Click HERE to Read Iyanu's Biography on the Nigerian Writers Database.
Gbolohun is a Yoruba term for sentence, also incantation. We have all been sentenced to death.
“… six men came from the direction of the Upper Gate, which faces north, every man with his battle-ax in his hand; and one man among them was clothed in linen, with a writer’s ink bottle at his side....” – Ezekiel 9:2
I write because the man who held the death-letter, boasting about all the people he would kill if only he could find the lost half of the letter, is the first man in my ancestry – Erukwu, the slave of death. I have his genes and the second half of the death-letter.
In every poem I write, I re-write gbolohun, from death to life, and life to death. I am an offspring of the one who received the handwriting of god and smashed it with indignation. So, I write to rewrite the battered word of god, re-tell the true story of him who formed me, and repair the broken metaphor of divinity.
I am writing to etch god’s name in small letters, feel his/her/its hand hover over my own trembling hands, and dare to create a new earth, new heaven, and also a new hell
I write to rewrite the death sentence, as a witness to a life observed, as minister at the temple of justice, as an advocate of the victim, and as a victim. I write to point a finger at the guilty and have the other four-point back at me, to implicate myself, to mirror the mess and the journey of becoming.
In this aching world, I gather blood, consult tears, interrogate fear, communicate lament, acknowledge the mystery of what is lost and what is found with poetry as medicine, as a mirror, as ascendency to the summit of the self. I strip naked and dance uninhibited to the song of my soul. I embrace the redeeming truth and prophecy of light.
I am always surrounded by weeping women. Women whose weeping enshrine in the way they laugh, dress, and edit selfies. The way they keep sorrows tucked in their marrows until there is a quaking, the slow cortege of wrinkling, bones crackling under. These women live like a burial procession, and everyone ignores their grief. I pay homage to their grief.
When I write, I am holding space for my mother’s emotions. All the things she refused to mourn, tears she gulped instead of shedding. All the dead bodies she had to re-womb or risk shame. I am a testament to my mother’s trauma, my grandmother’s anger, and the injustice my great grandmother suffered. I write to help my mother weep.
And my dying brothers in the face of war; those who behead themselves because of a headache, those who mistake themselves for the mental illness, call their sickness a sin, a curse, those whose warrior-souls have brought them face to face with the impulse to die. I am writing to tell them, “we are all dying. It is how the star of life twinkles.”
I write to inch towards a divine resurrection, but resurrection implies first, a death, and daily, I am crucified. In writing, I may create a dazzling miracle and be forced to wear a crown that does not fit, I may offend the rules and rulers, and be flogged with an iron whip to Calvary, but I write still, for I believe in the resurrection. I believe in the desert’s ocean. I believe in a smile and a tear, in the sound of my heart beating, in the hot breath barreling out of my nostrils. I believe in the truth.
I am a slave of death, but I gain the right to live when I am writing.
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