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Poetry

Now That I Sing God into Stones

by OKO OWI OCHO

“I am an atheist because God does not believe enough in me.” – Alain Borer

Now that I sing God into stones

my village carved from his bones is

breaking the chisel

& the face I get

differs from the picture my mother described of my image 

I rejected the crucifix when the priest, speaking Latin

& spicing Christ in harsh English vowels, asked me

to throw away my tongue

because it is tinted with the stains of my ancestor

because the sea  rejected the slaveship

because I sang water with melodies only memories compel

I walked away from the altar with the body of Christ inside my mouth.

I am still not free from the colourlessness of my language

this sound of my words is strange to me because there are no  siblings

to speak to, & I have no history to carry on

pages that show common kindred, or an Euphrates

where water is named after a collective colour

this is a sketch of people who do not live on the map of history

a brother says, “who knows you beyond the kitchen

verbs your mother used to make you? when history decides to drop its muteness,

will you dance to the drums calling from ancient Benin?

or, will your fragile legs dance bata for the Yorubas to disavow?”

he remembered to add, “Africa is a continent that fell from the whiteman’s mouth”

I have no history, not because

my people were not there in the beginning

when God wooed the earth with songs braided in water.

I am just the victim of the truth inside Ariana Brown’s mouth:

“The Whiteman will make you believe only what is written is true”

I am looking for freedom from my tongue

& learning where I will plant my songs

beyond memories of Apa, that city

in Kwararafa where my father ran

from leaving my brothers with prayers to Alekwu who would later change their language

I still trace dead tales inside this continent’s mouth

when my blackness was defined by myth men swallowed

in prefaces that will not make them doubt God,

myth that Horus alone could see & switched into silence on tablets by Meroe

those histories that water swallowed

when only a language was spoken in the Pangaea,

& my people, broken into Laurasia kept a single word

a memory that they spoke through God when he named Adam, a part of me

broke into the Gondwana with a different tongue, hence Babel was built

on the spot the pyramids sleep; my people, scared of the silence that comes without

being with siblings, moved to Apa & lived in confederacy in Kwararafa

I am a subdued history

clutching memories of a myth time has forgotten

Oko Owi Ocho is the creative director of Benue Poetry Troupe and his poetry collection We Will Sing Water is set to be published by Sevhage (2022).

“Now That I Sing God into Stones.” From the collection We Will Sing Water by Oko Owi Ocho © 2022. Sevhage, Abuja.