Jude Valentine Badaki was born in Nigeria in 1974. He was educated at St. Peter’s Seminary, Yola and the University of Maduguri. He has worked as a project assistant in the Common Heritage Foundation and he is at present a college tutor.

Poems by Jude Valentine Badaki

Negress

Jude Valentine BadakiFrom the moonlit visions
Of a malarial night
I see the shadow of a Negress
Adrift her hazy past
Surrendering her jewels for chainlets
Her bangles for manacles
Her beads for neck-rings
Her anklets for legcuffs
As she stood amid blonde hairs in bazaars
Hearing, not listening to alien tongues

To arrive here
She had trudged in reverie:
Emptied. No ear-rings, no nose-rings,
Only a tawdry calico hanging down supple hips.
She had shuffled along winding paths
Inhaling tuberculous mists in windy Sahel
As the chattering retinue
Route matched shadows of lost caravan trails

Arriving at far flung harems in Fezzan
To play the concubine

Negress, why do your limbs
desert a humus earth
That starves for does sinuous dance steps
Which drumbeat a people’s pride?
...Those endless trek with twig-cut feet
in a howling forest.
Then, the swim in whorish creeks of “no return”
To feed the greedy belly of barracoons
In Cotonou-Elmina-Badagry.
And like Jonah in a fish belly
You were flocked into dark sardine parked pent boxes
Before sailing into an ocean of deceit
....Thrown into a ship-belly, I say....
Were your nipples rose and fell
With the waves of tempestuous Atlantic
Anchoring Bermudas...to toil in grime and want.

I saw Emotan weep
In pity of this charred complexion
That stoops to a rich earth
Covered with tobacco-tea-cane-sugar.
Weeping...as her captors,
Vanquished by her ravishing torso,
Writhed with lust
To plunder her rivers of innocence
...Letting her piercing plaint echo the paroxysmal seas
In sirenic transmission.

Amazon! Severed from the heart of your lover-earth
And denied the warmth of his groin
Your festered wounds
Caress your fire of resilience
‘Mothering’ your mustard seeds
In transcontinental nurseries...
These seeds that shall sprout to the skies
...I see through these gusts of memory
Those castles by the harbour
Vestigial remains of your injury
Clothed in millennial traffic
As you bathe in this horoscope of time
Waxing stronger and stronger
O knightress in ebony armourette!

*Emotan: A famous Bini queen mother.

Peacock

Masked colossus; crumbling
Earthen mask; weathering
Into particles of impersonal earth.
What master potter
Moulded you thus
With hallowed sockets
And a rude jawline of tyranny?

Lagbaja!
You once donned a towering headgear
Veiled with wormlike coral beads
Ramming faceless multitude
Into passitivity
And by sepulchral roars
You’d inspire empiric stardom.

From behind this coral mask
Came spirals of synthetic smoke; fired
To inflame prejudices
That dilate your tribe’s yellow-fevered pupils
Fired: to incite pride
That swells dustbin heads
And leaves the eyes of your race
with cataractic coloration.
Fired: to induce plunder
That enslaves your jaundiced clandom

Then like a dragon
The entrails of your nostrils
Fired gas
Like pressurized flames
From a blacksmith’s bellow.
You were the ostrich that plucked
The million eyes of heroes.
You were the puffing rhino
That stamped out warmth
From our homestead-fire place.
But now, gun-powered usurper
Flayed by time
And sundried by sunny people
With thorny wishes and witchy curses
If you’d know
That those witchy curses
Could dismember your fragile frame
You’d follow the sun in its cyclical charade,
Rising and setting:
But (being consumed by a friendly sunstroke)
You rose and set
Not to rise again.

...You lay in the afterblaze
Of a sunfire:
Your contorted mask, immobile
Six feet in gods-know-where
Not knowing whether your celebrated demise
Would solicit your bust
Among the ancestors’oracular seat of fame.
Cos these preys, edge-willed,
Have out-nerved you
Dirging the rich man and Lazarus
(To become the little you were not).

*Lagbaja: A Yoruba word for someone nameless.
*Keke elemu: A Yoruba name for a bicycle belonging to a palm wine taper.

Bori

Skin headed hunch backed
Oily, like a pristine orb glistening in the sun.
Roaring gangas,
Blasting algaitas,
Vibrato gwoges,
Accentuating the refrains of a frenzied chorus.

