Uche Ogbuji – Four Poems
Within the murmuring connectives:
Ears in anvil, hammer heart,
The sound has strung my warp and ways
And feeds my senses, à la carte.
My twice-tine wishbone tuning fork
Vibrates to witness breath in coil;
I hum in flesh pressed leaf to leaf,
A symphony of wooded foil.
Compulsive as a prayer’s line,
My hands move for what’s stirred within,
To grope the maker’s flesh, consume
What sermons lyricize for sin.
Kiss on the Close
We fingered membranes of vapor
In non-obvious space between.
All we felt was diaphanous disquiet,
Ghastly white bride the spiderwork mirk over aspen tops,
Dry ice miasmatic over grave grange.
You were so alive, as was I, though I had spent it
In images and could not produce in spunk.
The moment I could not see your mouth clearly for its words
Would be the unspoken goodbye.
What I had not known, and now know for all time,
Was how near to the need that moment would come,
Your mouth within mist-shot of mine.
Everything seemed right in Eden
There’s no food in a bush on fire
A siren’s broken up my beat.
Everything seemed ripe and eager;
I was never told what not to eat.
The sign of broken grace is hunger.
Had I known I’d have feasted prior;
I was never told bon appétit.
No more death of water this time
There’s no food in a bush on fire
No covenant hurled at some ark.
No more death! Means no more food!
Flames rise, game creatures disembark.
Uncovered, all my beat is barren;
Loneliness takes hunger’s share.
Flames rise; I can’t recall the spark.
Mysteries of Harvest V
Spy out past mangrove to the motley fleet,
Barges loaded with food trade and petrol,
Condors if fishing dugouts are petrels
Among pelican water taxis. Heat
And ever threatening rain steam-funk square facts
Plotted over the vessels: east and west,
Tare and laden; if you look there’s pest,
Famine and drought printed over bible tracts,
There’s industry which can’t stop starvation
Trailing bounty, dog with angel in Tobit.
Plain here by the sea the journey’s full width,
In eigenvector of shipped goods by worth,
These constellations in their matrix orbit
Bind us with unseen threads through gods and nation.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
“What comes in at the eye and sweeps up a smile, without the need for instant understanding.”
I wrote the above in promotion of The Beautiful Anthology (TNB Books, June 2012), to which I contributed an essay, “21st Century Beauty in Poetry.” Of course I was using my poetic license and for “eye” read any of our senses, but what is it that operates in this information age without a need for explicit understanding?
I’ve always had since childhood a love for computers and programming, and since teenage a love for poetry. The latter overtakes the former even though I’ve come to make my living with the former (via traditional engineering). My current project involves extracting enormous volumes of information from library catalogs and publishing these on the Web. It’s high-quality output, and for a satisfying cause, but in its vastness it underscores for me our urgency for poetry.
Wittgenstein’s comments about slowed reading have led others to comment about how poetry’s continuing value lies in forcing us to slow down, turn from our newly accustomed habit of consuming text and data at lightning speed for information. Not just any writing can accomplish this. David Rothman speaks of poetry as something which must not only say, but do. The traditional forms and styles of trope, along with the few entirely modern devices which have demonstrated lasting effect are more important than ever to us as we live in this torrent of understanding, and misunderstanding. These are what sweep up a smile as we read, even when the subject is melancholy.
Beauty works up desire. Looking down an aspen valley in color from a mountain pass, one cannot hope to possess what they see, but they are compelled to return. When a poem lets beauty in at the eye–like love in the Yeats’s Drinking Song–or by the ear, the perceiver gains the pleasure of wonder that slowly sweeps through them, ever elusive. They want to hold on to the words that occasioned this feeling, cherishing the capacity of those words to renew the pleasure again and again. This is a gift to anyone who lives in the modern age.
The poet’s sacred duty is to continue to craft such gifts, keeping them relevant to the age. Paradoxically, doing so often requires truly ancient devices, because though there are new elements to our present craving for beauty, the fine mechanisms of beauty on our perceptions have endured for millennia.
It’s increasingly understood that information overload can bring stress, and increased secularism multiplies the requirement for poetry to provide the peace people crave, kept in hearts and minds through beauty, which transcends all understanding.
For a bit more about “The Beautiful Anthology” for the poetically inclined, there is an online article on the poetry in the book
Uche Ogbuji, born in Calabar, Nigeria, lived in Egypt, England and elsewhere before settling near Boulder, Colorado. A computer engineer and entrepreneur by trade, his poetry chapbook, Ndewo, Colorado (Aldrich Press, 2013) is a Colorado Book Award Winner, and a Westword 2015 Award Winner (“Best Environmental Poetry”). His poems, published worldwide, fuse Igbo culture, European classicism, American Mountain West setting, and Hip-Hop influences. Among other editing projects he runs @ColoradoPoetry on Twitter. A selection of his poems was included in the Best New African Poets 2015 anthology. More at: uche.ogbuji.net.