Thursday, December 17, 2009

rorschach plaat # 10 (11)

rorschach plaat # 10

Is that a heavy crown adorning yr squarish head,
inscrutable rorschach figure? Is that a shocking
pink feathered boa draping yr shoulders & dragging
on the ground in sharp contrast to yr bowed & spindly
legs? Is that a bra on yr chest worn outside of yr
tunic or just oversized blue sunglasses hanging
low from yr neck? what am i to make of u, looking
like one of those cannibals who greedily devour
missionaries when left alone with one in a boat
or on the shore? i am afraid to say. afraid the
shrink might be unable to differientiate my
psychotic from non-psychotic thinking & expose
my underlying thought disorder for what it is!

©Joseph McNair;2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

gilded seahorses escape the carousel (10)

gilded seahorses escape the carousel

“I had only one answer to give: 'You're free, choose..."
Jean Paul Sartre

gilded, glitzy sea horses, man-wrought hippocampi,
escape the carousel wondering if anyone
can flee anywhere from themselves. mounted for seeming
millennia on prim posts, they grew disenchanted
with simulated galloping, the bevel gears &
offset cranks, the looped circus music & going round
& round, up & down on suspended circular floors.
they longed for general righteousness & happiness
in an indefinite future. if true freedom is
given, & the self is the goal, can even gilded
sea horses have invisible interior lives?
can they find themselves anywhere save within themselves?
is such their own quaint crisis of subjectivity?

©Joseph McNair;2009

the jeweled frog (9)

the jeweled frog

A frog in love would not be enchanted to learn
that her beloved had turned into Prince Charming.
mason cooley

from quaint & sundry lore the legends of the jeweled
frog derive. in ancient kemet rising like smoke from
the order anura’s womb, a million strong after
each annual flooding of the nile, lustrous, clinquant
frog-faced heqet, the goddess who breathes life’s breath into
bodies shaped on khnum’s potters wheel. or in new role-
play gaming where fat, warty gnarco toads entreat a
halfling goddess for beauty. a boon she readily
grants, painting them brilliantly irridescent for their predators
to easily see, then poisoning their skin, their warts
oozing venom though glittering like gems. how sad that
social science demotes this wondrous spirit totem
to a trifling symbol of a virgin’s sexual fear.

©Joseph McNair

Sunday, December 13, 2009

the jawbone (8)

the jawbone

with the jawbone of an ass ...
i have slain a thousand men.
judges 15:16

angelic visitations are always awkward. &
when the husband isn’t home, who can really fault the
man for needing to be sure his barren wife was not
delusional; that an angel did surely come &
pronounce her pregnant. the cautious, pious man did pray
the angel’s quick return to hear himself the news that his
wife would bear a doughty child who’d set his people free.
the angel obliged. a child was born, a prodigy
bound by oath to never taste strong drink or cut his hair.
with the jawbone of an ass did he smite his foes.
but that mandible proved no match for heifers plowed by
other men or womanly wiles, or the whims of an
almighty, unpredictable & capricious god.

© Joseph McNair;2009

the womb (7)

the womb

the vagina is to humanity what a flower is to nature
michael newberry

rorschach’s inkblot number 6 like the georgia okeefe
canvas, “grey line with black, blue & yellow”, beckons to
the very core of cognition. do i behold in
that smeared image wrought from hemorrhaging ink a jade gate
or whispering eye? or merely accommodate some
deep freudian wish imposing on that static but
protean blot. in that painting do i really see a delicate
flower ethereally erotic & pretty,
or a lotus-like, open & flushed vulva. i ask
myself which is analogue; which, pray tell, is target?
womb or flower? flower or womb? which the more complex?
which the more familiar? what proportionality
is at work here? what aristotelian fancy?