If the hyaena man troubles you
Show him a lion

A maze of reptile charmers dressed in amulets
Arched shoulders
Bulging-out biceps
Barrel torsos
Rippling muscles
Stretching, holding back
Restraining leather-strapped zaki, damisa
And salivating Kura
That scrapes the dry earth with claws
Stirring up a whirlwind into waiting eyes.

If the lion man troubles you
Show him an elephant

Fire-eating acrobat teasing keen eyes
Sword-teaser lancing unyielding tongue
As brown biri apes lewd dancer-enchantress
With pelvic jerks that oil the thighs lust

If the elephant man troubles you
Show him a pit trap

Amulet propelled dancer
Cruising the arena like lightning
Why do you stunt my heart
To stupefy my eyes?

If the trap troubles you
Cast a spell.

Bori dancer!
My exotic epitome
Blazing a trail to stunt my heart
As I stand
Plucking on the strings
Of this garaya of time.

*Zaki: The Hausa name for a Lion
*Damisa: The Hausa name for a leopard
*Kura: The Hausa word for a hyaena.
*Biri: The Hausa name for a monkey
*Garaya: The Hausa name for a two stringed guitar

The poem’s refrain is from a Fulani traditional song though it was altered to address the theme of the poem. It is an oral-formulaic.

A Hunter’s Song

The mute welcome from bony faces
Gives urgency to fired feet
Of silent consuming regrets
As the humbled head
Bows to countless wanderings
Burning up the last strength
Left in a bunch slack sinews.
So I go searching...

Embers of coal fires
Blacken weathered stones
‘As sprites lick up the oil
From lit lamps’
Thatched earthen huts
Still grace a starved earth
And in there, is coldness:
cold walls
Dark rooms, and
Weak snores.
Thus I go searching...

Look not into her sprawled form
For her spellbound moans
(Husband to countless procrastinations)
Shall spin in mindless occupation
To chase you home
From a harmattan
Issuing with passion.
I go searching...

In here are no supplications of goats’ blood
To household gods
For the celebrants have departed
With grudging hearts
Cos this mud-mound, statue-like
Blinded by centuries of light
Haunts generations with its million eyes-
That some have flung themselves
With raised hands
Into houses full of alien crosses.
I go searching...

Look not into its hallow- sockets
For it may not yield answers
To this search.
Look not at the creaking doors
For an eternity awaits you.
For if you’d grow to hunt big games
To banish the community’s hunger
There in the forest, you’ll learn to run,
Walk with all manner of spirits
Ducking, dodging and delivering blows.

I go searching...hunting the night
To bring daylight to their smiles.
...I sling my jute bag
Over my shoulder
Then wheel through this sinuous bush path (machete and dane gun tied on a rusty metal horse)
Wearing a pair of black tyre-slippers
As my back winks at village thatches with nostalgia
But I must go searching...searching...
Navigating these paths on a keke elemu.
Whistling the songs of an initiate
While tying round my neck
A wine horn
Wishing I meet celebrations on the way...
Celebrations in this forest called life.

*Keke elemu: A Yoruba name for a bicycle belonging to a palm wine tapster.

Song To The Moon

On tiptoe,
Holding a forked stick,
Choral songs to the moon began.

Uku Mino shimi
Odumu odidi

And when the moon was crescent
A virgin land flung ope
To the warm embrace of a fertility goddess
Conceiving garlands of amorous beauty
Awaiting a duty bound consummation.

Uku Mino shimi
Odumu odid

When the moon was half
An eagle’s talons held a laurel-wreath
Riding skyward on a chariot of clouds
Heralding a harvest of plenty.

Uku Mino shimi
Odumu shimi

And when the moon was full
Baboons fluted an anthem
As buffaloes danced high life
In response to distant drums

Uku Mino shimi
Odumu ordidi

Now the gyration ensues
As moonstruck buffaloes
With glazed eyes
Roll to the beats of a moon dance.

Uku Mino shimi
Odumu odidi

*The refrain is from a Dagbala song recited by children while playing at a game that involves six gamesters. Five of the gamesters form a circle sitting down while a sixth holds a stick, not necessarily forked, and runs around on the fringes of the circle until he drops the stick behind one of the seated five. He then attempts to rush to his erstwhile position before the new runner touches him with same stick.


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