Naming Feast



I wrote this poem in August 2016, for a Bristol (UK) poetry competition about Feasts. I have just come across it, and to my dismay realized that I forgot to enter it. I really don't think there is hope for my memory now!

It's the 8th day: the naming done!

The new-born is saddled

with the name he will

wear for the rest of his life.


The girl is different, for here like

elsewhere, she sheds skin

like snake, when grafted

like a fruit stalk or rippled


for the life we breathe; customary

sacrifice like the seeds

she sow to make her

roots but a distant echo.

The women have cooked.

They have also quenched

the fire from the wood

they had stoked between the legs

of makeshift stones, like boulders;

fire that licked the clay

pots, playfully hot

with windswept flames.


They have gone home now

for they cannot eat

with the men, without

offending the gods, gods


whose anger has the bile,

they say, to curse, make

barren or make walk

the streets in the nude.


The cooking is sight to behold:

of Donaghy’s Machines.

The parts? Every married

woman in the street like


a worker bee. Some manning

the sewn off oil drums,

retrieving and peeling

the piping hot yams tubers


they feed into the large wooden

mortars. Mortars others

circle with pestles and

beat leathery with sweat


and songs about the future

the new-born cups

in his clenched fists

and in the mist in his eyes.


Another group stands the

now Pounded Yam

on wooden trays

like termite mounds, ready


to be showered with the seasoning

of Boga and Crayfish,

Egusi and the naming

lamb that the men had


slaughtered earlier, hacked

and its inside kneaded

into fine worsted twine;

lamb another group of women


had stewed with the peppers

and tomatoes another

group had ground

into a watery paste.


The men would eat and eat

until the mounds has

fallen, with stories of

the battles the new-born will fight and win.

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