1st Prize: THE PLAGUE | Boloere Seibidor
The world was so silent you could’ve heard a dead man snoring. At night, we lit cold fires on wooden pyres, and listened to our eyes tell tales our lips, spilling with cowardice, shuddered away from. Our shoulders sunk with sorrow, faces painted with grief, and our tired broken shoulders carried the weight of loss.
The loss of friends with whom we gathered underneath the sun, and played till it tired of us and crept beneath the horizon. Loss of neighbours, who chose, despite so many clothing, to wear smiles every morning. Of lovers torn from us like sheets of paper from notebooks; lovers we could not kiss goodbye. My little brother watched the 9 O’clock news, and wondered at the sight of so many men strangled to death by an invisible plague. The preacher’s face appeared next, saying it was the beginning of the end of the world. And fear built tents in a little boy’s heart. In all of our hearts.
With roasted beef, and raised glasses of wine, we dined with fear, breathed with fear. On nights when the wind was moving in circles, awakening hormones that would rather sleep, we copulated with fear and its seeds were within us. We did not own ourselves anymore than we did as adolescents, sneaking out as our fathers fell asleep to feel the warm touch of another.
We lost memories, too. Forgot how it felt like to laugh openly, and kiss in cinema seats. Everything seemed to be slipping away, and all we could do was to sit in silence and pray that there was a God to keep them from falling too far away from us. We cradled by campfires that did nothing to melt the ice that blanketed over our hearts, the spaces between us large enough to build planets. Free roaming captives to an enemy we couldn’t see, yet couldn’t escape.
We did not know when it would all be over. When the belly of the earth would fill with human bodies such that it could take no more; when the sound of school bells would once again ring through the air; when we would watch the sun on the little lake downtown, dancing as the water rippled. But one day, and we hoped the day surely came, when we would once again be allowed to feel the sun on our faces, to kiss a stranger’s cheek. We shared a smile, and made a promise in silence to hold the world and its people so dearly in our hands and love it till every bit of life in us ebbed away. It was a promise we swore to keep.
2nd Prize: VISION 2020 | Olabisi Abiodun Akinwale
to turn the world a sinking ship and countries drowning bodies; beginning from China, to U.S, to Italy, to dead bodies littered on the streets of Africa; that is the way to be water, to be fluid, to flow with relative ease towards death, that’s the way to wrestle with the god in a man’s name till every letter falls back to the ground on bended knees, that’s the way to drag lord of nations in the mud of their powers and positions, because mortals are fleeting and time is not theirs to script. This is to keep humanity in check, as a reminder that an alarm will not guarantee the waking of a man whose time is up.
to turn cities and streets of the world a few-days-cemetery and teach humans the science of silence and stillness; from the masking of nose from the stench of hell, to the regular washing of hands like a boy washing his inadequacies off his skin, to the distancing of a man from his shadow, to spaces taking the places of hugs and kisses, to desisting the ritual of touching our eyes, nose and mouth, to staying at home to everything we stopped chasing for the wind, to the sanitizing of our environments by separating from every molecule of sanity, say faces, people and voices, so when death comes, it may find us at home, introverted and clean.
to give houses the blue feeling of home and a room the cologne of a being, to exist in places work and school cremated our presence – like a wife in the rib of her husband, like children in the heart of their parent’s eyes, like love in places business and busyness lie and like prayers in a mouth faith absconded, for if the world must end or stop spinning, that it may end with us floating through the essence of existence and stop spinning with us in places of relevance, love and beauty because at the finish line of every matter, only this matters.
3rd Prize: SLIPPERY EDGES OF POETRY AND THE HELL BENEATH | Abduljalal Musa Aliyu
I was walking on the left circumference of life’s circle when i met her; hips that tide like ocean, sclera whose whiteness made the moon jealous, iris even blackhole could not compete in darkness, and lips that looked and scented like pink Psychotria Elata.
“What epithet did they slaughter a ram seven days after your birth and gave you.” I felt the words dropped from my mouth, like a star dropping due to gravity.
“Poetry; a bunch of words that make gang love to verses that give birth to metaphors that grow up to become stanzas.” She said, every syllable dancing salsa on the stage of her lips to the music that echoes from the wall of her lung’s diaphragm.
After being open-mouthed for literally few steps away from a decade, I prayed to follow her, like an ardent slave follows his deity.
“You cannot follow anything and everything and nothing and still expect something out of it. I am a disease no one infected seeks a cure for. I am the woman your mom says would make the sun a shade above your head and make you drown in the ocean of your sweat. And you still will beg for more, like it is the only ritual that defines your final abode. Let me isolate the most important filament out of this thread for you, I have a billion and one slippery edges, and hell lies beneath me.”
But I was deviant, I’d always choose a rare turquoise rose over a red one. As soon as she pushed a break of period to that car of metaphors, I knew poetry was made for me, like rainbows were made for the sky. So, I strived, till my heart, body and soul dripped of poetic devices. Till the air I breathed, the earth I walked on and everything in my immediate environment turned into canvasses to portray this art.