A Sequence by Timothy Ogene

Born and raised in Nigeria, Timothy Ogene has since lived in Liberia, the US, Germany, and the UK. He holds degrees from St Edward’s and Oxford Universities. His first collection, Descent & Other Poems, appeared this year from Deerbrook Editions.

This poetry sequence first appeared in Issue Sixteen of Tincture Journal. Please support our quest to pay the writers by buying a copy or subscribing.

Every work of this kind is necessarily a cry of anguish—of the root extending its branch of coral, or corals extending their roots into each living hour; the swell of the silent sea, the great heaving dream at its highest, the thunder of splitting pods—the tears scatter, take root, the cotyledons broken, burgeons into laughter of leaf; or else rot into vital hidden roles in the nitrogen cycle. The present dream clamoured to be born a cadenced cry: silence to appease the fever of flight beyond the iron gate.

—Christopher Okigbo, from the introduction to Labyrinths and Path of Thunder

On chance occasions—

and others have observed this—you can see the wind,

as it moves, barely a separate thing,

the inner wall, the cell, of an hourglass, humming

vortices, bright particles in dissolution,

a roiling plug of sand picked up

as a small dancing funnel. It is how

the purest apprehension might appear

to take a corporeal shape.

—Geoffrey Hill, The Triumph of Love, No. IX

 

1

Sometimes, not sure what to say,

I sag my lungs, my vocal chords,

I count the bubbles on my tongue.

 

There’re words that thrust, roll themselves,

like tines of quick snakes;

those words I’ve heard, hauled,

held dear as joeys

 

in a pouch.

 

But this day, frail, I let them drop,

hit the ground. I hear them raising dust

as they race the streets

 

of this cold void.

 

2

I prefer silences and sighs,

have been made to prefer both;

for this caprice, what to say, where to start,

ensures a crash of the lungs,

of my vocal chords.

 

The flesh is avuncular, cut from the same sheet.

The fate of speech, spiced

or lacklustre, ends

with a putrid dash on granite floors.

 

If this then is hell, the worst of your youth,

this lash, unease,

why ask for rum

when you can run through woes

with your tongue?

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