I was at the train station the other day, and a stranger gifted me a bottle of beer. With a very good laugh we became friends for the short time that we waited for our train. There’s poetry in that event. Watching snowflakes touch each other, I am filled with wonder. There’s poetry in that event. My middle finger starts to itch after using it to take honey. There’s poetry in that event. A glass slipped from your hand and you laugh at the shards before you. There’s poetry in that event. The joy your favourite cologne brings. The feel of hot chocolate. Spending a day or some hours doing your mother’s hair. There’s poetry in that event. Deciding to make pancakes next weekend with a friend or two, or all alone. There’s poetry there. We lost our dad, and on the night of his burial, there was a full moon. There’s poetry in that event. I no longer wait for the muse, the muse is in me. The muse is in you. The muse is not in this world, the muse is in this room. The muse is in a hamster. The muse is everywhere and in every form of being. The ones you see, the ones you don’t see. The ones that don’t see you, the ones that do.
Mention: glass, pebbles, petals, lips, brown and bread, cream and crown, time and peers, soup and sleep. A sleepless river is everywhere. Creation is an embodiment of poetry. I was ironing one day and a button fell off; watching it innocently roll across the floor filled me with peace. I didn’t write a poem about it. There is great delight and sorrow in fixed or fallen buttons as there is in food or favourites. The sound of an angry door banged by a happy son. You were asked to keep eating fruits and veg. Fruits and veg did not ask you to eat them. Apples come in various colours. The rainbow comes and goes. Where are clouds moving to? Rain has not stopped falling. The sky is yet to fall. I will go back to dust one day, but I didn’t come from dust, I came from my mother’s womb. You see? This is how I write poetry. I write poems by breathing in and out. When I’m gone my pictures might be burnt or kept. I want them kept, but I don’t know. I haven’t gone into my stomach myself, but a million things have.
Most people in Nigeria grew up with an erratic supply of electricity. There are people in other countries who have never ever witnessed power outage in their lives. We had sex and we never had sex. I remember spiders invaded our little garden once. We didn’t chase them away. Our father asked us to pay attention; they had mostly yellow webs. They died and disappeared eventually, leaving their webs. Another thing I learnt in our house was that ants too are attracted to honey. Sea life. Names in Africa, names in Asia. I will not talk about Europe or America today. I was born in Nasarawa State and was named Osu, an Afo name. Afo is our language. A friend thought I was Gbagyi. My grandmother spoke Yoruba so fluently; I am not sure she spoke English ever till she died. I am typing these words in utter silence here, so where do words come from? Fela played many musical instruments. I just thought of Buchi Emecheta.
My favourite themes are day and night. I was really scared of the dark when I was seven, eight and nine, but these days, I love working or walking in the dark. Street lights stand like guardian angels. I got home yesterday thinking of a primary school crush; I haven’t see her since we left school. Buildings have a great impact on me. The other name of a place is its architecture. Visit Mararaba where I lived for twenty-something years. Coffins are also built. I am not after themes, themes are not after me. I just want to make art and make love. I hate it when I don’t find garden eggs in the hood; when I really want to eat them, I will go any length to get them.
I do not buy the idea that time waits for no one; it is the other way around. I was about to sleep the other day, while Saddiq was waking up in Nebraska. A tight, warm hug can make my day. Many days go without coffee. There was a period I had spiders in my poems more than I had ‘I’. I trained myself to never hiss. I might love pizza one day, not now. Nigerians leave Nigeria. We really don’t know what we are talking about when we say ‘the language of music’; all we want to do is dance or cry to the music, but somebody is throwing questions. I started wearing boots just recently. The body knows when it’s cold or not, cold does not. Love repeats itself.
My copy of Ondaatje’s The English Patient smells like coffee. Every day. Death repeats itself too. I was not expecting my birth. Do I know everybody in Nigeria? I see many things at once and I don’t see many things at once. I say I don’t hate, yet I say: I hate it when society treats suicides with scorn. We need to listen to the dying. We need to listen to newborns. Eagerly asking the cold to go, eagerly keeping memories of colourful leaves. My friend will tell you the essence of suya. The hands that design bridges. Walking is a favourite sport of mine. I woke up with a line of poetry one day, I wrote it down and then went back to sleep. Belittle no rock. Rice and beans and stew. And salad. The little bit of Idoma I know today, I learnt from our kind Idoma neighbours. I will keep going for strolls. I laugh to the extent I go on my knees and shed tears. If you want to laugh like a mad and happy chicken that escaped Christmas, please read I Do Not Come to You by Chance by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani. Answers can remain in food a time.
Publish online if you want to. Neither physical media nor mental media will limit poetry. Poetry will always make its way to reach out. Write it, expand it, publish it. Fresh metaphors, fresh disobedience of definitions of poetry. We never finish seeing a thing. The lover you’re seeing is also the lover you’re not seeing.
I don’t have a program laid out for writing. There is a process when it is thought out, but I rarely stop to reflect on a process. I just have to write; it’s the same as breathing in and out. I don’t control the energy. What matters to me is that we read and enjoy and publish poetry. Poetry is everywhere, let’s explore it. It’s a mystery, most times. The same thing that drives me to write poetry is the same thing that lulls me to sleep. It’s the same thing that makes me see a beautiful dress and compliment it. It’s the same thing that makes me cry. It’s the same thing that makes me want to travel. It’s the same thing that makes me want to walk barefooted. It’s the same thing that makes me want to mount a stair rail and slide down my ass. It’s a playful spirit, it’s intense as well. I should also add that death drives me.
I write poems by hand, and I see things in the inverse and raise them to a different power. The sky is another meaning for imagination, for poetry, for creativity. And ocean. Flesh and blood drive me. I am in the world and of the world. Thy poem be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily poem.
David Ishaya Osu is a poet, memoirist and editor. His work appear in Eureka Street, Slice Magazine, The Capilano Review, Transition, Salamander Magazine, New Coin Poetry, Magma Poetry, Poetry Wales, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, Platypus Press, among numerous others. He is the poetry editor of Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel, and currently lives in Kent, England.