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Issue 1

ELECTRONIC MAGAZINE FOR EMERGING WRITERS AND LITERARY MINDS

farmeli famile farmily

family GE Jumoke Verrisimo


CONTENTS POEMS

CREDITS

Village Song

4

My Creed

5

My Prayer

5

My Family

6

Loneliness

7

Heartbreaker

7

There is a Stranger in the House

8

I am Set in a Burden to Sing

9

SHORT STORY Another Scar

10

The Root

13

God Sees Backwards

19

An Act of God

22

Bobo’s Many Problems

25

GENERAL Review: 26a by Diana Evans

27

Featured Writer: Tolu Ogunlesi

29

Open Mic

30

Literary Briefing

31

Call for submission

32

Guest Editor: Jumoke Verissimo

33

Bios

34

Epilogue

35

Guest Editor Jumoke Verissimo Contributors Uche Peter Umez Okome Richard Mofehintolu Osasona Hilary Frank-Ito Wale Dububo Constant Ngozi Ozorumba Damilola Ajayi Arthur Anyaduba Emmanuel Iduma Obasi Chiaka Graphics/Design Dolapo Amuan Editorial Ayobami Famurewa Damilola Ajayi Emmanuel Iduma Website Dolapo Amusan Itunu Akande

Photo Credits

Getty Images

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mainstream fiction poetry review

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Village Song

POETRY

Uche Peter Umez

I sing of the village Where the egg of peace has cracked And the government swears to repair it I sing of the village Where thunder convulses the rain clouds And soldiers are positioned at alert I sing of the village Where fathers fall silent and prostrate Like lizards at the cough of gunshots I sing of the village Where mothers amble aimless and naked Mouthing hex on peacekeepers I sing of the village Where boys are collected and whipped like cows Girls swooped on as delicious meals I sing of the village Where the stink of ganja shivers in the air The outpost reeks of spilled beer and semen I sing of the village Where politics and oil rock the land to fragments While the outside world mulls over.

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My Creed Okome Obukohuro Richard

POETRY I believe that nature will unfold, My great future that lies untold, As nature nurture nuts and flowers For fruiting seasons and hours Like the farmer grows and cares. I believe nature my life's fountain, That every good thing it shall ordain. For sure my good must be obtained. Though despondency delays fruition My life, on time, in motion. I believe nature's divine providence As even distributor of every resource Neither cheats nor withhold In ancient, in ages, I was told. And like rain he pours in my good.

My Prayer Okome Obukohuro Richard

Oh! God spare me the disgrace, And anguish of poverty That I can laugh like others.

Oh! God grant me grace to own, And guide me from selfish greed That I can save like an ant.

Oh! God let me see that good, And free me from that stigma That I can smile like them.

Oh! God see in me the need, And the good desires to have, That I look not for the nut.

Oh! God let me see good times, And gains for my pains, That I remember them not.

Oh! God hear my fervent petitions, And keep me from begging, That I can see myself, myself.

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POETRY

My Family Osasona Mofehintolu

At the close of each day When minds are weary, And all we desire Is a little love A little care And a shoulder to lean on. I reach out for my family unconsciously But sadly, they are absent. For they are long gone And their absence, Is like a haunting ghost. I stepped out To observe the starry sky

And discovered that even the stars Exist in clusters And as one, They shine brightest. Observing a bitch with her pups nearby Brought a flow of tears to my eyes For each one sought warmth In the company of the other.

Fragment by fragment, Memories of the past so good Captured my heart For truly my family Had been peaceful and progressive When we stuck together. I discovered that Though they hurt me the most, When we wove the thin strands Of our weaknesses together, A rope of great strength emerged. With this thought, Like a prodigal son, I decided to seek out My Family.

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POETRY

LONELINESS Hilary Frank-Ito

Let me never be alone If the lady of my heart is not before me How much pain will that be When the best of a man Is denied of reach? If I ever be alone Please let her be by my side Solitude is a life without her That which I cannot contend Prison will be a much better place If men were allowed The privilege of a wife

HEARTBREAKER Hilary Frank-Ito

See how little time it takes To hate the one you love The one of all, I cared so much Tin and thick yet to come Storm and wing still afar Quick in time it fades away Hit and run Never pays Good to know who you are Bye-bye love and come no more. www.sarabamag.com


POETRY

THERE IS A

STRANGER

IN OUR HOUSE Wale Dububo There is a stranger in our house Tall, handsome and quite funny I wonder why Mother allows it He comes in very late at night Often coming to peep in on me I wonder what kind of job he does He rushes through his breakfast With his blue shirt, tie and jacket I wonder where he is hurrying to Then he would kneel to peck me, Tell me to be nice to his wife, and Off he goes until late at night I wonder if he is Father. Daddy, my Daddy Have I ever told you? Lot of times, I try Always, my tongue fails me And your face bruises me

Daddy, my Daddy You are firm but caring Generous with both rod and candy Still I long to tell you, but Do you, even, wish to hear? So profuse with advice are you But sparing with your affection Still I would let you know Daddy, my Daddy That, truly, I love you.

His wife was really a cornered waif Devoted to another type of spirit While His spirit speaks in unknown tongues The waif talked in slurred-speeches He lost weight via much fasting She shed hers through feasting Both spirits often try to be humane But usually end up causing a hurricane.

Growing up, in my house, was fun Though, once in a while there were fists Underneath all those was the pun For my father was a slight man But big with and in the Spirit www.sarabamag.com


POETRY

I am Set in a

Burden to Sing

Uche Peter Umez

I am accustomed to sing of love Among the pristine marigolds of dawn, Like some poet would serenade beauty Cushioned by the surf caress of maidens. Between the emerald boulevard of obeche, I am set in a burden to sing of The pastoral poetry of my kindred Slaving hungry in the savannah of foods. I am set in a burden to sing Darkness overriding our homes, Like the howl of pipelines beneath our Earth dense with barrels of crude excess; I am set in a burden to sing The behemoth belch of fumes Cramming the nostrils of Escravos, Choking the lungs of Nun and Forcados; I am set in a burden to sing The dirge of barren fields and barns, The murmur of slick-smeared mangroves, The sour breath of fish steaming the shore. I am set in a burden to sing Hacked dugout canoes drifting On the salted spine of scorched creeks, And bones of frogs fossilised for future; I am set in a burden to sing The limping cock, the mangy dog, The one-eyed goat, the wounded pig; All the graffiti of sickness and sadness; I am set in a burden to sing Boys and girls in sore scramble For rusted pipes spewing yellowed Water like gonorrhoea-pained penis;

I am set in a burden to sing How mothers torment their brow At the slightest warble of wings above, Like Heaven's bread will plop in their laps;

Of the froth-clouded, hot-headed ruler;

I am set in a burden to sing The haste of fathers breeding waifs; Their wait like Simeon's pregnant Like their dissolution of time in alcohol;

I am set in a burden to sing The hunched histories of Oloibiri, Ogoni, Odi, Umechem and Egbema; The hurricane looming in slow rebirth;

I am set in a burden to sing Gaping, black effigies of houses Cuddled by long, careless arms of fire

I am set in a burden to sing Ugly swell of bodies strewn about, Limbs and arms mashed in the mud By the toothed tread of military tanks;

The nebulous Niger, the foaming flood, The chains to bear Africa's shame But my voice is cracked, the feeble flute; Its timbre wafted as ash on time's wind.

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SHORT STORY

ANOTHER SCAR Chiaka Obasi

'Your anger is a marked identity you must do away with.’

J

eremy's mother's voice always echoed in his ears at tempting moments. As a loner in school, he would not tell any one how he got the big scar under his left eye, nor why he always felt this scar with his fingers. At seventeen and in the last year of the senior class, Jeremy wondered why he still feared his parents even in their absence. He was a new guy at Newland Boy's Science School, his fourth, since he enrolled into Secondary School. The boys here were not different from those at Unity Boys and other schools he had been to, but they teased him more about his scar and it increased day after day, when they did the echo of his mother's words sounded in his ears. In class, with his left hand on the scar, he would fix his eyes on the Modern Biology textbook on his desk. The slim boy called Ndu would come over and close the book. Ndu would say: 'Hey, Jeremiah, I know you're not reading. You're pretending. Come off it man.' Ndu's friend, Zach with owl-eyes-shaped lenses that never left his face would say: 'No Ndu. Leave Jeremiah the prophet alone. Perhaps he wants to prophesy.' The whole class would laugh at the joke and Ndu would dance around like one who has won a jackpot. He would rub the scar more and Ndu would approach him, saying. 'Jeje leave that scar alone. Okay. Let me help you rub it.' And Jeremy would make no move to stop him. Yet, this would make him angrier, emotion welling up within him. The echo of his mother's words would come to him as though several deaththreats from the loudspeakers of bloodthirsty assailants were haunting him. Instinctively, he would shut his eyes tight, his fingers momentarily leaving the scar as he pressed his hands over his ears. He would feel Ndu's hands roughly brushing over his face, he would hear him laughing and telling the whole class: '…such a big scar, ugly but smooth. No wonder he likes caressing it.’

