Mourning in Retrospect
This is my grief outpoured on white pages. This is my time to mourn.
I read the scars of the Dana Air Crash in this NaijaStories anthology and I recall bitter memories; memories that turned horrible in retrospect. Dana Air Crash happened seventeen days to my birthday. I was in school and immersed in the anxiousness that goes into preparing for an examination. So many things were happening to me that month. I had an exam to write and I just had my heart broken by a silent seductress. The semester was nearing its end and I was prospecting for a fare to take me home, but my friends were equally broke. Those days were horrible. When I was told a plane had crashed, it was like any other news. Boko Haram had just bombed some people too. So, what distinguishes one from the other? Those are evil, but we become more evil as we get used to this blackness; these headlines painted with blood; these jagged and sawed bodies in scattered parts on our screens and social walls. When Dana Plane crashed, I saw pictures, read news and got inured to the daily horribleness as the dark days went by, or as I thought they went by. Forgive my nonchalance. Forgive my seeming familiarity with these evils. That gene makes me a Nigerian of this age. I have been so scarred that what gets to my hearts must pierce through this evil-beaten skin. I am You. I am Joseph Omotayo. I was born on the 17th of June. 153 people died on the 3rd of June, 2012.
Weeks after, as I was at home, as I read through this anthology, I cried silently. There is a moment of deeper grief that comes with collected emotions at silent time. As I read these entries, away from the din of my 14-peopled room on campus, I grieved solely. Now I must mourn, grant me the privacy. Now I cry, don’t try comforting me. I am only mourning in retrospect.
Art for Memories and Tears
It would grieve the minds of Oscar Wilde and his aesthete influence, Walter Pater, in their graves if I say this anthology provides an outright disproval of their concept of art for art’s sake. Nigerian author, Emmanuel Iduma, also affirmed this in an interview recently by saying that ‘…art cannot be for art’s sake…’ Conjuring up this issue will amount to some sort of neglect on my part, at least from the paradigm of the painful happening that necessitated this anthology. Here is art for memories and tears. I have shed mine.
This anthology is one that tolls like a bell in one’s memory, jarring one from the lively unconsciousness that has clouded one’s mind as to the pervasiveness of death. It is to the memory of the 153 souls who irrespective of age, sex, tribe and belief were grimly scarfed by death. You have not been part of this ‘memorialization’? Here is an opportunity to do so. Log into Naijastories.com, download this anthology pro bono and you will be giving these souls a second life to live, not in your device but in your heart.
Below are some of the entries;
Tears in Letters
Till Death Do Us Part by Enoquin
Playing pranks on the wrong person can go a long way in denying one an everlasting joy. It haunts when every attempt to invalidate what has been done proves abortive especially when death comes in to force a denouement on the whole drama.
Kay struggles with the pain of being betrayed by his fiancée, Efe, till he crosses the eternal border. But to Efe, it’s only a joke. A joke that needs to develop before being laughed off. Death enjoys no such joke. It denies the joking party the after-laugh of her game.
MD 83’s Last Flight by Inspired Illustrationz
This treads the path of a satire in narrating how the father of a generation of aircrafts after years of meritorious service is compelled to go for a re-commission in the World Air Museum, an allegory of Nigeria’s derelict aviation industry, where it plies the path of excruciating misery.
His Pot Lied by Tonye Willie-Pepple
I wonder what it is between Tonye and what goes into the stomach. Having read his poem, ‘The Old River Bank’ in Saraba magazine’s newest issue, which like ‘His Pot Lied’ is infused with culinary imageries, I opine that this bard is a true worshipper of the gastronomic deity. This poem is too good to ignore in this review. It recounts in craftily enjambed lines the tale of a devil-cook, who in search of meat, fries a human meat to naught. Indeed, the pot is a bloody liar.
P.S. - I Love You by Ife Watson
Ayo Sodeke, a lady on the verge of marriage may not have to blame her demise completely on the Nigerian factor. This story validates African traditional beliefs as against the Western religions. So many things give Ayo ominous signs before boarding that plane, but she ignores all and only has to send these words to her lover as she becomes balls of fire: P.S. I Love You. The imageries of this story moved me.
‘…It seemed something sparked in the plane as the passengers heard the word ‘panic’ – pandemonium was let loose as everyone screamed at the top of their voices; calling on to Jesus and Allah to save their lives just this once and they would be good forever. You listened numbly as the young man beside you promised to resign his job and become a full time pastor if God spared his life. You felt like you were in a 3-D cinema watching horrific events unfold on the screen. Then, the glass on your eyes broke and you realised all at once that you were part of this bizarre movie…’
Laugh Lines by Kiah
This is really a short story. There is a way Kiah makes her transitions and save the reader the rigour of rambling in a valley of insignificant descriptions. Ifunanya waits for Odinaka, her husband who dies in a plane crash to return, though in the infantile body of Nnamdi, her unborn son. Until then, she believes Papa Odinaka’s laugh lines will not be restored.
Memoria by Ayokunle Falomo
The poet says it is not a poem but I am not fooled! The structure and diction confirm my belief that this is a poem. It is glaring even before the poet says it that this poem is not too easy.
Surprise by Teewah
Teewah's story is another good one. It manages two settings and narrations in a cramped space of one and half pages. It is well told. It boils with anxiety and melancholy alike. Maybe Toni will not expect surprises in a long time. The last she expects from Dayo has a Dana imprint of doom.
For The Sake Of Closure by Afronuts
This piece presents the universality of death; how it can unite us irrespective of our multifarious discrepancies. It is also a eulogy to the newly-defined mourning mode the internet has afforded us. Afronuts’ experience which he relays tells of how one can flip one’s device to shed some e-tears.
Lamentations (When shall we heal; what shall we remember?) by Xikay
Divided into six parts, each mono-stanzaic, this poem captures in its simple and poetically opulent diction the mood of despondence as well as the tone of inquisitiveness normally attributed to sorrow. Here is my best stanza:
‘Say, is he blind that holds the harvest sickle?
Why doth he pluck fledgling stars, yet to twinkle?
Foolish farmer, hungry; he slaughters little chicks
And stuffs apples yet unripe, in his cheeks!’
For one; this anthology is a memory preserver. For another; it tends to humanize the pains for all of us in a bearable way. Download your copy of this anthology and let’s all listen to the various voices in it as they resound through this memorial offering. We can never forget the Dana Air crash victims. We wouldn’t!!!