Written by Mount Olympus
I’m sitting on a rooftop, smoking. Above me, the dark Asaba sky glitters in starry bliss. All day, I’ve been imprisoned in a spinning web of poetry and wild thoughts of the journey from which I had just returned.
I had arrived Nsukka angry. The bad roads, the heavy rain, and the police checkpoints had left my mind reeling between madness and pain. I had hoped to smoke it all off when I get to Nsukka. Immediately I arrived at the hotel where we were lodged, Chinwendu came bubbling with news of Amu Nnadi telling her to beg me not to smoke. That, combined with the mood I was in, set me off to a very bad start, so instead of purging my anger on some innocent soul, I wandered off to a section of Nsukka where I could live in the moment.
Nsukka is a beautiful town steeped in nature and history.
All around the town, hills rose into high heavens as if in rebellion to the stoned red earth on which I stood. The people made no much impression on me, they walked around soullessly, not stopping to marvel at her mountains, nor caring to federate with her history. On that first day, as I walked around the campus, I couldn’t shake off the hallowed thoughts that my lord and king, Christopher Okigbo and my good friend, Kaduna Nzeogwu, had once upon a time, walked those same paths, on which my heavy feet now shuffled.
Back at the hotel, I met August Chukwuma. Now, let me tell you a little of this one. August is beauty and art piled in one towering storm. He keeps a beard and looks very much like Ojukwu before the war drained the man of his flavor. August handles his guitar with a passion that might make most women jealous. When he played, the heavens stood, the stars paused, and the elements, for the first time since creation, stood unnamed. My man, James, called him a Guitar miracle. Well, I would say that is an understatement.
I met Maureen again.
And I’m sorry to disappoint you, she is still a church girl. But something changed, that all too”seriousness” that characterized our first meeting had waned a bit. She now told jokes, and applied lipstick and even smiled at me a few times, but do not be deceived, she is still a church girl. I kept thinking how when she got back to Port Harcourt, her first point of call would be the church, to confess to the priest that she had smiled a few times and even shared jokes with an heathen.
The first night of the literary festival in Nsukka was bliss. Artist after artist came on stage and divined art through the naked eyes of God. Then there was Fragile,
who was everything but fragile. When she was introduced as Fragile, I thought she was going to do some cliche love poetry as most fragile poets do. But then, she opened her mouth and spilled the manifesto of liberty in blood. She did an untitled poem about corruption in the police force and damn, girl is good. Really good.
For some, the night ended with Amu Nnadi bringing his genius to bear on a chant poem, accompanied by drums and onoja flute. I’ll tell you a little about Amu Nnadi on that stage. As he spoke, voice rising and falling like the topography of Nsukka, something came over him, a sort of spirit co-eternal with the universe, and for a moment, he became something else, something divine, something more human than man.
Like I said, for some, the night ended here, but not for me and not for James. We wandered off into the still darkness, and had some fellowship with the stars. I won’t tell you what we did, but we sure did. And damn, I wish you were there, to do too.
The next morning, we went climbing the Vet Mountain. Bura-Bari led the way, armed with nothing but his camera and his knowledge of Nsukka. On the way to the mountain, we played a game of Point And Kill. Someone pointed any random stranger and another person went off to get acquainted with the stranger. That was how we met Ezeugo,
who Maureen convinced into following us up the mountain. Now, I’ll tell you a little bit about this one. Ezeugo is a marvel. He was testimony to the genius of fate and luck. He too is an artist, he sang and played the guitar with a carelessness that characterized the truly divine.
The path up the mountain, like the path to most of life’s most beautiful things, was no easy one. The climb was hard, but like soldiers determined to conquer or die, we climbed. Like shadows ascending before the sun, we climbed. Like the smoke from Abel’s sacrifice, we climbed. High into Nsukka’s roof, we climbed. Into God’s own heaven, we climbed.
At the top of the mountain were two giant wells, on which everybody wrote their names. I didn’t. On one of the wells, someone had written “BUCCANEER” in giant letters. That was enough for me. My brothers had been there, and that was all the name that needed writing.
We played games on a section of the mountaintop. Oge Chi’s fire,
for the first time since the climb, lit up here, she danced and took pictures, and played like she was never going to die. I had to remind her that we were all going to die someday. At some point, I left the playing party to an old building nearby. From there, I watched Neofloetry
play like a child, Irra stayed glued to Fragile like a broken lover, and god, how beautiful it was to watch them all from my little corner of the universe. For a moment, I wished we could live so freely and carelessly all the days of our lives.
Before we left, I wrote a note to the future, put it in a coke bottle and hid it somewhere on that mountain, as a witness that I too, like everyone who had climbed that mountain, found God in the rarest of places.
On the way back down, I bonded with Sotonye Dan.
We talked Nietzsche and Satre and Kant. We talked religion and philosophy, we talked life and everything that needed talking, and for the first time that day, I was grateful I had made the trip.
Back at the hotel, we packed our bags and they said their goodbyes. I never say goodbye, I am not that ungrateful. As the bus sped out of Nsukka, and the mountains on both sides of the road receded into oblivion, the world for a fleeting moment, came to an end.
But stay with me, this is not the end. Enugu was more.