Shirlette Ammons


(for fela anikulapo-kuti and his “music written in blood”)

blak- mouthed mansion

full of furious fight chants;

balconies where lectric blues basslines

commune wit revolution’s

seductive underbelly moan;

a hallelujah chorus 28 voices strong

harmonizes before the battle field

breaks into empty trenches;

a melody cuts the calendar

into something other than defeat —

today – sweet love

bread and shakara tomorrow

a moon in the morning time,

each a place to escape the street

Where War fights Time

broken tongues aim their anthem

at that colo-mentality,

shouts of pain spread like pidgin

dancing contrary to the lash;

no different than any people

wearing chains

beneath a free-flowing blouse,

an earthquake of sweat

trembles his face

like petrified bones of opposite people;

his horn swings low

to scoop the marrow of oppression,

stretches it across nigeria

like jimbaye skin

pushing against gravity and all other states

that imprison the indigenous

he keeps asking,

how can we liberate worlds,

to let go of this cargo

massed in burlap

like callused brown fleece,

tossed like a holocaust

of skeletal leftovers

in a coomb of history and bloodshed?

how can we speed up our vision

to see freedom in close reflection?

i hear all this

in his collection of horns

some going down deep

as weeping valleys

others riding up the sleeve

like a believer’s last gust

of fight-wind