Under The Bridge – Notes From A Nigerian Child

Under the bridge 2Under The Bridge – Notes From A Nigerian Child

May 27, 2017


As I sat by the fire and watched mother cook

She recalled stories of the dark ages

Whose significance is now lost

At nine, I ran away

Enough of this blackness and these empty holes

I will not see again this firewood

These black pots

I wandered east

As far as Ijora Bridge

Stopping at the edge of the black waters

That surround the National Theater

A year later

I had joined the men under the bridge

Bus conductor at daylight

Monster, smashing car windows at night

I’ve sometimes wondered whether

My brain is made of clay

The same black clay pot I ran away from

My origin still blurred and distorted

My destiny ever remote

What a transformation

I now fight like an ape

With my feet and fists

Bottles and Knives

Changed my name from Uche to Segun

Big wrists, big hands

Brown teeth

Scars on my face

But my eyes still look oddly innocent

Child of circumstance?

Born to suffer?


As years passed by

I metamorphosed

From an indigent child who lacked everything

To a monster that has everything

Yet, I have nothing

I had slept at the banks of the river

As we await the cover of darkness

To ride back to our dungeon

In a stolen canoe

After an unsuccessful overnight robbery

I had seen hulking figures

With sunglasses after dusk

Driving aimlessly in unmarked vehicles

Waiting for marked victims

In this city that is drifting

Pilgrims to unholy spots of Lagos

That never returned to tell their stories

Men in suits as sinister

As men under the bridge

Mother used to call me Nnam

When she thought I was the one

The chosen one to wipe her tears

They used to call me Kekere

When I moved with the men under the bridge

I later choose Akwa Eke

To resonate with the rhythm

Emanating from my abode



While walking down the dirty alley of Apapa

With hands in the pockets of my cheap coat

In search of a whore in the dark

I heard tongues I’ve heard before

I heard her call me Uchenna

The dark part of my brain was lit up

And the skeletons of my dead forefathers

Started turning in their graves

The whore happens to be my kid sister

Just turned fourteen

The hovering ghost of my dead mother

Ran forward with her spider-like fingers

And hung my head from an unseen rope

While urine darkened my trousers

Who am I?

I am the bird

Crippled at birth

The headless dragon

That destroyed itself as elders watched

I am that schoolmaster that can’t read nor write

The golden egg

That incubated in the bosom of wild creatures

The child, the gloomy future, the adult

With a tale of mindless violence

I am the Nigerian child

You can email Churchill at Churchill.okonkwo@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @churchillnnobi



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