Such were Jeremy's school experiences, which he felt folks at home were tired of talking about. His parents would sit in the sitting room and talk in low voices. He knew he was the object of discussion at such moments. They would occasionally glance at him and his father would ask: 'Are you getting on well at school?' 'Yes.' He would say. 'Perhaps he would join the boys at the dormitory to adequately prepare for his external exams.' His mother would say to his father: 'We have to pay his exam fees first. And remember we should pay the hostel fees and of course, keep some money to pay for damages and troubles.' She would give Jeremy a knowing look. 'I need a proof that you've changed.' This last statement was becoming another echo in Jeremy's head. One morning, Jeremy went late to school. He was lucky Mr. Abba was the teacher on duty that week. So his punishment was mild: picking littered papers behind Junior classes 1 and 2 blocks. But his trouble started as he entered his class. Many of the boys had something to say to Jeremy. 'That was a big disgrace Jeremy. You're letting us down in this school.' www.sarabamag.com


SHORT STORY 'You should have told Mr. Abba off.' 'Senior class 3 also has rubbish behind her block. Why should a senior serve juniors? Pure disgrace.' 'You and Mr. Abba are stupid. Mr. Williamson would have kicked the hell out of you.' 'Yes, and would have given him another scar.' Everyone laughed. 'Why did you come late today?' 'That's his reward for living off school.' 'Yes. He lives off school because he doesn't want us to see the other scars.' It was Ndu again. As he said this he stood up and came over to Jeremy's seat. Jeremy held his head as the echoes began to rock him. Ndu was right, there was another big scar on his chest. 'Other scars?' Zach asked. 'How did you know Ndu?' 'You don't know? Well, come and help me let us prove it to the class.' Zach joined Ndu and stood over Jeremy as the other boys watched. 'Jeremy, pull off your shirt, let's see your beautiful scars.' Ndu demanded. 'I hope they are like tattoos.' Zach said. Jeremy's fingers were in his ears. He had shut his eyes, fighting so hard to remain calm. But when Zach's fingers held his shirt to unbutton it, he hit out a clenched fist. His swift action, which appeared unusual to the boys, caught Zach on the face. His owl-eyes-shaped lenses fell off his face and broke on the floor. Zach held his face in his hands and cried. When he heard Zach crying, Jeremy opened his eyes and the echoing stopped. Ndu came at him in rage. 'Why did you break his glasses?' Jeremy stood up. His first blow came hard on Ndu's nose and sent him staggering back. Jeremy went after him and continued to kick and hit. Nothing could stop him now. The echoes had left his head. The boys shouted in terror. Ndu lay on the floor. Jeremy was on top of him. He pressed his right knee onto Ndu's stomach and his fists continued to rain blows on

Ndu's face. The blood came out long before Jeremy noticed it and that was when he stopped. As he stood on his feet, he saw the boys standing in fear, watching. Mr. Abba, Mr. Williamson and several other teachers had just arrived at the class at this point. Some of the teachers looked confused. Three boys are stained with blood. The boys continued to look at the still body on the floor. Blood still oozed out from the nose. 'Is he dead?' They whispered to each other. Then Mr. Abba came forward, bent down and felt Ndu's wrists and said: 'My God. Four boys among you come, let's take him to the clinic immediately.' 'Mr. Williamson simply asked: 'Who did this?' 'It's Jeremy.' The boys answered. ******* Jeremy sat on the pavement, between the hospital's long corridor and a row of trimmed Barbados. The boys had been moved from the school clinic to the hospital. He still felt the pains from Mr. Williamson's caning. He plucked a leaf of Barbados, tore it up and dropped the pieces on the floor. He did not move when he heard his parents come out of the male ward. It was when his mother spoke that he looked up. Her eyes were red and accusing. 'Must you destroy the flowers too? Your troubles for today are not over. Right?' His father pulled his ear and dragged him to his car. As they car drove off, he felt strange asking his mother questions from the back seat. Strange enough, she calmly answered all he asked. 'How are they mum?' 'The slim boy is now talking. He has broken nose and has lost two teeth.' 'Will he be okay?' She turned and looked at him. Then she looked at his father who was driving silently. 'I don't know. Emm, yes. I think he will be okay. He is an only son like you. His parents are threatening hell.'

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SHORT STORY 'What about the other boy?' 'He has a bruised face. His father said he bought the lenses at twenty thousand naira. We must pay it. And the hospital bills too.' 'Mum, will I still go to school?' 'Why?' 'I know you will pay the hospital bills with my school and exam fees. I'm really sorry. But those boys deserve those scars. Mum they pushed me to…' Suddenly his father pulled up by the roadside and cut the engine. 'What is it dear?' His mother asked. He ignored the question and turned to Jeremy. 'Mister Jeremy, please leave my car.' 'Why Dad?' 'You're asking me why? All your promises Jeremy… At Boy's High School, you broke a teacher's head. At St. Louise College, you destroyed the pipettes and the Bunsen burner in the chemistry lab. You killed two rabbits and fought a teacher. What about the fractured arm of the Principal's son at Unity Boy's? I can go on and on. We're still paying for the damages. And now this! Jeremy, all your promises to be a good son.' 'But Dad…' 'Who is your Dad? Get out of my car. I'm going to disown you.' Jeremy looked at his mother. Her sympathetic eyes surprised him. She used to be so harsh.

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'Dad, you got it all wrong. I…' Jeremy did not finish the words. His father's clenched fist came so hard on his face. His eyes saw stars and blackness. He felt his father's big hands holding his defenseless head, hitting it on the car window. He heard the splitting sound, felt a sharp pain in his left eye, felt warm liquid spreading over his face and heard a scream. ******* He opened his right eye. His head ached. His left eye was painful and plastered. Part of his hair had been shaved off and the head plastered. His left arm and shoulder were bandaged. The hospital ward smelt of nauseating drugs. Then a nurse and his mother came over. His mother was weeping. Her attention was on Jeremy's plastered eye. Then Jeremy knew. 'Mum.' He whispered. 'He should have killed me. Why must he give me another scar? A blind eye this time. I disown him too. No father can do all this to his son.' His mother sat on the bed beside him and continued to weep. The nurse held him, telling him to remain calm. He smiled to himself and said: 'Now every one will know how I get my scars.’

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SHORT STORY

The Root Constant-Ngozi Ozurumba

So Ibukun's spirit started to set with the sun. His face started to wear a dusky look. The sun of his face was setting and he wasn't sure it would rise again if nothing happened to stir it awake.

O

ne day, Sunday, 11th January 2009. As the sun started choking, Ibukun's spirit rose. And like the galaxies around the sun, unlikely issues journeyed in whirls around Ibukun's mind, dizzying him. Ibukun was not pleased. He was reflecting on the affairs of man, the inhumanity of humanity, the fooleries of man's wisdom and the illness of man's professed health. So Ibukun's spirit started to set with the sun. His face started to wear a dusky look. The sun of his face was setting and he wasn't sure it would rise again if nothing happened to stir it awake. The sun up in the sky glided away and night sneaked in. Ibukun rolled in his bed like one whose stomach rioted. He tossed on his 6-spring bunk in B36, Zik Hall. He rumbled. He sighed. The springs of the bunk groaned. Ibukun's rolling and sighing couldn't ease his heart of its burdens. Suddenly, he jumped out of the bed, like one whose adrenaline needles to the realization of danger. He opened his wardrobe, stretched his right hand for a pair of trousers. He pulled it out of a hanger, positioned it, and went into it. Right leg first. Then left. And he zipped. He locked the wardrobe. And left. Ibukun headed for Zik Hall quadrangle, where he settled in one of the three white metal seats that circled the round white metal tables, fixed into the concrete slabs that

