IT IS HOPE THAT KEEPS THE FLAME OF DREAMS DANCING by Balogun Abdulmueed

IT IS HOPE THAT KEEPS THE FLAME OF DREAMS DANCING by Balogun Abdulmueed

low angle view of spiral staircase against black background

IT IS HOPE THAT KEEPS THE FLAME OF DREAMS DANCING

by Abdulmueed Balogun

Winner of the 2021 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (Poetry Category)

It is hope that keeps the flame of dreams dancing, even when the wind of forlorn 

throws at it a thousand blow. I have taken my heart to the silvery river, to remove 

 

all traces of greed, what turns futile a century’s strife, to wash away the sticky dusts 

of dissatisfaction, what steels people’s mind to the teachings and admonitions of patience, 

 

what makes them envision the blessings of God as crumbs, as nothing worthy of glorification. 

I see them now, smiling as they wine and dine, as they shroud their nakedness with stolen golds, 

 

though survival is the first rule of nature, and when home fails to be a heaven, it’s only natural 

but not justifiable to breathe by all means. Mother urges, with the clarity of a calm river, son, 

 

don’t hurry the procession of life, take every pace at your pace, that’s divine; don’t be beguiled 

by the fleeting pleasure of the world flashing to your eyes, into hacking the tree of hope in your 

 

mind in the name of survival. Father exhorts, with the voice of a resolute thunder rattling in the 

heart of the sky, when clouds wear darkness as cloak before the rise of dusk, beloved, the world 

 

is brief like a second, spend yours as a harbinger of smile to pallid cheeks, and to your 

neighbors— a bamly river be, soothe their pains, if you can, when they grief and if you can’t, 

 

mope their tears with words of compassion. Dear God, I have come to you as a country ravaged 

by war, as a bird with broken wings, the road of life is coated in riddles and thorns, and only 

those under the parasol of your grace can tread unscathed. Gaze upon me— a poet, 

a pilgrim and dust, with your merciful eyes, I do not want to brew my bliss like birds my

 

age who have murdered their conscience with knives of greed, from the core of what you 

ordained profane, I do not crave to oil my harmattan-bitten lips like my peers with my neighbors’ 

 

oil, while they go to bed with growling stomachs, with bleeding hearts. God, I erect the pillars 

of my dreams in your hands, insure my affairs in your heavenly vault, let your name be praised.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Abdulmueed Balogun is a Nigerian poet & an undergrad at the University of Ibadan. He is a 2021 HUES Foundation Scholar and a Poetry Editor at The Global Youth Review. He was longlisted for the 2021 Ebarcce Prize, Finalist: 2021 Wingless Dreamer Book of Black Poetry Contest, won Honorable mention: 2021 Whispering Crescent Poetry Prize, Shortlisted: BBPC Feb/March 2021 and an alumnus: 2021 SpringNg Writing fellowship. His works are forthcom(in)g: Avalon Literary Review, The Night Heron Barks Review, Salamander Ink, Bowery Gothic, Subnivean Magazine, Jmww Journal, The Remant Archive and anthologized in: Fevers of Mind (Poets of 2020) and 2021 Cathalbui Poetry Competition Selected Entries. He tweets from: AbdmueedA.

THIS THING CALLED DEATH by Blessing Anaso

THIS THING CALLED DEATH by Blessing Anaso

dried leaves on a concrete pavement

THIS THING CALLED DEATH

by Blessing Anaso

I was twelve when I first saw it,

Cells fat and pink, the colour of cancer,

I saw its fingers in Ma’s falling hair and in her brave smile.

Like the sharp scent of disinfectant—angry and relentless.

 

I smelled death on Pa’s clothes,

In his anti-depression pills and on his thinning hair.

Later, I smelled it in Pa’s study, hanging from the ceiling,

Fists clenched in rigor mortis—blind and bloated.

 

I heard it in Bebe’s blood pressure,

In the rheumatic pop of her aged knees,

I heard it in the tired sigh of a year too many,

It came in her sleep—ripe but sudden.

 

This thing called death, I feel it now,

In my husband’s tight grip and midnight sobs,

I see it in my left breast and in my daughter’s uncertain eyes,

I smell it in the rustle of hospital sheets,

And taste it in my bloody vomit.

