembling and quivering in Nduka’s opening lines feel at first anticipatory, but once “the sun slaps a wall” this tone is rewritten as nervous, even terrorized. The lyric axis is re-established as interrogation; that is, a character called “you” is brought into the poem through the challenge of an unseen speaker, perhaps the sun itself: “where is your face? / tuck your hair / into a band. / where is your face?” In our contemporary moment and after a long, brutal twentieth century, this series of questions and commands feels frightening, like those of a rogue policeman, our Interrogator Sun. The next two lines—“pat back your hair / let me see your face”—soften the tone, reading like intimacy, like the beginning of a seduction. The poem ends with an almost ludicrously quiet image: “i wish i could / estrange your starfish / from a pebble.” This wish should feel gentle, but after the preceding violent juxtapositions, its hyperbolic diminution in tone cannot relieve the tension. Instead, the wish, like the seductive command, “let me see your face,” illustrates how violence and coercion can change shape to enter the reduced scale of intimacy.
The collection Ijele departs from most of Nduka’s work in that it comprises not lyrics but prose. These prose poems proceed at a breakneck (Rimbaudian) pace, with a speaker propelled along the full, agitated horizon line of the sentence, riding nothing more substantial than a lowercase “i.” In the poem “Jammage,” 
as the first bulletin turned to face the second, i went through another adolescence of fascination with a political circus act. the slow-burn romance reeked of patchouli. i won’t forget the suffocation i fought against. those insufficiencies of libertinage. a friskier reprise. there is no entwining that does not call us. orchid and cumulus. glass and wood. plastic and paper. can we just make faces at the frontman for pogroms and stop at that? here’s the basketweaver. that rod was not spared and i was not spoilt,they thought. beside us a spilt    lotion.
These poems read rapidly, as a fuse burning up the elegant sinuosity of eel on reef in a hectic compressed montage, that most Surreal of aesthetic forms. Nduka’s speaker in Ijele is the classic cinematic running man, with the global/local city on fire around him and a bullet in every bulletin. Instead of giving us a face-to-face lyric, the poem problematizes faces. In the first sentence, the “facing” of the two bullets/bulletins carries volumes of violence in its wake, while adolescent “fascination” recalls the fascist bundle of sticks, by lines five and six reprised as a rod, the pogrom’s cudgel. The “spilt    lotion” in the final fragment recalls the uncertainty of intimacy in this context: Is this lotion like blood, spilt by violence, or like milk,
innocently so?
Ijele is the most chaotic of Nduka’s recent books, though like all of them it is also nimbly assured and fully realized. With his most recent volume, Nine East, the lyric instinct returns to the fore but without reprising the elegance of eel on reef. Instead these poems have the jammed quality of Ijele’s prose; erotic and driven together, the poems seem to deploy in a radiant, jazz-drenched darkness, to entail something like Joycean “writing of the night” (“I really could not,” Joyce said, “use words in their ordinary connections . . . that way they do not express how things are in the night, in the different stages—conscious, then semi-conscious, then unconscious”):
Short breaths, shallow breaths.
unrested, overamped. i couldn’t
capitulate to peace. i slammed myself
between rage and rectitude. honed
and rehoned the poem. sought
within it. the poem as sensory assault.
sought excitement within it. was it
or was it the peach petals on my
you want a whiskered awakening. you
to tackle the mathematics of arousal.
the flame in the grate. a prickle of

In this poem we recognize many of Nduka’s accumulated techniques—the headlong motion of the lowercase “i,” the abrupt, almost ear-popping downshifting of tone between “the poem as sensory assault” and “peach petals on my limbs.” This tonal convulsiveness is not resolved by the ending lines of the poem; instead, it becomes a
current transferred to the addressee. But does the poem land on the lover’s “you” or the “you” of the poet addressing himself? The assignment of the tingly “prickle” to the tight, implicitly delimited space of a “caesura” implies that this, too, is an erotic interval, a place of currents, sparks, flames, and exchanges. And we should remember that a caesura is not just a neutral interval or pause in a line of poetry; this is an interval that encodes violence, death, derived from the Latin caedere—to cut, hew, fell, strike, beat, kill. It would be impossible to extricate all these resonances within the work of Nduka, to separate the erotic from the non-erotic, the political from the non-political, to estrange the starfish from its pebble. Nine East, especially, entails an inextricable hyper-proximity.
Radical proximity is a first principle of Surrealism, in which a variety of techniques—automatic writing, cutups, juxtaposition—are designed to force the real up through the surface of everyday reality. “Existence is elsewhere,” the first Surrealist manifesto concludes, pointing to this other zone, which shares a skin with our waking world. But what can this mean for the émigré, his brain formed during a civil war, flung in his maturity into an elsewhere that also renders his home country a permanent elsewhere, himself the skin between a double-elsewhere? He becomes what Don Mee Choi has called a “twin zone.” Surrealism’s precursor movements, such as Dada and Cubism, were created by packs of transnationalized or stateless refugees in Zurich, Paris, Rome, and elsewhere. It was Aimé Césaire’s sojourn in Europe that allowed him to turn the x-ray vision of Surrealism back at the island of Martinique, resulting in his transformational Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, 1939). Maybe it is Nduka’s tenacious virtuosity alongside his émigré status that has confirmed the Surrealist tendency of his work and rendered him a Surrealist par excellence. - Joyelle McSweeney

4 In the Morning

4 in the morning the puddle
the church the parliament;
a cheese slicer to review ethical
standards; would have liked to bring
pennants then mezzosoprano; my
neck craned into ravishment;
you've been told i came to you
only for neural notebooks;
at the junction i discovered
that my country clings to a moth; a half
mile of apricots balletic beside
the macadam; the existence of the horse
named pablo is at stake; your beam is
wide enough for stowage; am not having
an easy time of it looking for
a darker end; dishes surround you;
you adjust for mitosis;

for each wave of a cloud.

Forever Kookiness

forever kookiness with whatever
it takes. he will be trapped in
the middle of a sentence when
a libation cup slips from his
palm. let them in. look for
what's broken in the trailer. i
reach for you while you sit
there sucking a revolver. should
i not stun the stunner. you
keep changing the angle of
your tongue. who says irony is
dead. you believe your own
publicity too much. trouble never
hung up on me and i don't
particularly like cutie-pies. this
is what the city remembers.
could it have been her. could
it have been her. enough was
seen of her before she took a
hatchet to his thoughts. a

tiara for the color of reckoning.

Somewhere Behind the Napes

somewhere behind the napes,
armorial backbone.
ripeness that goes on and on.
a kayak, waist-deep.
in blood is where the acorn grows.
which means the world
is ravenous.
i want to eat my cake
and have it.

lover, am i not your invention?

Uche Nduka— poet, essayist, lyricist, activist, dancer—was born and brought up in Nigeria. His books include Flower Child, Second Act, The Bremen Poems, Chiaroscuro (which won the poetry prize of the Association of Nigerian Authors for 1997), If Only The Night, Heart’s Field, Eel on Reef, Tracers, Belltime Letters and Ijele. Some of his writings have been translated into German, Dutch, French, Serbo-Croatian. Nduka presently lives and studies and works in New York City.


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