For Late Chief Akwaowo


The old man peeling stories from the moon-glow

sat before me on a carved tree trunk where those before

him once sat, peeling stories from moon-glows. He pointed

into the distance that held nothing but the sadness of memory.

He said, with his fingers, as if to poke history in the chest:

That was where they made them kneel. That was where they were asked

‘Biafra or Nigeria’ before being folded into funeral clothes.

Even when time became an ocean washing away the terror

of war, the blood was still heavy on the roof, still heavy on

our backs so we hauled them across borders

that offered no forgiveness for sins.

I followed the man’s voice, through the dark, through the path

where the world recites sorrow into a poem to see if somewhere

amongst those men, a lineage of fireflies was lost.

I have carried the past with me like parakeets carry their voices

into dawn, like the Groits who carried history over the moon,

singing kufre mkpoñ, kufre mkpoñ because they knew the difference

between the past and the future was forgiveness.

As the old man spoke, a school was burning in his voice

& I learned the gospel of the tongue,

that language will never be enough

to solicit redemption.

Michael Imossan is a Nigerian poet whose works interrogate the ethno-religious crisis engulfing his country. His works also navigate love, family and grief. He is the author of an award-winning chapbook, For the Love of Country and Memory.