 

Small but enough

Like the soft hiss at the end of a kiss.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Blessing Anaso is a student and creative writer living in Nigeria, occasionally known to dabble in dark poetry.

Her work ‘Halima’ was selected for the AU_CIEFFA’s girl-child education campaign, published on their website.

Her poem ‘The Demons You Name’ also placed fourth place in the Kito Diaries ‘#QueerLivesMatter’ competition.

She writes short stories in her spare time.

Winners of the 2020 Kreative Diadem Creative Writing Contest

Winners of the 2020 Kreative Diadem Creative Writing Contest

Winners of the 2020 Kreative Diadem Creative Writing Contest

Here is the highly anticipated list of the winners of the 2020 Kreative Diadem Creative Writing Contest. Now in its fourth year, the prize seeks to recognize the best literary works by Nigerian writers aged 21 years and below.

This year we received 145 poems and 87 flash fiction pieces from which our guest judges: Nome Emeka Patrick, selected three winners for the poetry category and Dr. Arthur Anyaduba picked the top three flash fiction entries.

Here are the winners with comments from the judges:

Poetry Category

Winner: “Hydrology” by Chiwenite Onyekwelu

It wasn’t so hard to choose this poem as the winning poem. Few lines into it, I was pulled deep into Chinwenite’s language, and its responsibility to clarity, and to the way, it paddles his story. Chinwenite’s is a moving poem. Its position is at the threshold of love, a paradigmatic poise of what it means to reach into desire & (re)claim it. Anne Carson writes, “All lovers believe they are inventing love”, & this poem not only moves along the edge of this assertion but also finds a way to embody it in a novel way. In this poem, the reader is made witness to the lover, the beloved, and the passion that burns in the proximity between them. Healing is the core of love, and Chinwenite doesn’t fail to reiterate this in this brilliant poem.

First Runner-up: “She Stared Back at Us with Eyes Closed” by Amarachi Iwuafor

Amarachi’s poem is a poetic monologue, a plunge into mourning that comes with the realization of loss, the acceptance of it, and the constant groping to make sense of it. Here, I kept rereading this poem, & I’m marveled at its simplicity, a subtlety that isn’t really a subtlety, but an attempt at eloquence in the face of grief. By offering us her own version of it, Amarachi seems to be telling us this is how the loss of someone undoes us. And there’s this catharsis that lurks in these lines, “How often we grope for life/ when we are close to death.”, one anyone would immediately be struck with. This is a breathtaking poem! No pun intended.

Second Runner-up: “In the Name of Transcendentals” by Ibe Obasiota Ben

Ibe’s In The Name of Transcendentals is a powerful poem. I am particularly drawn by its voice, the effortlessness at which the lines spill forth, and its originality. I admire how this poem seems to interrogate the idea of death and grief and the ‘others’, how it orbits around these subjects with grace and simplicity. This is a great poem.

Honourable mentions:

“Melody of Anarchy” by Ajani Samuel Victor

“This Thing Called Death” by Blessing Anaso

“in which my dead grandfather calls yet again through the mouth of a door” by Mayowa Oyewale

“Grieving, my body feels like laughter caught young in its youth” by Chukwu Emmanuel

Flash Fiction Category

Dr. Arthur Anyaduba writes: “These stories are the products of supremely talented writers who clearly understand the foibles and the intimate struggles of living and experiencing life. These writers have mastered the art of making storytelling into an affective experience. The stories are also quintessentially ‘Nigerian’ in their imaginative worlds, their sounds, and the manifold experiences that they tell powerfully.

“What I found most curious about all the stories is that even in their varied forms and concerns they tell about similar experiences and situations provoking similar kinds of emotions: childhood trauma and abuse, the angst of loss and pain, and the complexities of human relationships. The quality of writing and the depth of imagination of these stories are incredible. There’s always that strange feeling of self scorn that I get each time I ‘judge’ a story to determine its worth, its rating in relation to others, its strengths, and whatnot. But these stories have all refused to be judged.

“Each one of them that I read left me confounded and lost in its storied world. I found myself unable to judge, to assess, to rank the stories. Instead, the stories forced me to think and to feel. The victory of these stories over me was that they took me in without my recognizing how deep; they made me look at experiences more closely, more intimately, until I was no longer able to pronounce a judgement.”

