by Chris Abani
Have you heard of the oracle of the Igbo?
The one called Chukwu? Just one word: God.
The oracle of God.
The voice of God.
The final arbitration.
Deep in a grove of trees, the sacred lake,
and rising in the gloom and heat,
mist, the very breath of divinity.
The unbearable trepidation,
the worship, the sheer terror and earnestness
trembling the supplicants. And the priests
sitting on rocks and in trees on haunches,
silent like vultures or Rilke’s unspeakable angels.
And then a pilgrim wades cautiously into the lake.
On the shore, the line of unannointed
shivers in a shared awe.
And if the petitioner is beautiful or strong,
the priests hold her under, then shackled,
for slavers. In the lake, red dye bubbles up
as God smacks his lips.
And that endless line of believers near faint
with the fearsome beauty of the thought:
Please consume me, God.
Consume me and find me worthy.
But don’t let me die.
Copyright 2010 Chris Abani
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.