©Joseph McNair;2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

biker, hellrider (6)

biker, hellrider

biker, hell rider, in a sequential disclosure
of evil, the worst. more than the grim white horse rider,
with neither bow nor crown, a mischief/mayhem maker.
more than the red horse rider, that fearsome taker
of the peace, or the black horse rider, brandishing scales,
claiming a pretty penny’s weight of wheat & barley;
bringing scarcity to a universe of plenty.
even more than the pale horse rider, whose name is death.
this biker, who is anomie, threatens the very
gateway to the incommensurate & eternal
with moral deregulation & the absence of
spiritual aspiration— a real ghost rider— who
ever haunts the bleak highways of self-revelation.

©Joseph McNair;2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

two gnomes dance the celebratory hopaky (5)

two gnomes dance the celebratory hopaky

two gnomes dance the celebratory hopaky,
so youthful, so boisterous & so mercenary;
taking pride in manliness, in acrobatic jumps,
their feet propound a pure cossack narrativity.
but they are gnarly gnomes, with their own structures &
codes. & they should be gnoming rather than cossacking,
practicing oppositional politics or the
poetry of non accommodation, becoming
more structuralist in their outlook. for gnoming is
political in the same way african farmers
hid behind trees & picked off colonial soldiers
who stood perfect targets in fields & in formation.
gnomes playing cossacks? a postmodern travesty!

©Joseph McNair;2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

a butterfly abreast two slender maids a-touching (4)

a butterfly abreast two slender maids a-touching

the butterfly counts not months but moments,
and has time enough.
rabindranath tagore

a butterfly abreast two slender maids a-touching
unfurls ecstatically in rapturous glory,
repudiating inevitable self-decline
& eminent homogeneity to steal a
frozen moment. its delicately diaphanous
wingspan tumescent with hemolymph mimics comely,
fragilely sirenic blooms to lure a fecund touch,
or warn away predation with the promise of
a bitter taste, an odor foul or potent poison.
the brief eternity of its life, an irony,
an unintended connection to fighting one’s way
out of old forms so deftly, exquisitely symboled by
a butterfly abreast two slender maids a-touching.

©Joseph McNair;2009

bat (3)


the sun was set; the night came on apace,
and falling dews bewet around the place;
the bat takes airy rounds on leathern wings...
john gay

a freakish guardian of the night, frenzy feeding
on small flying vanities & inanities,
catching them on the wing after hearing echoes
bouncing off significant surfaces & others;
crunching carapace & exoskeleton alike
to get at the sweetmeats – the meaning in a world
where the articulation of lust is blindsided
by official mood swings that unbalance consciousness.
u are strong, able to regenerate, replenish
yr life force; able to discern yr bounty, alter
eccentric movement in spite of yr proclivity
to get scrambled, confused & fly blithely into things
like a devil bird caught up in happenstance's float.

© Joseph McNair;2009

coyote (2)


for charles bernstein

coyote, a wily wanderer & sinister
survivor embodies the condensing of travel
without destination stuck with the necessity
of staying alive, one of bernstein’s abridgements
of imperatives. o the gratuitous glutton,
o thrice lascivious lecher, peeping at windows
framing pulchritudinous banquets of innocence.
trickster, pragmatist, outlaw, clown & persistent cheat,
u never give up -- always there to soothly sully
serendipity; taking nothing seriously,
loitering around humanity’s tonal edge.
a defining contrast to sans-psychic road-running
mis-seaming the mishaps of personal heroics.

©Joseph McNair;2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

i met destiny on an ironic path (1)

i met destiny on an ironic path

for master dae kwang

i met destiny on an
ironic path, the one i
took to avoid it; i neither
side-stepped nor turned
back, but fixed upon my
fate a baleful glare –
one that surely would
have killed the buddha,
my tragic mother, or
any patriarch, my father
notwithstanding. one
that surely would have
repudiated tradition;
spurned those seduced
by facile opinion.
i looked, then moved,
through my destiny,
following those faint
but indelible footsteps
leading to my self.