Winner: “Sing About Me I’m Dying of Thirst” by Daniel Ogba

First Runner-up: “A Feeling of No Name” by Chiamaka Ejiofor

Second Runner-up: “This Too Shall Pass” by Jesutomisin Ipinmoye

Honourable mentions:

“Moments Before We Die” by Yvonne Nezianya

“May My Words Be Taken to You” by Sobur Adedokun

“Verses of Silence” by Timi Sanni      

 “Fluttering Hope” by Miracle Chidera Odigwe                                   

Congratulations to the winners!

We are grateful to our guest judges — Nome Emeka Patrick and Dr. Arthur Anyaduba — and everyone who sent in their work. Thanks to all our sponsors for their generous donations. 

Interviews with the contest winners will be published at a later date.

The maiden edition which held in 2017 was judged by Sueddie Vershima Agema (Flash Fiction) and Okwudili Nebeolisa (Poetry).

 

Isolation

Our third issue ever, "Isolation" is out. We had thought-provoking conversations with Alexis Teyie and Tobi Nifesi. It's a collection of works from some of the finest minds out there -- poetry, short stories, interviews, and creative essays.

Do you love our published works?

You can add your literary work to an endless list of poems, short stories, flash fiction, and essays.

THIS TOO SHALL PASS by Jesutomisin Ipinmoye

THIS TOO SHALL PASS by Jesutomisin Ipinmoye

THIS TOO SHALL PASS

by Jesutomisin Ipinmoye

This Too Shall Pass – Second Runner-up of the 2020 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (Flash Fiction Category)

To Peter.

 

Your mother, a woman of greying skin and brittle bones told me that was your first name today. We were eating rice for the first time since your burial, watching as the sun fell into the horizon, and she turned and she said it. That name, a name that carried the mark of a saint, fell off her tongue and lay listless in the soft earth. She asked me if I knew. I told her I did not. That I called you Sir, Oga, Uncle. That I called you other things like Animal, Dog, and Beast. Any word that would strip away the humanity you loved to sheath yourself in, the humanity that you draped over your sins, claiming them to be errors that everyone made. I wanted to tell her that we did not have that sort of relationship between employer and employee, which would allow me knowledge of your name. Or even knowledge of you as a person. 

Not even on the nights that you’d slip into my room and demand perverse things that your wife sleeping upstairs would not do for you. I wanted to tell her these things, but I could not. 

So I let her eat in peace. 

To Peter

Your mother is virtue. 

This is something I have struggled to understand in my months living with her. She is a woman with many hearts, a woman of much love. I have been unable to explain your specific brand of horror, your callousness, and evil, by looking at your mother. In the months after you died, where I searched for someone to blame, I looked for ways to blame her. I looked for signs that perhaps she watered a particular demon in you, gave it the earth, and the fertilizer it needed to grow. But I found none. 

Your mother is virtue. 

It only makes me curse you more.

 

To Peter

I started living with your mother because, after the funeral, your wife and daughter moved far away. Your mother says they’re coming back, but I know better. I know how people run. I remember how your wife held your little daughter’s shoulders tightly, as sand was slowly heaped unto your casket. I remember how she cornered me later that night and asked me questions. Do I still want to go back to school? Do I know how to find my family? Her eyes lingered in spaces above my head, as though making eye contact would legitimize me as another person she had to worry about. I told her what she wanted to hear. I was fine. I would stay with your mother until I know how to fend for myself. I remember the mist in her eyes. She was just about to leave when she turned back and whispered, I’m sorry.

To Peter

 

I don’t remember how to get back home. Sometimes, I sit under the guava tree in your mother’s yard, and I try to draw maps in the earth that lead to home. Perhaps it is the fact that I’ve never owned anything, so where do I start understanding what it means to own a place. Or maybe it’s the fact that I was five when a tall man with a shadowed face took me away from where I might have called home and into another world. 

I do know that I’m not from here. 

I remember there was a language in my mouth that my tongue spent years breaking into pieces, just so I could understand when your wife told me to wash plates, sweep the yard, and clean the car. I have come to learn that I existed in your lives, as a result of compromise. Your wife wanted help in the house but didn’t want another woman in the house with her. It fascinates me that she was so aware of the type of person she married, that she went out of her way to choose a little foreign boy, hoping it would dissuade you. Sometimes, I think she knows it didn’t. But of course, we don’t speak of such things.

