On The New Year
Now it is over, the 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
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?
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?
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.