Dear valentine, I should have sent you a card but my love for you goes beyond the crevices of a folded page, and no level of craft of poetry can capture the feelings and love I have for you in a card. That’s why I am not sending one. That’s why I am sending you a love letter.
I have loved you for almost three decades, and today, no amount of cold in a foreign terrain can congeal the blood that pounds in my heart for you. Each time I think about you, my eyes get misty and my palms get clammy. My forehead drips with petals of sweat like defrosting icicles.
Though your breasts have sagged and drained from the incessant visitation of thieving calves, I still love you. Though your pots of oil have been drained and all the vessels broken into pieces under a mid-noon sun, my love for you will never falter. You take to hiding each time you see the sunlight…this does not stop me from loving you. The bandits have come and gone in different numbers and shapes, pilfering all your hopes and joy and leaving you with nothing. The rapist came and violated you in the middle of the night and he stopped by again to molest you in the afternoon. Yet, these do not stop me from loving you.
The butcher sharpened his knife and carved you up like deer meat. He did a poor job. He carved your South to East and your East to North and your Southwest to Midwest. He left you in chaos and confusion. He deliberately cut through the pouch that holds your bile and spilled bitterness all over you. Your whole body has become unbearable, but I still want to kiss you.
You now taste like hemlock, sweetheart, full of bad blood. Hugging you is like embracing a sword. Sleeping with you is like lying among thorns. The roses I sent have dried up and all that is left are thorns, heaps of thorns. Angry thorns stirring in the middle of the night like things alive, rising from the murky water of the dilapidated vase to hunt down the innocent. I still love you honey.
I know it is Valentine and I am not supposed to be bitter about the way other lovers have treated you. I know you have others that promised you love and you went dancing in the rain with them. You opened your bosom and embraced them. You prepared your bed and laced it up nicely with the best sheets. You burnt your finest incense and perfumed your bedroom. You cooked for them and brought your best wine. Oh, and you offered them your pot of oil. You even built mansions for them and shopped for them in the malls of America and London. I am not angry. I am not jealous.
My love for you will never change. Pangs of anger boil in me like a waking volcano when I see what you have become, but what else can I do? Your other lovers have more lies and more money to seduce you into a false relationship. They have more roses to offer and they have guns to hold you against your will.
I am a tender lover…I am a poet.
I want to woo you with words.
I want to dance with you
And sing you songs
I want to sail you in the river Niger
I want to watch the sun rise in her golden glory
and watch it go down gently into a peaceful night with you.
I want to name all the brightest stars for you
I want to stroke your thick afro-hair
And watch you go to sleep without gunshots
Stealing our nights…
I want to drape my linen over you
And scatter petals of roses all over our bedroom.
I want to rest your head in the fluffiest pillow
And rest you gently on my wooly bed.
I want to watch you sleep in beauty
And I want to hold you gently…
While I listen to your heart beat in unison with my every kiss.
I want us to wake up together to the sonorous voices of the nightingales,
And the aroma of a morning full of hope.
I want you to look in my eyes and see how clear it is with love
I want to see me in the reflection of your shining ebony skin
Oh my love, I want to love you forever
Unfortunately you have seared your skin to tender love. You have been raped a million times by lying bastards. You have been milked even when your breasts sag like slippers. Red roses don’t mean anything to you any more. Red roses give you nightmares of spilled blood. You have seen red blood flowing in the streets of Idi-Araba. You have seen wasted blood in the streets of Kano. You have lived a nightmare all your years of existence…
That is why I could not blame you when you erupted in flames and sent your children to die in a horrendous way. I will not blame you for not sending any letter or card or roses this Valentine. I know you are busy retrieving your dead children from the canal at Isolo. I know you have to rush to another part of Lagos to bury some more dead bodies.
Sweetheart, I wonder where all the good years have gone. Will they ever be back? It pains me now that all your children have scattered all over the world like seeds in the wind. They have germinated in other people’s farm, growing amidst pain and anger. They want to come home to you, but each time they pack their bags, one bad news filter in from the airwaves. They still love you, but no one wants to go home to a killing field. Cemeteries and mass graves have replaced the rosy homes they once knew. Images of stolen wealth haunt their sleep. Thieves are stealing from you and taunting your children with the loot. Still they love you, my Valentine… Your children love you.
My dear, you have fallen flat on your back and your nakedness consumes the earth. You are an eyesore to the world. The rapist is still standing guard, resuscitating you with drips of peppered water and tear gas. When you slip into a coma, he shoots you back to life, just so he can rape you some more. But I still love you.
I know you will rise someday and kiss me again. I know one day the stench of dead bodies will evaporate into the air and I will do the rumba again and waltz through the streets of Lagos. I know someday the glint will return to your eyes and the gloss will be restored to your broken skin…And we will walk the streets holding hands. I know your children will never have to listen to martial music again. I believe we will dance again, and drink from the same glass…we will grow roses in our gardens. When all the rapists and thieves have gone away we will rewrite the history of our affair in poetry.
But for now, lets just exchange love notes and watch the macabre unfold like a snake consuming eggs. Let’s hide under the baobab tree and wish away these bad luck of tribal clashes, religious turmoil, military barrack explosions, hunger, anger, secession songs, thieving mobs, tattered democracy, lawless senators, rudderless leaders, armed robbers, unemployment, unpaid civil servants…
Let’s just break this little miserable bread and drink this stale wine…and let’s hope it is not our Last Supper. I love you my dear Nigeria. You are my Valentine.