Masks and Madness
She leaned on her brother's lego towers,
Being at that age when everything becomes
An aid to the miracle of mobility. Hers was
To sow disassembly on the industrious fields
Of a sibling's imagination. Innocently.
Far out in the world, men learn
The miracle of walking planes on leashes,
Testicles burning with artificial fire,
Striding into gangling towers
Innocent as placard-carrying activists.
Far out in another world, Hitler and Mao
Compare notes, ruing the slow evolution
Of human imagination. "I'd have built airports,
Not Auschwitz; sent Israel to Canaan
On Economy," Hitler says, in a rare interview.
Mao nods absentmindedly, he spends his days
Building Boeings from the pages of the red
Book. In New York, men settled for suicide,
Hurtled down burning towers, voices willed
To answering machines that reproduce
Every nuance of terror, and leak the smells
Of burning words, burning goodbyes, burning
Skins, burning everything. The journey
Of a thousand stories ends with one step
Into dust, into ash, into the salt from many eyes,
Civilisation toppling at the sound of God's name.
And as for you who wear masks and madness, and chant
God's name in vain: Pack all the fear you can, into
The aisles of a million jets, and watch them explode
Prematurely with a heroism that is not yours and never will be.
Has red ever won a trophy,
Eternal contender on the long-
List of ancient rainbows?
The lives in a London blast:
Different dreams strung through
With a common death,
Served up to fate
In the same rich redness.
In the same rich redness
In the narrow stone streets
Where Pharisees once smelled adulterers out, is
A masked gunman playing hide-and-seek.
A masked gunman playing hide-and-seek
Is like a referee who keeps a red card up for
Ninety minutes. Does the human body now come
With small-print: "Liquid Contents Only"? When
Will red claim the biggest trophy of all?
Will red claim the biggest trophy of all
Now that the Cities are crowned with tongues
Of fire: (Amman , Baghdad , Bali ,
London , Madrid , New York , Next), and
The children's cartridges are crammed with cherries?
The children's cartridges are crammed with cherries
Plastic pretending to mount the Thrones of Lead.
Meanwhile, in other news: A blue planet is arrested,
And handcuffed with bright red ribbons, as
Blood breaks its covenants ...
Blood breaks its covenants
With a young woman: Do not pass GO,
Do not stop seeing the red
Moon that rises between the thighs.
What shall she do to stop seeing red?
What shall she do to stop seeing red,
This earth, this womb
Of concrete, steel, sap and water,
Perched on the blind cusp of eternity,
Seconds away from eclipsing the real Red planet.
Tolu Ogunlesi was born in 1982. He has performed his poetry at the African Weerword (2005) in Amsterdam and at Denachten 2005 in Antwerp. He was a 2005/2006 Fellow on the British Council Crossing Borders Nigeria Literature Project. He is the author of a collection of poetry Listen to the Geckos Singing From a Balcony (Bewrite Books, UK, 2004). His fiction and poetry have appeared in Wasafiri, Sable, Orbis, Eclectica, Stickman Review, VLQ, Inkpot, Mississippi Review, Times Arts Review, Smoke: A London Peculiar, Karogs, Sentinel Poetry Quarterly, Camouflage, Pindeldyboz, Dance the Guns to Silence, and elsewhere.