Poems by JP Clark
A plant, sapped to the root,
Takes over a plantation:
Comes a forestguard, to call
Of pipes and drums; and
He picks on limp leaves.
The Demolition of JK Randle Hall, Onikan
(Bulldozed by the Lagos State Government on Saturday, 24th September, 2016)
Although the managers today
Of the mansion by a marsh
May take new oaths to grow again
A tree, swearing it was a demon
That came to town at noon
To wreck, for a country,
The harvest of a century,
While heirs effete went their way;
For good measure, they
Will all, by the law, now harsh
In callow hands, have no extension
Of seasons to see their boon
Become the tree of our day.
No Fair Game
(a page lost from Aesop, for G.K.J. Amachree on his centenary)
Not out to start a free-for-all,
The tale is told of a truly rare
Champion, who throws in the towel
Before the scores add up to call
A night, still very much in doubt.
Next, the new strong one in the ring,
Best known for not pulling punches,
Relieved now of his well-worn gloves,
Heads straight for the loser’s corner;
Then begins belting family
And handlers who their man, missing
Much at stake, leaves flat on the floor.
And there, too, but still standing tall,
Mayhem, with bell, loud through the hall.
The Message from Boro
(For Sam Amuka)
Because a few
In the house, by some means,
Take the central bowl, then belch aloud;
By every means,
Delayed but still by right allowed,
Will press, sad though the waste,
For all truly of the estate
To enjoy each their due.
This Magic Naira
(for my son, back home)
A naira, not long ago,
Was two times a dollar
And more. Now it is
Not worth four cents;
Not counting the penny.
This is depreciation
Of a currency,
Hard to figure
Even by the thousand.
Yet the naira
Buys every brand abroad,
From cars, at any cost,
To all there to build a palace,
And own jet and yacht,
Without touching crude.
Now, bull or bear,
The dollar and the pound
Cannot do this at home.
How does the naira,
With no real valuation,
Do this magic of our time?
Nigeria owes the world,
China not exempt,
A duty to be its guru.
Witness of Truth
(for Itse Sagay)
While on her way home at the end
Of another day of labour
Between market and farml
A mother, carrying her two children
At the same time, asked how both
Were doing, said,
Holding down the bundle of wood
For fire on her head:
“Of the one pinching and kicking
In my womb, I can speak with truth;
But of the older, bound to me,
I cannot truly tell what that one
Is up to behind my back; maybe
Asleep, smiling; or at plat with
Some butterfly or leaf in my path.”
A Tale of Two Cities
In the course of ten days,
Otherwise halcyon with friends,
Triumphant over seas, and now old buoys
TO their own, in the creeks of a delta,
Afloat on oil and gas,
I watched at play an old tale,
As told of two cities,
One, pumped up with the stuff
Flowing over for a few upcountry;
The other, under shade
Of a palm, burnt out in the swamp.
It was not exactly an auction sale,
But the asking price flew above
The heads of all there making a bid.
An outsider then offered to pay.
Thereupon, all who had failed
On their own, came up with one sum,
Dancing away to share the big catch.
Water-hyacinths, for five years,
Took over a creek in the Niger delta
From side to side, the host covered
It, source to estuary, the creek
Looked like one swathe and band,
Cutting through a rain forest,
So thick and solid, one could
Almost walk on it, no bridge
Or highway anywhere as wide.
So dwellers on both banks
Of a creek no more had use
Of their boats, nets and hooks,
Left out there dry on land,
For all seasons of the year;
While government of parties
By politicians to share assets
Of the people failed to come
To the rescue. And a waterway
Closed, which for an era, carried
Overseas trade and commerce,
Chiefly, in palm produce,
First of oils to make waves
Here before crude. No occupation
Could be more complete
Not even that through pollution
Of a land by seven sisters.
Then, one morning, when all
Woke up along the creek
To see through another day
Between bottle and prayers,
Precisely, on the seventeenth
Of July, the year two thousand
And Seventeen, before the eyes
Of a people, brought running
To the banks of the creek,
The host of water-hyacinths,
In all their column, stretching
Some thirty five kilometres,
Suddenly began to move
As one, not with the flow tide,
Long under seal and out of sight;
But as if towed by a fleet
Of tugs, all invisible like
Submarines in action. By end of day,
The operation was over,
The retreat going all the way
To the sea, clearly called off
By a voice nobody heard.
A few with video sets
Who recorded the show,
A panoply of plumes, white,
Red and blue on a stream of green,
Said something about an act
Of nature; no proof, no law cited.
But to all locals, who witnessed
The event, like none in their lore,
It was a kingdom, out in the ocean,
Come to collect their own,
A rebel commander who had fled
Into the creek, under camouflage
That, to the poor innocent there,
Became the blockade of water-hyacinths.
(for Alao Aka-Bashorun)
The blind and others in the street,
Most led by children who should be
At school, reduce me to a state
Of stone I will accept, if only
To throw it at this body
Of varied parts we want to see
Holds for us wealth in common,
But means, in fact, no more than
Mere booty to the caste
With grip on ballot box and gun.
These, indeed, are the ones too sick to treat.
In double jeopardy
(for Guy Otobo at 80)
All in a surprise surge, two streams of light
Send waves and currents across a land,
Openly locked in arms with night.
Both are powered by one hand
From the same source, as is the transmission
On triple grid, epileptic. And the new,
In good measure, doing their mission,
Can best draw upon the old, too
Loaded to excel in any direction;
Thanks, in part, to thieves of the treasury.
So it is that torch, almost as first switched on,
Is today passed on to a people whose young, duly
Charged, can also break out, bright,
To pluck more particles still from the fields of light.
Is it the seat that soils
A person who sits on it;
Or does it just bring out
The stool in the one a group installs?
Salute to a Civil Servant
(For Babatope Ajakaiye, until recently PS, FCT, Abuja)
When rogue guards in the green
Found every day deadwood, only seen
By them in a forest,
Not as yet lush with life;
The managers, public servants,
By no means, ants,
Afraid they could any time get the boot,
Broke rank and file to serve, for the highest
Fees, aliens and locals with special interest.
To meet, therefore, after years, rife
With rot, one who retires on his own,
Not loaded with loot,
But remembers, too, he had old savants,
Is to live to see parks may well be grown
Again in this land of waste so many contest.
Since only a type of pin may prise
Open a mind, cast as vice;
It took some time to spot
One, with all fingers in the till,
Still pointed at more, would wilfully
Withhold funds, duly
Approved for services, vital
To a people, sapped to the root;
Benefits even to flow
To his kin, seen more as servants
On an estate, also their own.
And the extra plated his hand;
All because both productions are
By two brothers, stages apart.
If in public life, dust mite,
Such as this, is now in place,
Hands and eyes, clean and bright,
Are all the more the twin grace,
Required so right again becomes might.
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