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On The New Year

 

Now it is over, the midnight funeral that parts

The old year from the new;

And now beneath each pew

The warden dives to find forgotten missals

Scraps of resolutions and medals;

And over lost souls in the graves

Amid the tangled leaves

The wagtail is singing:

Cheep cheep cheep the new year is coming;

Christ will come again, the churchbell is ringing

Christ will come again after the argument in heaven

Christ…….Nichodemus…….Magdalen…..

Ding dong ding……….

 

And the age rolls on like a wind glassed flood

And the pilgrimage to the cross is the void

 

And into time time slips with a lazy pace

And time into time

And need we wait while time and the hour

Roll, waiting for power?

 

                    II

To wait is to linger

With the hope that the flood will flow dry;

To hope is to point an expectant finger

At fate, fate that has long left us to lie

Marooned on the sands

Left with dry glands

To suckle as die.

 

Wait indeed, wait with grief laden

Hearts that throb like a diesel engine.

Throbbing with hopes:

Those hopes of men those hopes that are nowhere,

Those nebulous hopes, sand castles in the air –

 

Wait and hope?

The way is weary and long and time is

Fast on our heels;

Or forces life to a headlong conclusion

Nor yet like crafty Heracles

Devolve on someone else

The bulk of the globe?

 

             III

 

Where then are the roots, where the solution

To life’s equation?

 

The roots are nowhere

There are no roots here

Probe if you may

From now until doomsday

We have to think of ourselves as forever

Soaring and sinking like dead leaves blown by a gust

Floating choicelessly to the place where

Old desires and new born hopes like bubbles burst

Into nothing – blown to the place of fear

To the cross in the void;

Or else forever playing zero-sum game

With fate as mate, and forever

Slaying and mating as one by one

Our tombstones rise in the void.

 

Editor's note: Culled from Christopher Okigbo's Collected Poems. Published by Heinemann Publishers (London). Copyright of Christopher Okigbo.

 

Main Picture courtesy of The University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies, where an exhibition on the life and work of Christopher Okigbo and his daughter, Obi Okigbo, will be taking place in April - June 2007.

 

Christopher Okigbo is one of the greatest poets to have emerge from Africa in the past century. Born in Ojoto, Eastern Nigeria in 1932, he attended Government College, Umuahia, before reading Classics at The University of Ibadan.

 

He was a lecturer at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, before joining the Biafran side during the Nigerian Civil War. Since his death in 1967 during the war, Okigbo has become legendary in the field of African poetry and as a source of insipiration for younger writers.

 

Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka have both dedicated poems to his memory.

 

 

 

 

 

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