We don’t speak of the violence. The cracking of leather belt on supple skin. We don’t speak of the loneliness. The countless hours I spent staring into space. We don’t speak of the abuse. The insults. The fact that all I owned, all that felt familiar enough to call mine, was the pain.

Now that you’re dead, I don’t remember how to get home Peter. 

And now, as the pain slowly calcifies int

To Peter

Your mother’s favorite thing to say when confronted with suffering is this too shall pass. She said it again just this morning when we woke up to find the poultry farm raided and the chickens missing. 

She said it when, as we cleaned the living room, I finally told her about everything. She was silent for very long, her eyes watering her cheeks. I expected her to say it, to try to swallow up the confusion with a promise of things to get better. 

But she said nothing. And I said nothing. And we both cleaned the room, sweeping away the silence. 

Photo Credit: Photo by Askar Abayev from Pexels

A FEELING WITH NO NAME by Chiamaka Ejiofor

A FEELING WITH NO NAME by Chiamaka Ejiofor

A FEELING OF NO NAME

by Chiamaka Ejiofor

A Feeling of No Name – First Runner-up of the 2020 Kreative Diadem Annual Creative Writing Contest (Flash Fiction Category)

Maura sat in the therapist’s office that smelt of exhaust fumes and feminine cologne, and had the paint peeling off the walls like scabs falling off a dried-up wound. It made Maura think of healing. She looked out through the window, at the tarred road. The sun was high in the horizon, pouring down rays like streaks of pale fire, creating huge mirage pools on the tarred road. Pools of blood. Maura was sure. Her baby’s blood. 

“What a comfortable chair, isn’t it? To share uncomfortable problems” the therapist said, tittering, as though she was approaching a lunatic whose madness she knew was growing malignant. 

Maura smiled at the therapist who seemed to be hiding behind her large spectacles. Maura started to say something, but the sharp pain in her abdomen, just where her Caesarean section scar was, pressed her lips shut. She closed her eyes. She felt her head swoon. It was engulfing her, she knew, that feeling with no name, that feeling that catches her unaware, takes her in its palms and dips her into a pool of numbness. Like sleep paralysis. 

But this swoon, this feeling that makes her hands tremble, and her teeth clatter, until she bites her tongue, tasting blood; it did not start here. No. Not in the therapist office. Not on that tarred road with mirage pools of blood either. 

***

It started the day Maura turned eighteen. Maura, hot-blooded and a believer in anything with a romantic overtone. Marcel had told her on the eve of her birthday that Eighteen meant ripping oneself off the cloaks of childhood and painting adulthood on the canvass of one’s dream.

She lay on his bed, snuggled in his arms after they had eaten suya with cold Fanta at a local bar to celebrate her birthday. Her eyes following the haphazard dance of dust from where a thin beam sneaked in through the keyhole, as she listened to him saying how much he loved her, his eyes watery, and Maura thought of love as some kind of liquid emotions one could bottle up and place on shelves. As though Marcel saying “I will give you all my love” meant he had a shelf of these bottles and would anoint her with them, one after the other, until she felt a slippery ache in her groin. So when she felt that swoon, that numbness, creeping over her as he ripped her clothes off her lean body, she did not think of giving that feeling a name. 

She did not think of giving it a name also, a few weeks later when she realized that the smears of liquid love Marcel had anointed her with had coagulated into a budding being inside of her. 

She called his phone, her throat aching, a swirling sensation in her head, as though a turbine of regret was turning through her, to tell him that the pregnancy test strip had displayed the dreaded double line. But he called her stupid, his voice blending into the ache in her throat and the swirl in her head, that was when she felt that swoon engulf her again, with each of his words— Didn’t she take the morning-after pill? Didn’t she know he was a student and not ready to be a father? How was he even sure he was the one? Isn’t she a naive, cheap thing that never keeps her thigh shut, anyway?

That day, Maura realised that this liquid emotion called love that seeped from one lover’s genitals to the other, to soothe an aching groin, could also scald. Like water when it got heated up. 

