Your brother lives in your head
you hear him laugh, full throated
as you throttle through the city
outriding renegade cells that cling
to your imagination, threatening to
invade your insides. You cycle faster,
past an uneven line of empty wooden tables
bearing each other up, shoulder to shoulder,
vacant stalls filled with the ghost chatter
of market people whose bodies have been
detained at home by striking union leaders.
This is how you beat death:
pressure exerted upon iron machines,
body punished and rewarded with
faster flowing rivers of blood, a competent heart,
all threats at bay. You ride past the empty market stall,
through the limp city, facing a deserted crossing,
looking ahead into a street on recess.
A large billboard looms at its entrance, a middle-aged man
sits inside of it, an open Bible in front of him.
He stares at you, fingers pointed, “Cross-over to the better side,”
the words splay in lazy fonts across the canvass.
The image triggers a conspiracy of memory;
your brother isn’t laughing now, he is on the floor,
where the black mahogany table used to be,
wheezing, surrounded by barefooted men in white garments,
ringing bells, indecipherable words marching out of their mouths
in angry strides, ineffective. Odion didn’t make it.
Mother says it was the will of God. Father doesn’t speak.
But your brother isn’t dead. He lives in your head.
“Akere, hurry” he calls out, even now,
his voice decades older than his 15 year old frame.
You trap the anger the billboard and everything it represents evokes.
You trap it in a Zen state of mind you train yourself to keep,
and feed it to the pedals of your bicycle.
“Akere come, come and see,” your brother calls.
You cycle faster, plunging into the open crossing, into the ghost truck
that came out of nowhere, into the beckoning voice in your head.
Widely regarded as one of Nigeria's leading performance poets, Efe has been a headline performer at many of the nation's premier performance poetry venues. Known for holding audiences spell-bound with his cutting edge socio-economic and political commentary, Efe is the host of a special poetry segment at the annual Lagos Book and Art Festival, Coordinator of spoken word poetry and performer at the Open Door Series' WS80 International Cultural Exchange, Coordinator of spoken word poetry and performer at The Lagos Black Heritage Festival, Convener of Unchained Voices… a Generation Speaks; a platform that gives artists from various genres a medium to express themselves on sundry socio-political issues. His collection of poetry, For Broken People Who Cross Often, is due out in September 2014, under Farafina Books. He blogs at: www.efepaulspeaks.com