Gathering of Spirits & Other Poems

Umar Abubakar Sidi

Gathering of Spirits

During my first trip to Cuba, in 1944
as a child, I observed that different orders of reality
appear to disturb the dreams beset
by the Orisha and ancestral spirits of African origin

A painter may create a secret order of things
where different strokes suggest a gathering
of masks and spirit animals

Ancestral spirits
do not accept ritual & magic
expressed in hallucinating forms
scattered on a canvas

Pseudo-African prophets masquerading
as art critics & scholars of voodoo art
are distinguished by their power to surprise
to synthesise different mediums of dreams

this experience is widened by the violent reaction of man
to the unconscious garden beset by spirit animals

Religious satire in Chronicles of the Orisha
captures a child being initiated into a dark order
he is led by a figure wearing a mask

I observed, in a haunted wood, in Cuba, in 1944, that
a stature of a moon-headed female cast in bronze
is charged with raw energy equivalent of ‘voodoo music for Cuban nightclubs’

it is a world of ritual inhibited by the monstrous

Orisha with a child

Orisha with a child gathering around the unconscious garden beset by spirit animals

Orisha with a child entering a spiritual halo

Orisha with a child rotating around the incandescent canvas painted by a poet hovering between native influences and the post-modern eye

Orisha with a child cannot be depicted on a canvas

Orisha with a child cannot be seen by a poet

Orisha with a child

the gathering of spirits is complete

Letters of Desnos & Bataille

The selection & arrangement of material for
a survey on Surrealism is in consonance
with the game ‘one in the other’

in our willingness to experience the unexpected
we hold our minds

we allow the bourgeois & commercial affiliations of theatre
to execute the radical project


To excavate the ‘prehensile tail end’ of Surrealism
put Desnos & Bataille in a mug of tea
let them each publish a dossier of letters:

First Letter
The first letter describes how an artist can both be lyrical & dispassionate by approaching a piece of art as a collection of periodicals about fully forced psychic, erotic, self-definition of high energy, diverging in the domain of contrast

Second Letter
A recorded voice of a couple of ogres making love to language in a space where moon & the stars are represented as equations about the beauty of sky

Third Letter
Paris itself, exuberant, intensive, relevant, stretched

Fourth Letter
A portrait of a curvy woman, her breasts dangling between
the anxious journey & the melancholy of agony

Last Letter
A portrait of Duchamp, at times an experiment that would
continue to be at  the centre of the railway station

at times, an established October setting itself in full speed
towards the virgin forest

at times a Dadaist poem harbouring seeds of irony

at times, the portrait appears as a train, esteemed, intense, dissident, speeding on the margin of the avant-garde

at times, Duchamp steps out of the portrait of Duchamp
to stand in front of a rail track & several railway stations
returning to the image of a distant train

The Disquieting Play of Thought

I was with this method
akin to spoken thought

 A typical example of the process is collage

Such as using the most powerful poetic detonations to free humans from the control of reason

or another trick, like taking special interest in keeping records of  dreams & thought processes of mental patients

this would be a special kind of spoken monologue

as rapidly as possible, without any intervention of reason

it is unencumbered

without the slightest inhibition by the cold pillars of conscious thought

without the hallucinatory effects of contaminated graphic elements from different contexts

without clippings from department store catalogues & the brilliant, slow, revelation of the end of art

without the visual fields where leaves & their veins ravel the edges of an eye

without the graphic counterpart of free association with words

without grappling with the contents of the book that brought together Tzara’s text and Man Ray’s graphs

without the paranoid – critical method invented while making the three dimensional colour photography of the superfine images of concrete irrationality entirely made by hand

without the realisation of acts

without the functioning objects of automatic origin

without the harrowing, soft footsteps of a woman threading on The Mystery & Melancholy of a Street in 1914

without a spectator &  his headless companions in The Disquieting Muses

without the naked upper body of a woman, half hidden in a grotto-like space

without a truck; adorned with a cuff, a horned head & tusk

without the confusing dictum ‘art is the by-product of life’


This process of raising the omnipotence of dream
could be shown, on a clock or on a mantelpiece

as, an old haggard woman playing on a stage where the laws of time & space cease to be

the woman, could also appear through a wall in a portrait as a princess

there are unexplained shadows & a psychological clock, ticking slowly towards the junction, which outlines the true function of thought

to solve  all the principal problems of modern life

Umar Abubakar Sidi is a Nigerian naval helicopter pilot. He lives in Lagos, Nigeria.


*Image by Wonderlane on Unsplash

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