My grandmother, who worships her tradition like carved wood, scarfed red, stationed behind my grandfather's door, asked me what it was that cast the frozen spell on mankind. I doctored my earbud to take its space aptly— nothing should go into me via the needle's eye. Not air, nor the words of my grandmother. She calls this act names that could beat fear into me: playing with grey hairs, poking the devil in the eyes, walking into the sanctuary of God with the devil's paean and say amen to the prayers of the Levites. Amen again. Like a comic book, I could read every image on her face. How she was searching for salubrious words free of venom to flog me, because she knew words scar my skin better than whip. She looked at me and said: "Our ancestors have finally visited. And they shall take us all with them; we betrayed them first. We, as prisoners of the earth, must go into its heart and morph." I asked if her ancestors know Wuhan. Sudden silence. Deep sigh. I asked again if they know the origin of man—the man whose name they sang into a dirge before his death, for claiming the space behind tradition's elbow as home; that's where peace lives. I have lived like this man all my life. So I said to her: an alien came from Wuhan. I, the son of the soil knows the forest of no return. I know the path that leads to the seven rivers. I could lead this thing into its doom, you know. Every stranger, wherever he is from, is entitled to a welcoming party; that we stay in our confinement for a while is hospitality.
In a summer of silent war, anything with an orifice can serve as an oasis for the dawn running away from the grip of a roaring night. We were outside, going to the village square when the war began. There's a pint of wisdom in growing hind legs when you cannot go forward. At home, we realized there was something that kills faster than a buzz bomb or a sightless shrapnel. We remain in our homes, like prisoners in their cells, because there's no promise of aseptic air, no promise of safe strolls, no promise of a hug; to those once lost, to those grieving, to those trapped in ventilators, no promise of a safe return, only a death sentence, only death.
Blessing Omeiza Ojo is a Nigerian poet, novelist and playwright. He is the author of The White Shadow of Illusion , a novel. He has written for Rough Cut Press, Lunaris Review, and others. His awards include the 2019 Korea-Nigeria Poetry Prize (Ambassador Special Prize) and the September 2018 Brigitte Poirson Poetry Contest (Second runner up). He works as a creative writing instructor at Jewel Model Secondary School, Abuja, where he has coached winners of national and international writing prizes.