13

made the floor of the quadrangle. He wanted to watch the day sink into night. But by another impulse, he bent and allowed his head to follow an invisible arc, down and down, until it rested on his crossed arms which were on the table. Within him, he fought against his mind which wanted to go back to all he had worried about during the earlier hours the circumstances that gave his countenance the look of a steamed mirror. With his head resting on his arms, Ibukun shut his eyes as the cool evening wind caressed him. He was dozing when someone tapped his shoulder. He looked up but had to squint to know it was Uzoma. “I'm just coming from your room,” Uzoma told Ibukun, who simply looked at him as if he did not understand him. Uzoma was his Igbo friend whose interest and love for the Yorubas was in his desire to know the language. He was studying Theatre Arts in the University of Ibadan. His brothers often teased him saying, “Bros, you go marry Yoruba o.” “Ibukun, I said I'm from your room.” Uzoma said. “Ihe dum o dikwa nma? Se daa daa ni nkan nlo?” he said in Igbo and then in Yoruba, asking Ibukun, if everything was alright? “Won't you talk to me?” He said

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SHORT STORY when Ibukun still stared with emptily. “Why not,” Ibukun said suddenly. “I ask again, se daa daa ni nkan nlo?” Uzoma spoke the Yoruba again with his fractured accent. “Yeah, everything is alright,” Ibukun said and closed his mouth. “They better be,” Uzoma returned, raising his brows in comic gesture. “Em, I brought something I need you to see. I hope you don't mind?” he said. “Nope,” Ibukun replied with a forced smile. Uzoma's right hand dug into the back pocket of his jeans and resurfaced with folded papers. He unfolded and passed them to Ibukun, as he took the seat opposite him. “It's a diary,” Ibukun said, looking at Uzoma. “I just need you to see how I spent last weekend,” was all Uzoma said in answer to his questioning look. Ibukun put on his phone's torch and returned to the papers. ******* 09.01.09 3.30pm. My alarm rang. Reminding me I was to attend a workshop with a certain Writers' Association. I prepared and left for our scheduled meeting point. We were to assemble by 4.00pm and I got there around 3:56pm. I thought we'd travel to the said village in a normal Ibadan bus. Normal Ibadan bus: / has all seats ignorant of firmness. / At brake application/ everyone quakes with their seats./ Normal Ibadan bus,/ creepy skeletal automotive scrap/ whose interior lacks the flesh / of leather and foam cushion./ Normal Ibadan bus -/ crams passengers/ like the property of one moving residence./ Normal Ibadan bus! / Strangers in it stiffen their muscles against relaxation/ lest their skins get razored by the/ many daring sharp projections. / And it coughs, and coughs/ infecting passengers. I had feared we'd take a normal Ibadan bus. But the Association owned a good Toyota Hiace. I was so happy

14

about that. Dr. Biodun, the leader, arrived and we packed items into the bus: bags of pure water, some kongos of garri, a quarter bag of rice, loaves of bread, tea items, drinks, and some other items in bags I could not see through. Then we boarded. 14 in all. 15, if the driver was added. We left around 4.40 pm. The bus manoeuvred through the numerous unnamed streets of Ibadan city like a rill snaking through its path, road that meandered into I know not where. At a junction signposted with N.O. Idowu Comprehensive High School, Olorunda, we steered off the tarred road. And the journey began. We left the artificially tarred road to a naturally tarred one. We drove on gravels of motley sizes and shapes. They crunched under the tyres. We drove through bad, muddy portions of the road. And there were the squelches. We drove across villages (Dr. Biodun helped us with their names) Orita-oke, Elebo, Ladojo, Aba Oyo, Idi-Igba, Ida, and Kufi. The road had rich green bushy vegetation that served a beautiful border of flowery decoration. Branches of small trees stretched their leaves out to the road. The leaves would touch passing cars and dance in the wind. There were walk-paths separated by a rich seemingly carefully-laid-out outline of grasses. Some fellow beside me (I had forgotten what he identified himself as). He whispered something to me. I suppose he saw how my were glued to the rural passersby, and the ground, the grasses and plants that ran back while we sped forward. He touched my lap. I turned. And he whispered, “Appreciate the antithesis of nature? Rural vegetation glimmers rich green of natural glory? Urban vegetation flashes weak green of artificial grace? Rural inhabitants trudge narrow paths? Manifesting parching skins? Urban dwellers spring about broad streets? Brandishing moistening flesh? Ironical life!” The fellow stopped his rendition but continued looking at me. Probably awaiting my reaction. I had observed how his lines, except the last, ended with questioning tones. I wondered why he chose to make declarative sentences with

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SHORT STORY interrogatory tones. I wondered if he wanted to communicate the interrogations of life. I wondered if he meant to hint how life presents questions than answers.

10.01.09

5:30am. I woke up, knelt down, talked with God “I'm thinking on your observation.” I said finally, but and lay back in bed, thinking of how the day would go. he still stared at me. “And the poetic presentation,” I added About 7:00am, I joined others outside, noticing a with a complimentary smile, and he looked away. Soon, woman who had come to us, and feeling her touch some voice slashed my thoughts with, “Hey guys, what do immediately. She had made us breakfast of ogi and you think about that? Should we get it? Stop, stop, hey akara. Observing that I ate only akara because I did not driver, stop please!” It was these words from Dr. Biodun that know what ogi was, the woman wooed me to punctuated the developing chat between me and the fellow. experience the ogi. Women/ they meet and meet needs/ Dr. Biodun had seen a hunter on whose shoulder balanced a as good music does the weary soul. big deer. Following the man were his attendant who carried After the breakfast and some rest, we arranged his gun, and his two dogs with clinking metals around their chairs under the natural canopy of almond trees behind necks. the library. About 11:00am, some professors, writers, publishers, even students, poured in. It struck me then, We bought the deer from the hunter who was heading for suddenly, that the rich library had no fence around it. their evening market. And our journey continued, until we Oh, the innocence of ignorance;/ The safety of unarrived at the African Heritage Research Library, Adeyipo civilization./ Knowledge/ curses us with guilt,/ steals village, Ibadan. The Library and the village presented me our freedom/ And covers us with “sheets”/ sheets that with yet another irony. The library was like a tree. A richly make us naked. endowed fruit-full & fruiting Tree/ Planted where people I looked at the personalities that came to the lack the teeth/ to bite and relish and nourish/ from the fruit village for the workshop. And I raised thumbs for the of the Tree. It's in a village uninhabited by men and women man who gave birth to the library. Only a man who sees who can truly harvest and use words on papers. well knows that birth in a manger does not nullify After going round the Library, we went round the nobility; that the king is the man, not the crown. The neighbourhood, greeting. My companions all bent from man who planted the library in his village was not out their waist when they greeted the elders. It took me great of his mind. He planted it where it grows, shining like observation and adjustment to transfer my own bending some light put on for some blind man. He knew that from my neck to my waist. those who see would see the light, and come for the Much later, we gathered round a heap of dry sticks light. He knew that only a thief would use a blind man's from which the fire we made danced about in the air. The light without becoming some eyes for him. In his deer we bought was balanced on a rusting metallic speech, the founder of the library had said that he put construction that looked like a big retort stand; my people the library in his village because the life of a tree's root call it ekwu igwe. And the deer's hairs began to singe and is the life of the leaves and the fruits. “We cannot live burn in the fire. We sat on mats laid around the fire, reciting well by uprooting ourselves from our root.” He said. and enjoying poetry, tales, jokes, songs, and drinks; also The workshop lectures ended around 3:30p.m. having our mouths water because of the smell of the The dignitaries and other attendants all spilled out of roasting deer. Some drank water, some palmwine, and some the premises. We gathered for our lunch of amala and stout while some boys from the neighbourhood helped us stew. I had never tasted amala. Again, the woman with the preparation of the deer. We made pepper-soup with flattered me. A wifely woman's ways/ whirrs like wind the intestines, the head, and some other parts. The from an ocean/ soothing the sweating of her remaining parts were left for tomorrow's cooking. neighbourhood. I ate the amala. Later in the night, we