And like water, love could also drown, when it flowed in torrents from the most ingenuine lips. Maura became sure of this when some days later, Marcel appeared outside her hostel gate and shoved a pill wrapped in too bright aluminum foil into her hands. It would be the last time she would ever see him.

At first, Maura was wary of taking the abortion pill. But she thought of the stigma of an unwanted, and worst of all, teenage pregnancy. Of her widowed mother breaking down in tears, lamenting how she had failed her, how she had come to the University to chase after things in trousers rather than chase after her studies. So she took it, praying the custodians of sins would forgive her.

Perhaps she was forgiven because after a week of cramping pain in her womb, the baby still nestled inside her. So Maura started to think of motherhood, to google topics that felt surreal to her. Pregnancy care. Labour. Breastfeeding. And later, she bought a book on single parenting.

The day her mother called, whining over the cracking telephone line, to disown her for bringing such shame, was the day Maura walked into a nearby hospital to register for antenatal care ignoring the sneer of the nurses who muttered malicious words about little girls who won’t keep their bodies holy. 

Maura planned her motherhood. She bought mosquito netting and shawl for the baby. She cut her old clothes and turned them into baby clothes.

After she put to bed, she would wake up early to feed and bathe her baby, before going to lectures with the baby strapped on her back. She would start a petty trade after classes and save enough to enroll him in a kindergarten when he turned two. 

But there were things Maura did not plan.

Things like giving birth through a Caesarean section, which was like wearing a permanent emblem of motherhood, tattooing her sacrifices for this baby on her skin.

Things like her mother forgiving her, the dimples on her mother’s cheeks sinking deep as she embraced the baby, saying “he is my husband come back. Eziokwum. He is your father come back, Maura”.

Things Like her baby dying, a few days after he turned one,after she had celebrated a little birthday party with the neighborhood children from the proceeds of her petty trade.

It happened on the day her baby, Obinneya, called her mamma.

That morning, after she had bathe him, and was kissing his wet, warm belly, making slurpy sounds with her lips that made him giggle, he called softly ‘mamma’.

So when later that afternoon she went to the market to get some goods for her petty trade, she got him a toy car, a gift for calling her the most fulfilling word, mamma. 

On her way back, the traffic was horrible. Cars blasting horns and drivers shouting impatiently at one another. Obinneya was whining. He was hungry. So she decided not to board a bus, and flagged down an okada that would take the one-way, to evade the traffic.

She did not see the trailer. She was sure the Okada man too did not, else he would have diverted into the pedestrian lane. It happened too quickly, that collision. All she heard was the screech of tyres and hoarse screams she later knew to be hers, and the feeling of being thrust in the air,then felt her back hit the tarred road with a thud. She did not notice the stickiness of blood on her forehead until she heard Obinneya’s voice, muffled, muttering from somewhere inside her, mamma, mamma. 

When she lifted herself up to look around for her baby, what she saw— a bloodied pulp distorted under the front tyre of the trailer— was not her baby. Her baby could not be that crushed figure with head split open under the tyre, and thick, cream-colored splatter of the brain splayed on the tarred road; and red, red fluid gathering into a pool and rolling lazily into the nearby gutter. That was not her Obinneya.

She pinched herself hoping to wake up. Yesterday, she had seen a spider crawling in her room, and had not killed it. Spider was an augury of bad dreams. This was a bad dream. But when she looked up at the sky and the blinding rays of the sun hit her, she knew it was not a dream. She had never seen the sky in her dreams. 

***

“Panic attack,” the therapist said as Maura opened her eyes. 

“What?”

“You’re having panic attack. What is your trauma?”

What I feel has no name. Maura wanted to say. But instead, she stood up and walked out of the therapist’s office.

Inside her, she could hear Obinneya calling, mamma. She started to walk, briskly, as if chasing the mirage pools that kept on moving further as she approached them. She kept on walking till the sun retired, stealing away the pools and replacing them with silhouettes of what Maura thought to be a toddler. She continued to walk into the darkness, ignoring the ache in her joints, chasing the silhouettes as she had chased the mirage pools.

Maybe it was a compass to direct her to wherever her child was. 

Maybe she would find Obinneya.

Photo Credit: Photo by João Paulo de Souza Oliveira from Pexels

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