©Joseph McNair; 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

iyawo (5)


“when they want to cross the sea, the lake or pond,
people make a bridge or raft - the wise have crossed already.”
siddhartha gautama

asserting neither being or nothing as absolutes
i ply this evening road, my concrete path linking
street & highway to an organizing principle. to a
system of thought & practice; to olódùmaré.

does it mean anything if my gas tank, like my
wallet, is empty; if i am riding on fumes &
precariously paused within blocks of the babalawo’s
house, obstructed by a long slow moving train?

humility is sometimes a bitch. even when glib
prophets proclaim this virtue different from the
shaming. i am convinced that sometimes the
former follows as a consequence of the latter.

my ebo for eşu: ojòwú okùnrín, jealous one who
eats first; abre camino, who sits at the crossroads.
open the road for me, má se mi o, do not undo me,
do not change my yes to no; my no to yes!

my ebo for ori: ori mase pekun de, -- inner spirit,
please do not shut the gate. i yearn for iwa pele &
for that i must inquire of my head first. wa sayee fun
awon omo mi di rere. make my life prosperous!

my ebo for my egbẹ ọgba: i have remembered our
accord & the contract is now being honored. please
enikeji do not withdraw your spiritual protection,
odo re ni mi mbo,
it is u that i am coming to,

my ebo for the egúngún: when i knew not the road
to follow, i chose, finally, to follow destiny. may all
of u, my ancestors, elders & spirits east, west, north
& south hear my song. ajuba o, ajuba o!

my ebo for ogún: ogún oni're, onile kangun-dangun ode
orun, egbe l'ehin, spirit of iron, owner of good fortune
& many mansions in heaven, help me on my journey,
remove the obstructions in my path! ajuba o!

my ebo for oşun: oşun oyeyeni mo, so full of wisdom,
most gracious mother, give me the crown that awakens
all pleasure, awede we ‘mo, cleanse me both within &
without; bring me abundance, yeye opo, a juba o!

my ebo to obalúaiyé: omolu ogo mi ano gbogbo gún,
always protect me with your strong medicine. yr voice
sings in my joyful heart: ẹbó fin, èrú dà. igún to gbẹbọ,
èrú dà. offerings received, accepted; the evil, departed!

in the ile, i leave my ordinary life behind. i don the
white cloth. my head is scraped clean & aşe-irrigated.
i am open to the full presence of the
òrìşà. there is singing
& chanting. i taste a powerful aşe, bite down on, chew

& swallow spirit food. i wear a crown of feathers. i sleep
on the spot where the father of secrets divines. i am
betrothed to spirit; am the man-bride. the floor is hard &
punishing, mediated only by woven mats.

òrìşà seeps into my dreams like blood bathing the
head & soaking cloth. bright like the sun is the one who
gave man speech; taught him the ways of coitus & how
to weave with needles. he calms & deepens my sleep.

i awake at cockcrow craving parrot feathers for my crown.
oba lofun is with me, is on me, is infused in the salts,
herbs & colors of the nine ritual baths, in the pure white
chalk that paints me throughout the day, prepares me

to be crowned with the stones & emblems of ọbatala.
at dusk i am seated, an opa in my left hand, an iruke in
my right & baba’s otan, frozen music, resting
on my
the evening takes on the cautiously slow pace

of the
very old. the journey into sleep this night is fluent
save for the rough concrete reminder of the floor & the
futile protest of muscle & bone. it seems that i have never
been truly awake. is it the voice of blake that i hear?

crying “what land is the land of dreams?” what, indeed, are
its mountains, its streams? nay, it is no english poet i hear,
but the voice of baba igbo, the speech-giver & the dream
world is awash in music, the words spoken are sounds &
vibrations, are bundles of information & energy,

are explosions of light, giving dimension to the dimensionless,
the myriad improvisations of awareness, words fissioning
into epiphany, words triggering transformation, leaking from
dreamspace into personal physical space.

moving from cell to cell, imprinted on my consciousness,
recreating my reality, my life stuff, my health, transforming
my internal dialogue & self image, reprogramming the drama
of my existence. i see/hear/feel it all. the clarity is narcotic.

cockcrow again. morning’s pungent breath shocks me back
to consciousness & yet another sanguine bathing begins.
afterwards, i don a new white cloth & receive seven new
feathers for my crown. morning melts into dusk.

an acute, whispering happiness muscles aside my familiar
melancholy; well-being masters conditioned discontent. in the
delicious aftermath of intense spiritual strain, i am given my ita,
embrace past, present & future & look on the face of destiny.

i am given my elekés, idé osha & a new family. i must now
observe strict codes of dress & behavior as i soak in the aşe
of my òrìşà,, there is rejoicing in heaven & on earth. i am
iyawo, a light reborn in rite & like a little child.