15

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SHORT STORY ate some well-prepared jollof rice that scented the air with the smell of local spices. The woman made that possible. We called her Aunty Tolu. I discovered Tolu was derived from her name Toluwalope which means “thanks belong to God.” After the meal, we sat on mats, enjoying poetry, stories and songs accompanied by local drums, until the arc of moon up in the sky began slipping away. Even the glistening stars had begun to blink and blink, like eyes fighting off sleep. We made for our rooms, and beds around midnight. 11.01.09 Sunday began with my time with God around 5.00am. I later joined my colleagues outside, under the almond trees. We sat, circling a table. On the table stood two pillars of flat and sunken glass plates. Also on the table stood a bucket of ogi, a big bowl that contained wraps of moin-moin, and bags of pure water. Aunty Tolu was busy. She'd pick a flat plate from the pile. She unwrapped some moin-moin from the bowl, and she dished. She'd pick a sunken plate, scoop some ogi into it, and put down the plate on the table. We took the loaded plates, one after the other and soon were done with the breakfast. Then we began to prepare for leaving. We went round the neighbourhood and bid the people goodbye. This time, I caught myself bending more than those from whom I had learnt the courtesy of greeting with a bow from the waist. We took snapshots too. But before leaving, we visited with the librarian. A very interesting African-American. We left the village around 11:10am. On our way, Dr. Biodun said that he hoped we all enjoyed the adventure. “Of course!” “Yes!” “Sure!” “Indeed!” “Really!” “Never had any like it!” Different answers leaped off different hearts. Coincidentally, Segun, the fellow who had whispered the irony of nature and life to me while we journeyed to Adeyipo, also sat beside me while we drove

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back to Ibadan. He was calm. “Segun, did you enjoy yourself?” I asked him. “Uzoma,” he began, “before this trip, my brim overflowed with the thoughts of how to get lost overseas through any pinhole opportunity. But during the hours spent at Adeyipo, I saw things with different eyes. Opened eyes, I'd say. Like a reptile, I sloughed a great deal of dead skin. Uzoma, I have a new skin now.” “That is why you're calm?” I asked him. “Just imagine,” he continued, “that man has the money to build that library anywhere in the world outside Nigeria. But he loved and loves his fatherland so much that he didn't mind having it in his very village. His village which lacks electricity, and water supply, good roads, and government's attention. Aside the very enriching lecture we received regarding good poetry writing, I got good awakening when he was speaking. If you still can remember, he said unless we stop attempting to climb the ladder from the uppermost rung; unless we stop seeing ourselves as inferior to the whites; unless we love ourselves enough to love others the same way, or closely so; unless we stop stealing money from our nation; unless we stop selling ourselves to foreigners; Until we stop running away from ourselves, we can never ever become our true selves. We will continue to be shadows. “If you despise your father so much that you flee to another man to be his child,” the man said, “how can you father children who'll be yours?” Uzoma, I know you still recall these words. Remember also the AfricanAmerican. How she is so very happy that she returned to her root. She got married here. Dresses in nothing but Aso Oke. Spoke Yoruba more often than English. Speaks Igbo! Speaks Hausa, and some languages too. And she warned against the brainwashing of the whites which makes people strive to leave our fatherland for the Whiteman's. She said “We need to see ourselves more as their equal, if not greater than those 'vampires' across the seas.” She came down here, became more African than we are, and challenges me to appreciate myself. Does it not all call for a revolutionary reflection?” Now I became the calmed person. Segun

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SHORT STORY

“ Home is homeless. It can exist anywhere, because it's

only substance is familiarity. If it is broken by long journeys or tornadoes it emerges again, reinvented itself with new decor, new idiosyncrasies of morning, noon and dusk, and old routines.

Paraphrased from 26a by Diana Evans.

sounded different to me. He was looking outside now. Suddenly, he turned to me, and said, “Appreciate the beauty of life! Rural vegetation has rich green of natural glory! Urban vegetation mirrors weak green of artificial grace! Rural inhabitants walk their narrow paths! Happy and in peace! Urban dwellers spring about broad streets! Anxious and dissatisfied. Ironical life! I got a new light.” I didn't wait for him to prod with his stare this time, “One's root is one's life,” I quickly said. And smiled. He smiled too. We smiled.

only thank you. I thank you so much for coming and for giving me some salvation,” he said, his eyes glowing like the flame of a matchstick suddenly struck in a dark room.

They drove those of us who are students back to the University. And continued with the others. ******* Ibukun finished the reading, put off the light from his phone, but would not raise his eyes to meet the waiting gaze of Uzoma. It seemed to him as though shackles had fallen off his body. Ibukun felt like one who suddenly discovered sun in his night. His face, before he read looked like a clouded sky without the sun. Now, rays of smile melted the wax of frown from his face and his countenance shone. He was another Segun. The smile grew into a giggle. Then laughter. “What's funny?” Uzoma wondered aloud. And Ibukun’s laugher stopped like one from a radio shushed by Nigeria's Power Holders at the PHCN of NEPA. “You think I wasted that weekend,” Uzoma still wondered. “Well,” Ibukun said and cleared his throat, “well, I can

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SHORT STORY

GOD SEES

SDRAWKCAB Emmanuel Iduma

T

he myth repeated about dying in the air was that it suspended people between heaven and earth. That those who died in the air could not remain on earth and neither was heaven possible for them. So the third place was hell, which was more reasonable considering what they did. Ro died in the air. Many people felt his death was the final thing God was to do before he ended the world. Ro's wife fell into grief. It was so heavy, that when she heard of Ro's death, she loosened her cloth, before she fell to the floor. She did not care if her son who was nearby saw was beneath her cloth. For in grief there is no shame. An impregnable void settled when his people heard of his death. They questioned his death: Why did he choose a rope and not a gun? The impregnable void had its own images: that he smiled when the rope caught up with his neck. That he made a smiling face at the world that he was willing to die. People said Ah! Oh! He has left his family, what a terrible thing for a man to do, and what a terrible way to die. So, when people described Ro's death like they were there, they said he died looking sideways and then upwards, before standing on the high stool, then he put the rope over his head. He looked sideways and then upwards again as the rope slipped down his head to his neck. At this point, his last thoughts flashed through his mind. Words, moments and faces bounced in his head like bubbles inflating. A million fragments and journeys of his life until that moment when the rope was around his neck. And just before he knocked the high stool away, he stopped to look at the incision on his wrist. Then he looked away. Just at the moment when he knocked the high stool away he thought he saw the face of his father on the incision. Ro and his wife had gazed into the river together the night before his death. They gazed at the stars far away, and then at themselves. His wife said, you are not saying anything, just looking. In response, he held her hands and let the tears fall, large globes of water fell on her shoulders. Her mouth was parched and heavy, she did not know why, and so she could say nothing. All the years they had been married and they still

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came to the river before bed and watched it together, like an unending rite. And all the years just this once he had not said anything about the stars. The same silence fell when he was with his two sons, that evening. The same silence when he just sat on the high stool and heard the older one say, Papa, you are not going to the meeting? Both sons stood on his left and right side. He placed his hands on each of them, just a simple touch on their shoulders, and he let it linger, while he fought to keep the large waters forming in his eyes. The older son saw the discomposure and held his brother and they walked inside. Inside, the older son said in a whisper, Papa is behaving strange, these days. The younger responded with a nod, and both fell on their bed, and let their thoughts fly. Earlier that day there had been the final meeting about the land. So many cramped into the customary court. Ro at a corner with just his wife, just the two of them, in contrast to the myriads of people gathered for the other man, Olisa. Myriads, because all of a sudden it was Ro and his wife on a bench alone. This aloneness, thought Ro, determined everything. The Judge saying, this land does not belong to your family. It belongs to Olisa's family. And if we see you on it again, we would assume you are looking for trouble because he and his wife were alone, sitting apart from the myriads for Olisa. The court ended and there were still two of them alone, the myriads gone. The people Olisa would have gathered because his money could gather them, money could gather anything. Two of them now alone, silent, the stares and ululating voices that came from Olisa's victory still plastered on their faces. Olisa had even jeered at him. Ro soon covered his face with his hands, sighing and sighing, and then silent and then standing, then finally walking. His wife stood too and www.sarabamag.com


SHORT STORY

�

A group of closely related persons living under one roof; it is a convenience, often a necessity, sometimes a pleasure, sometimes the reverse; but who first exalted it as admirable, an almost religious ideal? Rose Macaulay (1881-1958)

