‘The Last Supper in Grand Asaba’ by Lizzy Dijeh

The Last Supper in Grand Asaba

Odogwu’s* feast had won,
everyone jumbled into Uncle’s car,
fingers fitting from tanks of grounded coffee.
Our round bellies lunged over buttons
like slumped canyons,
a town of flies seemed to hypnotise
the mouth of swollen sky denting
the roof of the car,
a fan of floating moths cooled us.
We were almost happy,
the kind with rubber smiles
stretched around wide like family,
a club of laughter that rose like toasts
to the village that crawled towards us.
No snake of lusty engine moans,
no pot-holes to lull our tread
of tyres that whipped and skipped
the bumpy roads, for once
the bill-board Gods were silent
and a pavement of powdered smoke
threw a Mexican wave up behind us.
This day was split in two –

Once the windows blew,
our jaws hit the floor like shattered China
and the slow groan of the dying engine
after Uncle slammed the brake. BAM.
Just like that six faces squashed the windshield
like trampled fruit.
Next: that minute of silence.
That spare tyre that cartwheeled down the road.
That tray of eyes poured over us like gravy.
Not a single sweeping tongue lunged into help,
we lifted up ourselves,
plied our limbs free of the seats
like strips of melted cheese
then Dad collected
our shoes, our keys, our teeth.

The policemen took Ages,
stepped through the corridor of sights and sounds
like tourists, circled the up-turned lorry like leopards
while black machine-guns swivelled their hips
(and the Cowboy danced from jail
in snail-trail confetti of Naira).

St Peter’s clinic in Asaba’s mid-town:
I noted the folded arms of the doctor,
the empty womb of the waiting room,
The un-sterile cloth of the strange woman’s
assault on our peppered blood,
its tail swishing and lashing about our legs
as the smiling policeman fed them our story.
We stumbled out on the throng of silence
that gagged the stale walls,
a cold floor of eyes
met somewhere in the middle.

At parties I almost didn’t recognise
my brother filling everyone’s cup with snap-shots of God,
my father licking another’s cuts,
my mother stamping anything strawberry with kisses.
Even I crossed knives and forks some days to pray,
my thoughts stalked basilicas and everyday witnessed
just how much some teeth will never touch,
how far apart their worlds are.
*Sunny Odogwu – Nigerian business entrepreneur, owner of ‘The Grand Asaba Hotel and Technical Centre’ in Asaba, Anambra State, Eastern Nigeria.
(published in Red: Contemporary Black British Poetry, Peepal Tree Press, 2010)
Lizzy Dijeh‘s play, High Life was produced at Hampstead Theatre in 2009 and she is working on her second full-length play. Her poems have been published in the anthologies, Red (Peepal Tree Press, 2002) and Out of Bounds (Bloodaxe, 2012) and her work has featured in past editions of the international journal, Wasafiri. In 2012 she began a commission to develop her first poetry collection under the ’30 Nigeria House’ project, as part of the Cultural Olympiad, run by Theatre Royal Stratford East and in collaboration with New World Nigeria.