©Joseph McNair

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

breaking into salsa (4)

breaking into salsa

for the new world school of the arts dancers

breaking into salsa on the down or
moving the accent from bantu “1”
to arara “2”, stirring up the cancion,
coming on like a searing heat, the
juvenescent couples burn a flirtatious
encuentro, replete with pelvic thrust
& coital brush, boy chases,girl avoids --
then waits to be caught. hips creating
flowing, wave-like eruptions, flowing
with the hoarse stacato voicings of the
caja, mula y cachimba, the yuka drums
reeking of congo, of palo mayombe or
the batas, okónkolo, iyá & itótele, sacred
to şango, after he exchanged ifa’s tablets
with sage orunmila for the great gift of
dance, para convertirse en la divinidad
de la danza; if brazen young hips & feet,
or youthful swinging arms & tossing heads
could sing un alarde canción, they might
boast of inventing romance on a sultry
miami night.

©Joseph McNair

Monday, November 9, 2009

el dia del cajón (3)

el dia del cajón
for kiki sanchez & the afro-peruvian project
the despairing african, spurned
by his gods, angolan, antillean or
otherwise, who pined away until
only the sound of his coughing
death remained to ride the currents
of time --a sound which lapped
& soaked the trunks of ancient
trees like a mighty swollen river;
became embedded in the resonant
woods which thru’ some efficient
cause became spanish shipping crates
or small dresser drawers awaiting
the passion-pounding of magical
hands to free them from their
utilitarian disguises; to become the
box-like cajón, whose dark rhythms,
the festejo, lando, socabon, pregon,
zamacueca, & alcatraz, seduced,
then caressed the whimsical charango,
mandolin-made from the tortoise or
armadillo shell & together invoked
the mermaids.

©Joseph McNair;2009

Thursday, November 5, 2009

whence came u, spirit?(2)

whence came u, spirit?
for marina torres
whence came u, spirit?
¿de dónde vienes?
to possess the song,
el cante jondo, the dance,
baile flamenco y de estilo
flamenco de la guitarra?
to billow & engorge the
spinning skirtswirl of the
bata de cola?

are u fellahmengu
percussing the wind?
a palma clapping, golpe
stomping peasant spirit?
a morisco hiding among
the gypsies? or are u epiritu
sephardi flamante taking
the head of this hispano-
arabic bailaora,

spinning her so magically
around. see her zapateado,
her two feet, legion, a drum
roll, el redoble de los tambores,
this duende, like the compás,
speeding up, slowing down,
speeding up again, propelling
her thru the sequences of
a misterioso, a passion play!


©Joseph McNair;2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

un poema para los mariachis (1)

un poema para los mariachis

for raul araujo & mariachi mexico international
golden-throated buskers in
studded traje de charro tip their
wide-brimmed hats & play.

a colonial guitarrón prowls
melody’s sensual slums
like el aguacil,

the five string vihuelas &
acoustic guitars wheel, swoop
& spin a sweet chordal capote.

those postcolonial violins &
postmodern trumpets preen like
horny juglares angelical,

caress the romantic rancheras of
jiménez & infante, or

amaneci en tus brazos,
cien años, de qué manera te

timeless, handsome charros,
who remove their hats to sing
into a senorita’s ear.

emblemas de todas las cosas
de méxico… & all things lush
& romantic.