�

What makes it your land? Olisa's people already began to show eagerness to use their fists, but Olisa replied in a voice that even Ro thought was inappropriate, I cannot drag this land with you. But I can kill you and that would end this nonsense. Ro's greatest virtue was walking away Only two days ago before the silence talked, there was Ro's from a brewing fight. So he walked away from Olisa. family had a meeting. A family meeting. Family, in this case were those from the major family crowd that had migrated to Back there when he was in the land, he looked at his hand seek greener lands. Family meant those that could dare belong and saw the incision. And then he looked up again, to see to the family, because they say something was wrong when a the land stretch in its fullness, to let it overwhelm him until family was notorious for its poverty. When elders could only he could look no longer, until the voice of his father say about the family I knew his grandfather and he was poor. clouded his head like a thousand cobwebs. That day, his And so in the family meeting, where an uncle and a nephew and father had taken him to the land to see it, to know. This land another distant uncle summoned Ro, the oldest uncle said, you belongs to our family. I don't know how long I have lived are bringing shame to this family. And before it was long the with this sickness. So the land has come to you and you uncle added, see what you have done to the land? See how you must swear you would guard it with your life. Yes, your have messed up with Olisa. But typical of Ro he soon got tired life. I swore the same too, and I have kept it until now. And of the meeting and walked away, not having said anything, not the swearing was done right there in the land, blood was involved. Ro's father showed him his own incision, a having wanted to say anything. testimony of when he swore. You must carry your own mark too. They found a sharp piece of metal and while Ro The family meeting came because there were serious rumours was biting his lips in pain, his father was saying this land is that Olisa was using his large influence to acquire a land that was not his. And everyone that repeated the rumour said we the only thing we have. There may be no money, no know that this land belongs to Ro's family. So why is he so honour. But this land. We must not let it go. All this Ro remembered when he stood on the land again, many years stupid to let it go away from him? He is a coward. now past, and the last thing he did before moving out was Ro's wife reported what people said about the lingering land wiping a stubborn tear that fell from his eyes but clustered case. That was when he told her; in a voice that was she thought on his face. did not belong to him: it is better for me to die than to lose that land to Olisa. I cannot fail my sons. We have nothing, and I am That morning his wife said she dreamt that he was walking sorry for marrying you into my poverty. But I have that land. backwards for a long time and that he could see from his back. Somehow, he was moving forward with his And nobody is going to take it from me. backward movement, such that the back was the front and What Ro had not told her was that the same day he had met with the front was the back. When she told him he could only Olisa very close to the land. Ro was leaving and Olisa was think about his father, and then the land, then his sons, then coming with some of his people, for people always followed about God who knows and sees all the past, especially him, people always followed money. There was an exchange of whether the land belonged to his family or not. look by both of them, an exchange that resulted into something like the devil swallowing the cloud one day so that everyone would have full view of heaven. Soon the words came from Olisa, what are you doing in my land? Ro was raged, your land? followed her husband. It seemed the silence stayed back on the bench they had sat. But soon the silence was conquered when it began to talk with the mouth of lizards scurrying across the floor.

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SHORT STORY

An Act of God Damilola Ajayi

I

t all began that evening when papa knocked on the door, fully dressed in his police uniform save for his beret. The squeaky sound of the opening door is still vivid in my mind after seven years. More vivid is papa's expression: furrows of worry etched his face. He seemed to have aged since he left for work that morning. He managed a smile that seemed to have lost its vitality; it was the husk of a smile. Papa walked into his bedroom like a convalescent discharged from the hospital too early. The greetings of my siblings, who had formed a conclave around the battery-operated radio, were answered with his grunts. His grunts were like groans of agony. Papa retired to bed that night whilst Nigeria played Mali in the African Nation's Cup Tournament. Who eventually won the match, I do not remember, but I remembered that prior to that occasion, papa was a football enthusiast who would make a best friend of his enemy if he bought a T.V set during the World Cup Tournament.

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The next morning, when mama woke me and my six siblings from our awkward sleeping positions in the parlour, I noticed. Her eyes were red from tears and her face weary, probably from lack of sleep. I concluded that she had cried throughout the night. Whilst my siblings hustled amongst other children of the barracks at only functional tap for bathing water in readiness for school, I walked back into the kitchen. “Mama, what is the matter?” I asked. Mama burst into tears and from within her sobs, I caught figments that summed to reality of papa being dismissed from work. A clearer picture unveiled later that evening when three uniformed policemen, presumably papa's friends, walked into our parlour looking furious and armed. “The commissioner is stupid! Who does he bloody think he is?” one asked. “After all what you did is no big deal, we all do it, don't we?” another said looking up at his colleagues as if seeking support. They barked in our sitting-room, promising and wishing like slothful politicians, making louder noise than the rifles strapped to their shoulders. www.sarabamag.com


SHORT STORY After pledging their allegiance and reiterating "We would get to the root of this matter!" and 'what rubbish!' they shuffled their feet and scurried off. They returned two weeks later to evict us from our apartment in the barracks accompanied with their superiors. We moved into a one room apartment, the cheapest money could rent. Most of our belongingsour chairs, furniture, dismantled wooden bedscattered the entrance of the room in the backyard of our landlord. Our new house stood out like a detached kitchen, sometimes like our landlord's afterthought. Even though it was not fully completedit lacked asbestos and fresh paintit served as shelter for our seven-membered family. Mama's rickety sewing machine became our family's sole source of livelihood. Every night mama would stay late at the shop, pedalling away with sartorial fury, just to make ends meet. She even laid off her paid assistant. She asked me and Shewa, my elder sister, to help her out in the shop with odds and ends. But Shewa wouldn't! Shewa was this disillusioned school leaver who had become a regular customer of the matriculation exams. Her sole interest was modelling. That was all she could think about: her shiny face on billboards and her body hugging tight to haute couture somewhere in Paris or Milan. Sometimes when we are home alone, she would strip into her underwear and walk around the room like our neighbour's cat, staring blankly at the room's contents as if they were fashion critics. She would pause in the middle of the crammed room and place her fingers on her waist, then swiftly turn, wiggling her buttocks to accompany her footfalls. I would look at my sister and feel God did me grave injustice. Though she was three years older, she had it all: an unblemished skin, a figure like an hourglass, a stature of a gazelle. I had a pimple-ridden face, painful lumps for breasts, my buttocks stood flat like a chop board and I had three years to hope that I become her. When mama leaves us both at the shop to attend to her richer customers at their houses, Shewa would beg me to follow her to Oga Memory's studio. Oga memory was the photographer who lived a street away from mama's shop. Sometimes I would accompany her for a selfish reason: to watch home video on his T.V set. He would offer us a bottle of Coke and roasted groundnuts which we shared and he would take pictures of Shewa in garish outfits hugging tight to her body. Whilst flashing away with his fading black Minolta, he would smile gleefully and declare loudly to Shewa, smile frozen, that he would make her famous. He did make her famous, though not in terms of spotlight and glittering walkways: He put her in the family way.

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“Who is responsible?� mama questioned amid tears, sitting by her sewing machine which had become faulty, reducing mama's scope of work to just threading and needling up buttons. The lump sum she had managed to save had bought Shewa's Jamb form the week before the machine developed a fault. Mama and a wailing Shewa walked to Oga Memory and caught him in the very act with another local girl, right there in his studio. Mama did not need any more confirmation; perhaps she had thought Shewa involved herself with a man, man enough to own up to his responsibility of both mother and foetus. Already several kids scampered our street bearing unmistakable resemblance with Oga memory. Mama was distraught. Papa was mad that evening. His eyes were red with anger; his sallow skin livid with disappointment. But he seemed to have lost his will to fightfor anything. He seethed right there in the room, Shewa on her knees, sobbing at his feet, he listening to her as if her snivelling was absolution. Things got from bad to worse when mama got a quit notice at the shop. Her fat landlady marched into the shop, hands like lamb chops and face florid with excess mascara. All mamas' pleas were void; she said she has had it: seven months debt was how far she could go. That evening, a bearded man wearing a brown celestial gown knocked on our door. His beards were red with soup and his feet bare. He demanded to see my parents. Mama freed the only chair in our room of cloths and he sat in it. Stylishly eavesdropping outside, I heard him begin with a vision he saw, that Papa's problem was a ploy of the enemy and they would not stop till they took his life. I heard mama shriek and fingers snapped, I imagined over mama's head as she said God forbid! The prophet said the only solution was for our family to embark on a three day's fasting and prayer at his church two streets away. Mama ensured that I and my siblings fasted. The only person who did not yield to the prophet's instructions was Papa. Papa had degenerated from an occasional church goer to an atheist. Sometimes, I felt God was punishing my family, especially papa for not going to church. Papa only goes to church for ceremonies like wedding and burial, he never paid his tithes, even when we, the children, dressed and headed out to church, sometimes he refused us offering money. I remembered the bible story of Egypt and the plagues; and I felt that God was sending plagues to my family. Papa worked as casual labour in the day and drank at nights, showing up very meagre sums that would not www.sarabamag.com


