Old Story in a New Wine Skin & Other Poems
Old Story in a New Wineskin
Archetype is the study of an old story in a new wine skin,
a sequence jumping centuries to perch on unsuspecting witnesses.
Across time, we’re born of this tradition in the history of love;
you and me, the structure and form of an ancient separation of lovers,
of Odysseus sailing time and distance to Penelope,
their story peeling into us when it is weary.
This is our performance:
the reinvention of two images wrought on adjacent sides of a coin,
each facing the sky one at a time, aware of the other,
but not presuming what time and space cannot render simultaneously.
Our story is like the rainbow across the surface of
water – a set of colours doubling in soluble reflection.
What happens in Homer is the beginning,
we wait on the opposite shore to complete the arc of the rainbow.
Therefore the love which us doth bind,
But fate so obviously debarrs,
Is the Conjunction of the mind,
And Opposition of the Stars.
– Andrew Marvell
How come we’re a body and its mirrored reflection, as far removed as we’re near to each other?
In a different poem, I’d told you ours was like the story of Odysseus across the surface of water, and that was beyond conjecture; how it seemed like, centuries ago, you had stood beside the lady of Ithaca off shore, watching for the trace of a sail across the farthest horizon, while I was desire strung across a body of water ten times wider than a bay.
What keeps me away from you surpasses a poet’s fear of words, it includes the pain of isolation; the captain of our fate had lost compass in the middle of a storm and we swam to separate tides, thrashing against what is customary to passing time.
Let nobody say lovers in time had suffered worse. What we’d rather have is opportunity to recapture, like lovers all around us, the original completion which the world lost in a haste; even for a brief moment that must come and pass, and then restart, like the continual repetition of a failed attempt.
When I’m back from the war within the body, will you be there in the front yard, in obvious dismay, or must we drink this cup over and over?
What Bata Looks Like From a Hill
We stand on this hill and look at our city
laid out beneath us, and there are some of the
places we know – the minarets at the farthest distance
rising like a giant anthill within the central mosque.
There is Bata, the market street, closer to where we came from,
the din of the market, the blasting of the trucks, the music of the beggars
pleading for coins on improvised instruments muted between our distance.
We oversee the life we used to be part of, and here I think of details
and peculiarities I never noticed before:
the vast sky over the town, the museum where we fetched almond,
the highways with the speeding cars that seem slow from here,
and the river, the dirty one, all the connecting roads.
It was your idea,
that we come to this hill and look at our city spread out like a design.
The breeze is gentle here but it moves things – your gown
and the straw hat you are trying to hold on your head.
You are happy struggling with the breeze
and I am smiling holding the camera because you want photos.
You want to be airborne in the first shot and it is perfect.
You leap and the setting sun collects your shadow under your feet,
your left arm spreads out, the other still holding the hat,
and the city is the background, a collection of beautiful sights.
In this moment, we are two isolated lives
rediscovering our city and happiness in the least visited place.
Ebenezer Agu was born & lives in southeast Nigeria. He is a poet, nonfiction writer, and literary critic. He edited the poetry of the two issues of 14: An Anthology of Queer Art. He is the founder of 20.35 Africa and the editor-in-chief of its anthology series. Ebenezer also works in the field of creative economy as a culture, art, and gender expert with AU-EU Youth Cooperation Hub, a youth organization under the African Union and the European Union designing innovative projects to solve some of the common challenges facing Africa and Europe.
*Image by Sheyi Owolabi on Unsplash.