© Joseph McNair; 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

the ruler of…(12)

the ruler of ...
for marc edmund jones & his sabian symbols

the ruler of the nation...

the tortoise made hermes exclaim “u are a joy to me,”
steal its pretty tortoise shell & turn it into a lyre.
the four-eyed goat made eşu declare “u will not see
what i do!” he made ebo & exposed the goat a liar.

a christmas tree decorated…

the heathen vainly cuts a forest tree, adorns it
with silver & gold, & fastens it with nails to appease the
gods! eşu scoffs at the christian who knows not that to
live free of privation, one must please the gods.

a finger pointing to a line in an open book…

fingerpointing is prerequisite to reading words when
vision is weak or distracted; one cannot scan a line
of text without losing his place. eşu needs not fingerpoint
to impute blame or make one lose his place or face.

frost-covered trees against winter skies…

frosty trees, dark, gloomy skies, the freezing cold &
snowfall, repeating patterns all & specific to winter. eşu,
like the human mind, is often cold & repeats tiresome
patterns; punishes us today for misdoings done tomorrow!

through bankruptcy, society gives to an overburdened
individual the opportunity to begin again

tis not society, but eşu, who finds the line delineating this
& that; blurs it. finds the divinely pure & clean; sullies it.
finds the lowly & abandoned; lifts them up; rewards &
confounds the foolish & the good.

a hen scratching the ground to find nourishment for
her progeny...

the scratching of hens not only finds seeds & the
occasional worm to feed their young, but cleans off the
magics laid down on the ground by enemies. those who
befriend eşu are seldom troubled (or for long) by enemies.

a formally dressed elderly man stands near trophies
he brought back from a hunting expedition…

the old man longs for the jungle, to humble himself again
in the arms of the wild. he looks upon his trophies as
emblems of a deep, terrifying vision of love. eşu reveals
unfathomable levels of soul knowing.

a human soul seeking opportunities for outward
manifestation ...

every incarnate soul should be grateful for the gift
given it, thankful that eşu has opened the way for it to
come again; thankful to ọlọrun who has given it a new
body, breath & destiny!

in a circus the bareback rider displays her dangerous skill ...

this rider has iwá-pẹlẹ, has balance & coordination & can
ride the steeds of change without equipment to compensate
for errors, has made ebo to eşu; has developed good character.
all good things come to those with good character.

a powerful statesman overcomes a state of political hysteria...

he fed his ifá a ram & a he-goat as his awos, the sons of
wind, thicket, trees & ropes, advised. he knew that he
would prevail in any crisis so long as he fed his ifa & eşu,
& listened to the advice of his awos.

a man revealing to his students the foundation of an inner
knowledge upon which a "new world" could be built…

“learn u the efficacy of patience for such is as constant
as heaven & earth. patience requires forbearance & resistance
to the temptation of vengeance. leave vengeance to the
divinities who will intervene on the side of righteousness!

having passed through narrow rapids, a canoe reaches
calm waters...

what human suffering may come is but the dark before
dawn. forbear & be patient, child of earth, temptations reveal
yr weaknesses, but to resist them makes u strong. eşu tests
& tempers yr mettle.

a dentist at work...

eşu works the permanent parts of our lives, the bony sub-
stances & soft inner pulp -- parts under threat like decaying
relationships -- filling holes, straightening or repairing that
which is broken or taking them out.

a path through woods rich in autumn coloring...

from too old to work & too young to die to reaping
entitlements given a life lived well & the stories,traditions
& knowledge borne & told, eşu, the crotchety old time
tester, rewards those who make sacrifices.

pelicans menaced by the behavior & refuse of men
seek safer areas for bringing up their young...

my errant thoughts have abandon their nests, leaving their
eggs to be trampled or exposed to predators. where will
they find new nesting grounds & solemn sancturary?
iba eşu, please open that road.

a hindu yogi demonstrates his healing powers…

"arise... approach the great beings & know the truth!"
eşu demands we know the truth within existence, the
reality beneath appearance & the immortal which gives
meaning to our mortality. In this way shall we be healed!

© Joseph McNair;2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

effeuiller la marguerite (11)

effeuiller la marguerite
for the oxeye daisy

o perennial prostrate herb
arrayed in white ray or yellow
disc flowers, growing pertly
on stem’s end, unbranched
& sprouted laterally from a
creeping root.

what turn of fate brought u
to these intricate, prehensile
juvenile hands, which one day
may fashion clay creator-like,
or wield a knife assassin-like,
but today

attached to a wistful, moonstruck
african boy sitting close-eyed &
alone in a narrow, pedestrian lane,
behind a graying urban building,
plucking yr petals one by one,
needing to be cocksure

of love.