SHORT STORY brush off most of our family's expenses. Papa rarely smiled and seemed to be agitated especially whenever Shewa was in the house, her belly bloated with the “bastard child�, papa's name for her unborn baby. Tears became a familial feature; tears of all kind: of hunger, of shame, of disappointment, of boredom, of hopelessness, of frustration. Tears shed at different intervals by different Individuals. Mama would cry hers in the sitting room while threading her needle, her sobs accentuated when she stares at her defunct Singer machine. Shewa would cry when she sees her mates going for lessons; she would cry again when papa calls her unborn child a bastard; she would cry again when all her abortive methods proved abortive. I would cry when I returned late from Junior WAEC extension classes to find out that my siblings had devoured my share of Garri. I would cry again when I approached papa, reeking of paraga (local gin), for lesson money and he would shout me down, bunching me and Shewa as good-for-nothing children. I would cry... Fortune revisited my family one evening. Mama was in the parlour sewing in buttons on an old shirt, papa was away on one of his drinking binge, and I lay on the threadbare rug straining my eyes to read a passage, an assignment. Shewa was sitting beside mama, hands folded below her bulging belly. A knock. Mama instinctively stood up, grabbing the clothes she had piled to sew, she hid under the bed and waved her hands at me: her signal that she wasn't at home, if it happened to be one of her creditors. It happened to be mama's customer, one of the madams whom mama goes to meet at her home. A light skin woman, dressed in an Ankara sewn by Mama. Mama rose from her awkward position and stifled a yawn. I marvelled at her theatrics, her statement that the woman should have just sent for her instead

of bothering to come down. I knew the madam was doing mama a favour: where would mama get the transport money? The madam came with a big contract; she wanted to make Mama the official tailor of the school uniform of a school she had established. A quick yes, mama muttered and she handed a bulky envelope to mama. We waited for the woman to leave before rejoicing ensued. The week after, papa returned home with a smile, his smile, another rare occurrence. Papa had been shortlisted as one of officials at a private security firm. The job paid even more than his appointment with police. Amidst our rejoicing over Papa's new job, Shewa's water broke. We rushed her to the hospital, waiting impatiently outside the labour theatre, sometimes peeping to know the status quo. Shewa was delivered of a baby boy, to joy of everybody including papa. Papa was so glad that he sponsored an elaborate naming ceremony where his three police friends drank themselves to stupor; the fat shop landlady ate to her fill and even went with leftovers she claimed was for her dogs. Papa named Shewa's son, Boluwatife, which meant it is how God wants it. I thought the name was apt, my family's travails was entirely an act of God. Later that evening, I knelt beside an exhausted Papa and requested my lesson money. He scrutinized me with blood-shot eyes. For a second, I feared his response but then I looked at his face and I saw the smile, his smile.

Don't tell my mother I'm living in sin, Don't let the old folks know:

Don't tell my twin that I breakfast on gin, He'd never survive the blow.

A. P. Herbert (1890 - 1971)

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SHORT STORY

BOBO’S MANY PROBLEMS Anyaduba , Chigbo Arthur

Bobo was particularly happy that morning‌. His distant sisters were returned home. The spirit of reunion with loved ones, whom one was not always privileged to be with all the time, was delighting. It was the feeling that redeemers were coming home: saviours that would not only alleviate his suffering, but who would, to his joy, avenge all the misgivings he had suffered from Amoge, the house help. For Bobo, the name Amoge meant terror and everything evil in the worldview of this little boy. To Bobo, that name had been the nightmare of his seven-year old mind. Why should he not be frightful of the name that described the black and ugly figure of the girl that had pelted him with bamboo cane most of the nights? Bobo's mother, Madam Dolly was a poor teacher. She was hardly at home and always left his only son in the care of her kind house help the only girl who stayed to look after her kid, even without her being paid. Though she had paid the help's school fees up to her secondary level, Amoge would have loved to continue her schooling, but the increasing strikes, non-payment of salaries and all the familiar stories that civil servants were accustomed to did not allow Madam Dolly to cater for Amoge's school fees. However, the young girl was grateful. Madam Dolly had experienced the worst of tragedies: a divorce, a separation from her daughters. And she was beginning to know hunger. She could hardly afford food for

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her small family, let alone good clothes. She was particularly grateful to Amoge for having stayed to look after her son, while she was studying to get her degree and probably change her profession. When news came of her husband's death and of the deep hatred the family had towards her, Madam Dolly had wept excessively. Not much because she had loved the one man that broke her heart and her peace, not because she was much moved by the death. Any keen observer could have noticed despair on the face of the young mother of three. Her wails rang louder in bemoan of her helpless condition, for how could she feed two new mouths that would be added to her woes. Once or twice in the past, she had almost abandoned her only son, but for the look of hope on the little boy's eyes and the innocence that radiated from him; Madam Dolly had been held by the magic of her little angel. The poor boy though reminded her of the tragedy of her marriage, yet that boy was also the remover of what the people had called her shame her barrenness. For a woman who never delivered of a baby boy then was simply barren. She had to take the symbol of her fertility away from the one man she had ever loved. ************ Bobo remembered the cracking knock Amoge had lashed out on his head, his seething cries and curses earlier that day. And he dashed out to meet the two figures that meant to him the end of his cries. His sisters. On his eyes were all the hopes and joy one could only find on the face of a trapped military captain and www.sarabamag.com


SHORT STORY his team at the sighting of a rescue team. He imagined how the fight would take place: In the parlour. Amoge ordered him to kneel down and close his eyes. He objected. Amoge dashed after him as usual but was intercepted by his eldest sister the bigger of the two. Both of them had struggled, hitting each other fiercely. Their strengths and might were almost equal. Just then, the younger elder sister had joined in the fight, and of course, combining strength with the elder one. Both had successfully floored Amoge, reeling out blows on her black ugly face. They had asked him (Bobo) to slap Amoge as he pleased, and he had kicked, punched and slapped the living light out of the helpless monster's body in delight and in revenge. These motion pictures streamed in Bobo's mind. He had been modifying his plot for the revenge fight for two nights now. He had bed-wetted in one of his dreams. He remembered that after hitting Amoge and she was wincing in pain, he had rushed to the toilet to ease himself of his aggression. He woke up in the morning to find that he had actually vented his aggression on the bed. Amoge nearly tore off his ears. But it wasn't too painful, soon his revenge would come. So, that morning when he hugged his two elder sisters, it was with intent in mind. Everyone saw his delight, but probably, none knew his delight. *************** Two weeks had passed since the newcomers joined the family. Things had gone on well. Bobo had not received any beatings since then, even when he intentionally did things that could anger Amoge. But again, Madam Dolly had not travelled since then. Two days after his mother travelled, Bobo had passionately and patiently waited to see his dreams come to reality. That morning, Amoge woke him from sleep with slaps and knocks. He fought his way to the parlour, the setting of his revenge fight. And coincidentally as he had dreamt, Oby and Ify were there. He was happy. Amoge asked him to kneel down, for reasons he didn't even wish to know. He refused and protested. He saw Amoge dash towards him, he heard the sounds of feet; it was all taking form.

very well with the belt, for disrespect and stubbornness, and Amoge made him kneel-walk many times round the parlour. After bitter disappointing cries, Bobo began to feel anew: he was born-again! But his rebirth was yet to be completed. At dusk the same day, he had gone early to bed to sleep away his sorrows. He was ushered out of the bed he had always known since birth. He was told to sleep on the floor. He wept again, this time in silence. He woke up suddenly in the night when he had a feeling he was urinating on the floor. He had felt something wriggling inside his knickers. Yes, something was wriggling inside it, but it wasn't urine. A hand was inside his pants, rummaging though and pinching his diiii (as Madam Dolly called it) pleasurably. He was alarmed! He couldn't describe the feeling that hit his head and if it had not been for the flogging he had received from probably the same hand, he would have loved it to continue. A certain religious feeling of wrong entered his mind, he began to struggle. Ify's voice rang out in the dark. 'What is it?' 'I don't know' 'Relax and stop running about.' 'Mummy will flog me.' 'What do you mean?' He didn't know what to say again. The hand was still inside his pants, pulling, dragging, tugging. He closed his eyes and the darkness of his mind swallowed the darkness in the room. He was no longer feeling anything. He was falling asleep. Soon morning would come.

