Lulling Our War-Torn Bodies into Continents of Songs: The Lullaby of Peace in Njoku Chisom’s “The Mouth of A God Never Forgets” | A Poetic Analysis by Ebubechukwu Bruno Nwagbo

THE MOUTH OF A GOD NEVER FORGETS | Njoku Chisom

often i wonder how a little drop of something  can transform one’s body into a continent of songs  every mystery our body learns to live by  country of peaceful states built on loneliness  a town of family reunion burning in flames  burnt by fire of trust on lonely days  we sit around the dining table  our body a deep hole to be filled  like a wanting heart waiting earnestly for a lost lover  moulding akpu into the shapes of our worlds  then dipping them into meaty egwusi soup  a sign that everything good comes out of water  each swallow a building block that aids our transformation  and when the sun has burnt itself into ashes  we lay beside each other satisfied within a long night  & wonder maybe this is how we become gods  maybe the mouth of a god never forgets

Have you ever wondered how little drops of food transform our bodies into continents of songs?

When Oshafi Abdulrasak, the poet who featured on this series on the 20th of May, wrote “Moving Altar”, we were left without doubt that our bodies house altars in our bellies. An altar that:

yearns
For nothing other than
Assorted goat meat
and pounded yam
to keep them pacified but for a while.

Led by the same muse, Njoku Chisom tells us more about the stomach—the god that resides in us. From the title of the poem “The Mount of A God Never Forgets”, we learn the following:

– the tummy will always remember to be hungry

– it will never forget to ask for its sacrifice

– it will never forget to accept the proper sacrifice and reject the bad ones

– the god of the stomach though a demanding one never forgets to be grateful, to bless its worshippers.

In a nutshell, through poetry, Njoku Chisom reveals the benefits of eating.

When the stomach is well fed and appeased, it rewards us with the following benefits:

  1. The “body learns to live by a country of peaceful states”. 

Once we have eaten, our bodies hitherto stormed by armies of stomach worms earn states of truce. The country; our bodies become peaceful states existing in states of peace.

  1. There is Peace at Home and in The World: The poet tells us of a “town of family reunion”.  This means that when food is cooking on fire, the flames burn off loneliness, hunger, despair and wants from us. When we gather around the dining table to mold “akpu” (“fufu or swallow” ), we perform another “moulding” of intrinsic value. We mold our world. We mold the fabrics of family (re) union, we put each members’ future, aspirations and existence in shape. Chisom Njoku puts it thus:

“we sit around the dining table  our body a deep hole to be filled  like a wanting heart waiting earnestly for a lost lover  moulding akpu into the shapes of our worlds”

“each swallow a building block that aids our transformation”

That we turn from hungry and angry, wanting and ranting, desolate and despaired people into something good. Thanks to the goodness of the goodies in food. Our “bodies are transformed into continents of songs”.

  1. Sleep and Rest Become Pleasurable: In the last part of the poem, the poet speaks figuratively

“when the sun has burnt itself into ashes  we lay beside each other satisfied within a long night”.

The sun burning itself into ashes speaks figuratively of how when we get tired from the day’s labour, we eat, and lay beside each other and enjoy the joy of a good night rest.

“The Mouth of A God Never Forgets” is a poem figured through figures of speech.

States, towns and countries are used as symbolisms, synonyms and metaphors for our bodies. In times of hunger, we become a beleaguered state; a country dealing with wars from armies of agents of hunger and its attendant anger. But once we have eaten, we become like a union, the stomach worms agree to sign a peace pact with us. We become a symbol of the United Nations. This “unity of nations” is demonstrated on the table where parts of our bodies…countries of the world build each other. Molds of “akpu/ fufu” become symbolisms for these building blocks.

  1. We Fill a Hollow Hole in the World: There is a deep hollow in the world  gasping to be filled with peace. These empty spaces cause us crisis, because nature abhors vacuum. To fill this vacuum, we ought to feed our stomachs from the peace in food. Peace is always served on a plate of food and in masticating the food, we emasculate the crisis that threatens to emasculate us.

Njoku symbolizes this in the following lines:

“our body a deep hole to be filled  like a wanting heart waiting earnestly for a lost lover.”

This dire need is met on the dining table where members of our bodies are in a ” family reunion “. This is in agreement with the most prominent message of poets who wrote in 2018 PIN Food Poetry Contest, that food is peace served in a plate.

What does the poet mean when he says “everything good comes out of water”? Do you remember lines from the legendary Fela Kuti “water e no get enemy/ if you wanna cook na water you go use/ water e no get enemy”?

The poet makes this statement after telling us about the cooking and eating of egwusi soup and akpu. This is to remind us that in the chemistry of producing a meal, two things are the foundation; water or and oil; water being the most common basis.

He equally speaks of the “sun and ashes”. When well fed, we burn and exert our energy at work like the sun, but sleep like ashes when hungry and exhausted. And what do we need to be renewed again if not food and rest? These two assure us that the sun will rise again, our bodies will become continent of songs again. We will confer in great reunion and our members will co-habit in peaceful states again.

Ebubechukwu Bruno Nwagbo
Poetic Insights on Selected Food Poems 

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