©Joseph McNair;2009

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

pomba gira (10)

pomba gira
beneath yr sway i have fallen, not once but
many times,
drawn to u like a shark to blood
in the water, yr comeliness,
a solicitation,
a knowing brush of a playful hand against my

tumescent need; u who are spouse to the
first among òrìşà,

the one who goes whither he pleases, is bound
by neither
law nor rule, who flows against
destiny through the cracks
& crevices of fate,
along the seams separating parallel worlds

multiple realities, over the precipice of human
folly; who
tests us at every crossroad & punishes
us today for what we
may do tomorrow – do u
really exist apart from him or are
u just one of
his many paths?

i invoke yr aid, pomba gira, because i cynically
know u will
help the truly desperate. when no
other òrìşà will answer
the plea, yr patronage is
always for sale & u always get paid
in advance.

u have led me to wives & lovers convinced that
was the magical piece missing from their lives;
that i could
& would complete them. they would
dazzle me with incompar
able enticements to keep

me from leaving; to keep me from
seeing what
they were hiding – those potent secrets best
away from prying eyes:

a father’s salacious abuse piled on an innocent
who kept
the faith & family secret – the serial
violations visited on
an innocent so very
desperate to belong;

or the innocent tricked into fellating a trusted
family friend
while in his care; who with fearful
infirm purpose received
a perverse prize for
good behavior.

or yet again the innocent, abandoned on a refuse
beneath a blanket of flies; who seeks self
worth in real life
pulchritudinous jackpots &
episodic debauchery.

or lastly, the innocent exploratory body play
among siblings that
turned terribly serious &
sexual; underscored by the death of one
& the
overwhelming neurotic guilt of the love-addicted

& of course i saw them, these secrets; learned
about them. these
wives & lovers had a salubrious
need to tell their secrets to me &
i heard over
their whispered confidences eşu’s raucous
had i just listened

to them, they
might have healed on their own,
might have purged themselves in nonjudgmental
ears; drained the
poison of the past from their
deep emotional wounds. might have
those who caused them pain;

might have forgiven themselves
. but i couldn’t
leave any of it alone; i had to help. i had to dress
need to control in therapeutic whites & tell
them what to do. i had
to be right at their expense
& play upon their guilt. some I drove
into the night; drove all of them all away.

how many times have i come back to u, pomba
gira, with my thirty
pieces of tribute & the same
supplications that hope for a different
are u truly a sacred harlot or merely the hand of
eşu squeezing
my scrotum?

can u translate my sexual indiscretions into a
series of
great mystical rites or do u expose me
for the fool i am?
are yr breasts, so round, so
plump & firm, the enticing,passion fruit
of love
or merely eşu’s prurient tools to plunge me into

murky depths. can those lips of yrs
that so glibly lie, mouth the sacred
mysteries i
crave i? is yr well of delight a redemptive revelation
or a
cauldron of concupiscence?

are u a divine sexual road in disguise or
just a
metaphor for human hubris at best?

©Joseph McNair;2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

panthera pardus (9)

panthera pardus

the sleek black form, a killing need
to prey on the hapless, slay & feed.
feminine & feline, it stalks the night
keeping to shadows, out of sight,
quick demise promised, guaranteed.

its body long & built for speed.
a sanguine & solitary breed
that snares with strangling bite;
a melanistic morph of death indeed.

panthera pardus will greedily bleed
a buck with vampire fang, proceed
to strip the carcass clean & delight
in the blood feast on a starless night;
to feed as kali herself mught feed –
a melanistic morph of death indeed

©Joseph McNair;2009

panthera leo krugeri (8)

panthera leo krugeri

a sanguine sunrise.
a queen stalks the savannah;
sekhmet stalks her prey.

tracks the wildebeest;
tasty banquet on the hoof;
an ungulate feast.

to a hundred feet
she closes – then she charges,
fifty miles per hour.

the 30 ft leap,
the slap & grab, the take down.
her long fangs drink deep.

a bloody sun sets;
sekhmet sleeps; her belly full.
& hungry pride … fed!