The hot slap on his cheek woke him from his delirium. When he opened his eyes, he saw Amoge standing before him, he saw that Ify, the younger of the two sisters, had a belt in her hand, and Oby was not really interested in what was going on. His wonder that morning climaxed after Ify trashed him

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REVIEW

REVIEW:

26a by Diana Evans

26a is easily the best book I read during the Christmas holiday. The thing with the book is simply a celebration of oneness in two-ness, a celebration of the complexity of twoness but how a resort to oneness can make it simple. That is a great lesson, a lesson I'm just discovering, writing this review. If I must add, that is the thing with a great book: you never know what you have learnt until you try to find it. 26a left me with a surreal, dreamy, feeling. I tried to cling to something but could not. This is not a failure at all. Books must leave us breathless, for days. Books must not have an easy-code. They must be complex in the way to make us think. Returning to the overall theme of oneness in two-ness, what greater lesson than this in this world that is filled with so much diversity, with so much two-ness. We must begin to learn to come into each other, surge into each other's bones and arms and ribs and blood. These are the same descriptions used in the book. And if there is anything to say, it is that something must die for this to happen. Georgia, the older twin in the story, died for the oneness to occur. One word favorite to me is 'sacrifice.' Growth requires sacrifice, oneness too. This was active in Georgia, for she stayed back when the other twin, Bessi, went to the Caribbean, to see the world. That is, she sacrificed her own pleasure for her sister's. one had to be shut up for the other to explode. Georgia did this at a far too expensive cost. And truly, in the real sense of it, she did it for her twin. That's the way of reality, sacrificing. The book also explored family. Of course, a book about twins should be about family. 26a is an ideal book about family, because it captures the highs and lows, love and hatred, travel and staying, madness and sanity; so many other paradoxes and dualities. Dualities and paradoxes

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are what makes a family, not necessarily the extreme form of dualities. In the book we see the ideal human father, sometimes a monster, other times the egoistic man who dared not show his true pleased feelings. In the end, we see a family together, not displaced. We see a family that has seen it all, appeared ready for dismantle, but courageously pulled together. This obviously underscores an intonation of hope. That there is no situation beyond the human handle, that there is always a way. What to say next is a challenge. A book like 26a deserves more than a review, but a thesis. Modern fiction has been redefined, especially Nigerian, with so many half-blood writers like Evans herself and Chris Abani patching their voices triumphantly. Perhaps this is what won Diana Evans the Orange Prize for New Writers. Perhaps a great lesson aside the humanistic twist of 26a is it's relation to nation. We have come back to the same moment as did the first generation of African writers. The generation where national interest must find its way into creativity. 26a succeeded in this. It weaved a woman, Ida- mother of the twins- as never leaving Nigeria, though she married a white man and raised her children in Neasden, London. It made the twins live in Nigeria for 3 years. In all, it showed that one never belonged to another country, except her own and so should be concerned about it. The problem with reviews is that they are too sentimental, too short and very short-sighted. Yet, the exploit of reviews is to multiply readers of the book. I hope this review achieves the latter for 26a. It costs about N1,000. Get yours. Review by Emmanuel Iduma, www.edumablog.blogspot.com

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general featured writer open mic briefing bios submissions epilogue

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FEATURED WRITER

Tolu Ogunlesi Tolu Ogunlesi, one can say, is the model for any upcoming Nigerian writer. He has demonstrated, and is still demonstrating, that hard work is the lane to literary stardom. And not just hard work, the fact that a writer has his dreams within reach. He was born in 1982, and became a Pharmacist in 2004, graduating from the University of Ibadan. Since then he has combined his writing with his Pharmacy practice, a very tedious combination. Two professional callings. This is a rare combination, it should be noted. One can easily allude to Late Cyprian Ekwensi, great Nigerian storyteller, and one can say that a new oak has arisen for literature from Pharmacy. Widely travelled, he read his poetry at African Weerword 05 in Amsterdam, Holland and Denachten 2005 in Antwerp, Belgium. Recently, between September to November 2008, he was the Guest Writer of the Nordic African Institute, Uppsala, Sweden. A chronicle of this experience can be found on his blog, www.felameetsabba.blogspot.com.

participant in the BBC Africa 05 online blogging project, a project he said was “one of the most exciting projects I have ever been involved in, in terms of reader response.” In terms of publishing, to date he has two books. The first was published in 2004 and the second in 2008. The first was Listen to the Geckos Singing from the Balcony, published by Bewrite Books UK. The second, Conquest and Conviviality is young adult fiction. Both makes interesting reading, another indication of his prolificacy and craft.

That leads to Tolu's expertise in blogging. This, it can be argued, established his footprints more. Until 2008, he posted regular writings on www.omolegbede.blogspot.com. On that blog site, a full expression of his skill and talent was seen. This was recognized by the Nordic African Institute when they honoured him as their guest writer. Afterwards he A writer with such stamina should not go without moved to a photography blogsite, claiming he was an recognition. In February 2008, he won the Dorothy amateur photographer. Sargent Rosenburg Poetry Prize, with his poem, Visiting the Yellow River. Following was the Nordic African Though he said in an interview that being a writer in Institute award of Guest Writer which gave him the Nigeria is frustrating, “You are all written up, with no opportunity to reside in Uppsala for three months. And where to publish,” he has received a fair share of just early in February this year, he was shortlisted publishing. He has been published in several online alongside about 33 other African writers as a finalist for and print journals, including, Wasafiri (UK), Inkpot the PEN/STUDZINSKI Literary Award. This selection was (US), Times Arts Review (Nigeria), Pen Anthology of for his story, River Falling. The best three stories would New Nigeria Writing 2003, Orbis (UK), Pindeldyboz, be announced in May. Here's to wish him the best. Even Zacatecas, Banyan Review. In recent times, his before these three recognitions, he was one of 20 writing has been featured in Farafina, Nigeria's national and 30 international winners in the 2005 leading literary magazine. His work was also featured Scenarios from Africa Contest, and the short story that in Weaverbird, a collection of stories by Nigerian gave him that award stands a chance of being made into writers. In short, he has a huge literary presence, and a short film by one of Africa's best film directors. this is too evident. Tolu Ogunlesi has also enjoyed veritable exposure. He was a 2005/2006 fellow on the British Council Crossing Borders Literature Project, and was a Nigerian delegate to Beyond Borders, a Festival of Contemporary African Writing organized and sponsored by the British Council in October 2005. This festival was attended by such contemporary Nigerian literary giants as Helon Habila. He was also a

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This is why he says to the third generation of Nigerian Literature, “Our literary destiny is in our hands.” And so, it is clear that Tolu Ogunlesi has a great future ahead. No doubts, it's better to become his friend now, now that he has not won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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OPEN MIC How to write (books) about Africa: A Guide for the Aspiring Westerner Tolu Ogunlesi

This was inspired by the now-famous Binyavanga Wainaina (wiki) article, How to Write About Africa, originally published in Granta 1. Join the Peace Corps. In all honesty, this is enough. Join the Peace Corps, and you will write about Africa. Whether you'd really like to, or not. There's something about the Peace Corps that makes you suspect that it's an undercover MFA program, haunted by muses and sundry writing spirits But then, here's more specific guidance on what to do after you join the Peace Corps: Spend 1 year in a lost village. This is the "100% Proven and Guaranteed" way to get inspiration for a book on Africa. Visit the city, or even a small town at your own peril; there you will waste your mornings at the local Starbucks and your evenings fighting obesity and gorging on greasy McDonald's fare and Heineken six packs, almost like you were back home in Minnesota or Idaho. Another drawback, one year in an African City is a sure way to go back home without setting eyes on even one African beast. Examples of existing "peace-corps books": · The Village of Waiting (1988) by George Packer · Black Papyrus: A Year in the Life of an African Village (2003) · Why the Sky Is Far Away: A Folktale from Nigeria, Retold by MaryJoan Gerson (1974) · In Bikole: Eight Modern Stories of Life in a West African Village, illustrated by Monica Vachula, 1978 · State of Decay: An Oubangui Chronicle; A Novel of African Adventure (2001) · The Children of Mauritania: Days in the Desert and by the River Shore (1993) 2. Make sure your book title has at least one of the following "buzz-words" Tribe, Genocide, Slave, Hills, AIDS, Scramble, Matchete, Village or Grave. These words help magnify searchability on Amazon and Google, and standoutability in crowded bookstore shelves, and rumors have it that Amazon actually preferentially ranks such books e.g. · Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village (Henry Holt, 2003) · The Graves Are Not Yet Full: Race, Tribe and Power in the Heart of Africa (Basic Books, 2001). · Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005). · My Traitor's Heart: A South African Exile Returns to Face His Country, His Tribe, and His Conscience (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1989).

