“I come and stand at every door

But none can hear my silent tread

I knock and yet remain unseen

For I am dead for I am dead”

Circa 2008, I was at a book fair in Port Harcourt. There were lots of books, thousands, and thousands of them. It is a book fair, nothing surprising there. There were sessions for writers, readers, and observers to meet and have conversations about book art. I attended many. Back then, I couldn’t afford to buy a lot of books. What came close is discussing books I wish I could buy.

In one of those sessions; we discussed prose vs poetry and how best to write about war. Does poetry glorify war? Is prose too brutal?

Intellectual Olympics raged on then someone passed around a poem by Nazim Hikmet.

After that, things faded to the background. I felt seen and unseen. It opened up a love I never knew.

 

“I’m only seven though I died

In Hiroshima long ago

I’m seven now as I was then

When children die they do not grow”

Circa 2000, my mother gave birth to a daughter. My parents named her Favour. She had a head full of hair and a slow gentle smile. She changed us and made me fall in love. Then, she died.

She did not grow.

 

My hair was scorched by swirling flame

My eyes grew dim my eyes grew blind

Death came and turned my bones to dust

And that was scattered by the wind

Favour’s death led to a series of deaths for me. I lost family, friends, neighbours and strangers. Not all of them died, they just withered from my life. When you’ve been around death long enough, you develop a layer that protects you. It brings an awareness of your mortality.

 

I need no fruit I need no rice

I need no sweets nor even bread

I ask for nothing for myself

For I am dead for I am dead

When you are grieving, it takes your appetite away. Death happens to the one who is dead but also happens to you. You’re cursed with the knowledge of their memories and they are blessed with unconsciousness of nothing.

 

All that I need is that for peace

You fight today you fight today

So that the children of this world

Can live and grow and laugh and play

I like the uncertainty of tomorrow and the novelty of yesterday.

 

-In italics is a poem by Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet.

Hiroshima child