Obododimma Oha

Sounds & Smells & Sights of a Miserable Day


a market for miseries …

The piddle & the pressure of congested streets
Etiquettes that run wild

Only a search
For what fills the stomach
And chokes the mind

The hawk & the hawker
Slowing the heartbeat
Of a boiling street
Here, you are pushed
There, you are rushed at

As you buy, as you sell
A miserable day


kinesis of the madding crowd

A bus never stops for you to board
You run to meet it
As it grunts and groans and grinds along

The mad rush of the waiting mob
The bus will swallow more than its fill
Some sitting, some standing, some hanging
Some sitting on those sitting
Some laughing, some cursing
Some exchanging greetings, some exchanging blows

Somewhere, someone filled with the spirit
Would start to sing, to pray, to preach in bad English
Some humbled by their sins, would chorus amen
Some hardened by routine, would yawn alleluia

Soon, the bus is trapped in a go-slow
The air inside tortured by the breath & sweat
Of the impatient many
Waiting for hours, they sigh & swear
Waiting beside their worries
Waiting beside their fears

The hawkers thanking God
Would dash from side to side, selling wares
The beggars displaying their wares too –
Scars or sores or seeming horror
To shock & chill & win some pathos

And soon,
The bugs of the city
Grabbing phones, watches, necklaces
At dagger-point or gunpoint, whichever is cheaper
To minimize waste


the smells you can almost touch …

The pestilential smells invade
Oh, you can almost touch the rank
That torments the air
Rank odours of the dark, stagnant water
Rank odours of mountains of refuse, that refuse eviction
Poisonous fumes of rickety automobiles & sneezing factories
Reeking smells of moneyed recklessness,
the decay of the humans dangling their being

countryman, soon you learn
to post the postcolonial in the floating smell
of decaying futures


taking some noise home

Uniform uncertainties, non-uniformed eventualities
In the wild spaces of anomie

The street sings in your head…

The hooting of the impatient horns
The fury of the hasting tires
That risk, this luck, those miracles

Finally, back home, you finger your way
Through the darkness to a keyhole
And drop half-dead on your bed,
Not quite sure your mind is still intact


street homes

Families in the streets
The streets in the families
Howling in that habit
Too free to be polite

A father touting far from honour
Brings home some earned violence
His certificate in street life, with which
He writes a red eye
On his wife’s waiting challenge

A mother shouting at estranged cubs
Fills their hearts with the love to hate
Creative silence
She growls; she screams; she vomits hellfire
On little devils pestering her life
After a hard day’s toil of an alabaru*

The siege of the street on feet
Planted in the wild
The street invades the home
With blows & curses & blood
The streets come home, armed to the teeth
Drugs, dregs, and dragnets.

* Alabaru is a Nigerian term for porters (mostly women) who operate at market places, following shoppers around and carrying their purchases for them for a little fee.

Obododimma Oha is a Professor of Cutural Semiotics and Stylistics in the Department of English, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. His poems have been published in several literary journals, for instance Otoliths, Shadowtrain, African Writing Online, Postcolonial Text, Ekleksographia, Envoi, Sentinel Poetry Online, and Ase. He co-edited the anthology One Hundred Thousand Poets for Change with Anny Ballardini and Michael Rothenberg. More information on him can be obtained from his blog, http://udude.wordpress.com/.
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