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Also very importantly, try to make sure that the word Africa appears in the title. See Rule 1 for more examples. 3. Still on titles. "Farther is better" is the Golden Rule. The farther your title is from ordinariness, and the closer it is to the Exotic and/or Fantastical, the better: · When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa (Little, Brown, 2007) · We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998) 4. Get blurbs from at least 2 of the following: the latest African-baby-adopting white celebrity diva the latest celebrity African ex-child-soldier a Chinese Government official extolling the "rich" virtues of the continent (caveat: this might not go down well with the US State Department, and will therefore invariably affect your chances of getting a US Publisher) one of the growing numbers of African hawker-or-herdsgirlturned-new-york-supermodel... Bono 5. Last but not the least. Your cover photo. You certainly need to get this right. Instead of the hackneyed (Conradian) images you'd find in The Economist (No. 1 Suspect) fly-covered, potbellied children, an AK-47 clutching "rebel", a family posing outside a hut, cows, a queue of blackskinned humans clutching bowls and smiling) Be Positively Different. It's now called CSR - Continental Social Responsibility. Use a toothless, smiling, saggy-breasted blackskinned African "Ma" clutching Coca Cola in one hand, and an iPod in the other. It's a globalised world after all.

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LITERARY BRIEFING

The Novel is Alive Contrary to trite clichés alluding to the global demise of literature, Literature is far from deathor dearth. Matter of fact, Literature is this bundle of joy delivered into the laps of Nigeria. Nigeria, in spite of her lack of a blossoming Publication Industry still strives, churning out, though in trickles, its volumes of “The World According to Nigerians”. Our Prize-bagging prowess should not go unmentionedand a hearty congratulations to Chimamanda Adichie, author of Half of Yellow Sun which just clinched The International Nonino Prize, the second award (the first being the Orange Broadband Award) to be bagged by her second novel about the Historical Biafra War. Still on awards, the Biennial Wole Soyinka Prize 2008 went to Nnedi Okorafor, author of Zahrah The Windseeker. Also shortlisted were Iweala's Beast of No Nation and Okediran's The Weaving Looms. These books are recommended reading for every literati, home and diaspora. Talk about Recommended readings, Toni Kan's Nights of a Creaking Bed was released into book stores courtesy of Cassava Republic last December. Also published by Farafinais To Saint Patrick, a novel in the Crime Thriller genre, authored by Eghosa Imaseun, a Medical doctor turned writer. Swallow and Laws, a novel and an anthology of short stories respectively, both authored by Sefi Atta, Mississippi- based Nigeria author and first winner of the Soyinka Prize, was also published by Farafina. Whilst our eyes peruse these brilliant books, let our throats itch for upcoming books like Jude Idibia's Blackbird, our third helping of his simplistic but superb narrative in the shadows of Walking with Shadows and Unbridled. The Organizers of the PEN/STUDZINSKI Prize recently announced the 34 finalists amongst which were three stories by Nigerians. Amongst these stories is River Falling, brilliantly written by Tolu Ogunlesi, author of Listening to the Geckos singing from the Balcony and Conquest and Conviviality. We hope their efforts find literal favour in the sight of J.M Coetzee.

Briefing by Damilola Ajayi

So if anyone makes an unfounded statement like 'The Novel is Dead”, every reader of this piece have earned the bragging rights to debunk the statement and quickly quip that the Novel is hale and hearty and living in Nigeria.

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saraba

SUBMISSION

Saraba is a bi-monthly electronic magazine that publishes emerging writers of prose and poetry and debuted in February 2009. By 'emerging writers' we mean writers who have been published little or not at all but have recognisable talent and qualitative writing. Interested contributors are required to submit their works. Fiction writers are to submit stories not exceeding 3,000 words. Poets are to submit not more than three poems. The e-zine also welcomes submissions of reviews of books and published short stories. This should not exceed 1,500 words. The last category open for submission is creative non-fiction. In this genre we expect works that reflect creativity but are not stories. The word count for this is 1,500. Each month the magazine would work on a theme. All entries (except reviews) should reflect the theme whether overtly or covertly. We are not bothered if the work submitted has been published elsewhere as long as the author still retains the right to publish it. If, however, Saraba is the first site that publishes the work, we expect to be credited when it is chosen elsewhere. Please submit alongside a photograph and a bio not exceeding 50 words. If you cannot do this while sending your work, please do it immediately you are informed of the selection of your work. All works should be submitted in the body of an email and the relevant genre indicated in the subject line i.e. 'Fiction Submission' or 'Poetry Submission.' Entries should be sent to saraba2008@ymail.com. The standard deadline is 15th of each month preceding the next issue. th (For example, 15 March for the April issue). Entries received later than this date would be considered for the next month. Contributors would be informed in two weeks. The theme for the April issue is City Life. Please note that contributors would not be paid. The e-zine can be downloaded free from www.sarabamag.com. Saraba works with young established writers as guest editors. Expecting your submission!

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ABOUT

Guest Editor: JUMOKE VERISSIMO Jumoke Verissimo is the author of I am Memory, a

poetry collection that critics agree has a lot of musicality. Indeed, she agrees that she loves music, and even arranged some of the poems in the collection with music. She officially began writing in 2001, note the word 'officially.' From that time until now, her poetry has been published, mostly online, and mostly with resonating effect. She has made her presence in websites such as Eclectica, Chimurenga, Bathtub Gin, Canopic Jar, Eclectica, Sentinel, African Writing-online, Boyne Berries, Farafina, Kwani? and several anthologies. She has combined the art of writing and literary enthusiasm. Her engaging poetry has been read at several literary stints over the past decade, and she has become popular for interviewing a growing list of writers for the Guardian since 2006. She is a regular contributor to the Sunday Guardian Art Page. Currently working as the copywriter of an advertising firm, writing was not thrust suddenly upon her. At seven, remarkably, her teacher wrote on her mid-term report sheet, “Jumoke loves to write.� Of course, this has become more than true. She grew from the seven year old to a 2004 graduate of the English Department at the Lagos State University, and has since remained within the confines of the English Language. She has worked in several 'language' capacities including a printer's clerk, assistant sub-editor, editor, performance poet, and journalist. I am Memory is her first book. Doubtlessly, more would follow.

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BIOS

bios Uche Peter Umez is the author of the award-winning Sam and the Wallet (children's novella) and has been published on-line and in print. He is a Fellow of the International Writing Program, USA and one of the 26 winners of the 2008 Commonwealth Short Story Competition.

Mofehintolu Osasona is currently a student of medicine in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife

Okome Richard

hails from Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State. Resident in Port Harcourt. A graduate of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology. He has a flair for writing, reading and singing. He has written twenty-three poems and a play . And has chosen writing as a career.

Hilary Frank-Ito

was born in Nigeria and educated at the University of Port Harcourt . At different times he has been a Newspaper columnist, Radio and Television Analyst, and now a public servant.

Constant Ngozi Ozurumba

is from Umulu Ife, Ezinihitte Mbaise, Imo State Nigeria; a member of the Association of Nigerian Authors; presently with the Department of English, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He has edited a number of publications and has publications in anthologies, magazines, e-zines and more.

Arthur Anyaduba is a graduate of English Language from the Obafemi Awolowo University

Emmanuel Iduma

has been published both online and print. He is working on a novel.

Damilola Ajayi is a student of Medicine.

Chiaka Obasi

is an advertising copywriter in Enugu, Nigeria with many unpublished short stories, stage dramas and poems. His published poems are in the two anthologies; Crossroads and Water Testament. His short story for Radio has been shortlisted for broadcast and production for Radiophonics

Wale Dububo NOT AVAILABLE

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Epilogue Dear Reader, Thank you for reading the first issue of Saraba. The customary is to say we accept liability for all errors and omissions. We cannot claim to have exhausted the our theme. But we believe it’s touch is here. Beyond this, we are grateful to all the contributors to this edition, especially because they are giving their craft without pay. More than words can say, we acknowledge the indefatigable support of Jumoke Verissimo, great poet and freelance writer. Despite her '9-5' daily schedule and several other commitments, she put in time for Saraba, made our short deadline, even publicized it in Guardian. It was our original plan to make Saraba a monthly e-zine. As of this moment, that plan has changed. Saraba would be published bi-monthly. That is, we'd have six issues a year. The major reason for this is our undergraduate status. Please bear with us. We are striving to make Saraba better in each edition. For the next issue, we'd expect contributors to adhere to our theme. We might consider it necessary to disqualify non-adherents. Every reader of this magazine has the unreserved rights of distribution. Please recommend a friend or send as an attachment to any person that could be interested. Looking forward to sharing a wonderful Saraba experience with you. Emmanuel For Saraba.

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Saraba Magazine February Issue