by Abioseh Nicol (1924-1994)
The Wounded Christ:
I am not your God
if you have not denied me once, twice,
if I have not heard you complaining,
or doubting my existence.
I am not your Love,
if you have not rejected me often.
For what then am I worth to you
if you are always sinless.
Pace these sandy corridors of time,
turn again and live for me your youth, listening
to the gently falling rain, the distant cock crow
then proceed once more to deny
that I had a part in your being. Say
that I am an invention to keep you held
always in thralldom. That I was
the avant-garde of your disintegration.
After me, the stone jars of cheap gin, ornamental
glass beads, the punitive expeditions, your colonial status,
I have heard it all before; hide your face,
bury it, for fear that finding me, you may find peace.
For in this hour when the dying night lingers
unwilling to surrender its waking darkness
over your face and fevered brow, my torn fingers
will stray bringing such comfort
as may claim your doubting heart.
The African Priest:
I have sat down by the waterside
watching the grey river pulling away.
I have listened me with willing ears
to your vesper bells across the fields.
Come close to me, God, do not keep away,
I walk towards you but you are too far,
Please try and meet me here halfway,
because you are my all, my all.
What are you, Negro, Lebanese or Jew,
Flemish, Italian, Indian, Greek?
I know within my heart exactly what you are –
What we would like to be, but never are.
The warm blood sticks to your whipped shoulders
(Drink this in remembrance of me).
Only when the whirling throngs have raised red weals
on our complacent bodies, then we remember you.
Change our salty tears of brown remorse
into your flowing blood, it tastes the same.
(Oh, River Niger, you too have come from far away),
Fill my uplifted silver calabash
with your sacrificial wine.
And I, your least novitiate, will sip,
with my thick lips, your ancient memory
So God the Father who art above,
Christ His Son, our only love,
Holy Ghost, eternal Dove,
make me a goodly man.
The African Intellectual:
Ding dong bell
Pussy’s in the well.
Sleep leaves my opening eyes slowly
unwillingly like a true lover.
But this day is different.
The lonely matin bells
cut across the thin morning mist,
the glinting dew on the green grass,
the cool pink light before the heat of day,
the sudden punctual dawn of tropic skies,
before the muezzin begins to cry,
before the pagan drums begin to beat.
But still for me
the great rock remains unrolled.
within my wet dark tomb
wounded peace remains embalmed,
the pricking thorns still yet my crown.
Where are my ancestral spirits now?
I have forgotten for many harvests
to moisten the warm earth
with poured libations.
Where are you now, O Shango?
two headed, powerful
man and woman, hermaphrodite
holding your quivering thunderbolts
with quiet savage malice;
brooding over your domain,
Africa, Cuba, Haiti, Brazil,
slavery of mind is unabolished.
Always wanting to punish, never to love.
I have turned away from you
to One who stands
watching His dying dispossessed Son
shouting in Aramaic agony
watching the white Picasso dove
hovering above the Palestinian stream
watching and waiting, sometimes
to punish, always to love.
Sleep confuses my tired mind
still the bell rings
I must up and away.
I am a good Churchman, now.
Broadminded, which means past caring
whether High or Low.
The priest may hold the chalice,
or give it to me. It depends
on where he trained. I only mind
that he wipes the wet rim
not to spread dental germs.
A tenth of my goods
I give to the poor
through income tax.
Yet you Christ are always there.
You are the many-faceted crystal
of our desires and hopes,
behind the smoke-screen of incense,
concealed in mumbled European tongues
of worship and of praise.
In the thick dusty verbiage
of centuries of committees
of ecumenical councils.
You yet remain revealed
to those who seek you.
It is I, you say.
You remain in the sepulcher
of my brown body.
Christ is risen, Christ is risen!
You were not dead.
It was just that we
could not see clearly enough.
We can push out the rock from the inside.
You can come out now.
You see we want to share you
with our masters, because
you really are unique.
The great muddy river Niger,
picks up the rising equatorial sun,
changing itself by slow degrees
into thick flowing molten gold.