© Joseph McNair; 2009

ouija (7)


they were a steadfast five,
who'd meet from house to house
& divine what they would
from the ouija.

two couples & a wife
(her husband deigned to meet)
did seek astral guidance
from the ouija.

& guidance came to them
from spirits wild & tame
who'd use the alphabet
on the ouija.

they formed a pentagram
although they knew it not
with one ordained to lead
by the ouija.

amien they called him,
the spirit guides who used him
to speak to the others
through the ouija.

& so for months they met
& thus they were exposed;
no secrets can be kept
from the ouija.

they saw themselves anew
& saw each other "true";
an exacting mirror held
by the ouija.

for work they deigned to do,
daunting work upon themselves,
to walk the path described
by the ouija.

amien himself, who was
supposed to know did cringe
from the vision
of the ouija.

one feared he was possessed
though once he was a priest
his "devils" were exposed
by the ouija.

another saw her "curse"
in unrequited love;
her wantonness betrayed
by the ouija.

another saw the causes
of her bewildering barreness,
reliving her past lives
through the ouija.

still another sought to claim
perennial abuse;
her abandonment foretold
by the ouija.

even amien himself
was all too sorely flawed
& flinched in the judgement
of the ouija.

none of them could see
that their fear brought to the fore
distortions of the truth
through the ouija.

one by one they dropped away
'til only one remained
& even he was forced to
quit the ouija.

their sordid fears confirmed,
t'was more than they could bear.
three marriages were sundered,
six lives were sore distressed;

five futures dearly mortgaged
by the ouija.

©Joseph McNair; 1984-2009

the wheel (6)

the wheel

power comes in flashes,
in tantalizing glimpses
& small satisfactions;
extends my senses, select
different blends of stimuli
from my environs. the
concrete becomes symbolic
& heavy with meaning.
events reveal their
significance, their recurrent
patterns & causes; faces yield
their secrets – flashing or
vacant eyes, nervous laughter,
ticks, furrowed brows, jutting
chins, the showing of teeth –
the language of the body is
eloquently revealed. i hear
much in the silence
masquerading what is not being
said. i probe my own body's
feeling centers, identify the throat-
blocking lump, the involuntary
swallow of sadness, the chest-
filling balloon of fear, the
radiating plexus coil, the stiff
neck & throbbing temple of
anger, the chest & groin pains
of jealousy, the blinding red-out
of rage, the narcotic whole body
lethargy of depression. i learn
that the feelings of others
resonate in my own centers, that
i sometimes mistake theirs for
mine. i study the stars, learn their
symbol systems, the math, logic
& absolutism. i chart the planets.
their effects in signs & houses;
in angled relations to each other.
i commit to memory their
rulerships over people, objects,
places & events. i study my dreams,
write them down on waking. i sort
through the voices in my head,
identify mine own among
them, pick others – ones who
through trial & error have been
judged reliable – to listen to. i close
my eyes & let the images come.
i conjure the faces & bodies of those
i know on the backs of my eyelids i
look at & around them, behind them;
observe the materializing scenes if
images are chaotic, make no linear
sense, the planets rush in bringing
their own peculiar insight, fitting
those icons into perceptible
patterns, making them coherent
i learn the tarot; add seventy-eight
new truths to my growing arcane
capital. i practice my new skills on
family & friends. my ego inflates in
wisdom & stature.

© Joseph McNair; 1988-2009

awakening (5)

“nearly all men can stand adversity,
but if you want to test a man’s character,
give him power.”
abraham lincoln

what has taken the savor
from the taste of political power?
was it the brief reality of jail?
the mad memories of masturbatory
stratagem for revolt – the impotent
fires set that burned themselves out
in anonymity? the marches on the
police station, the imaginary wall of cars
across the freeway or walking down
riverside avenue in formation with
carbines in full view. was it the
ego clashes of man-child leaders?
the endless posturing of potency?
the autoeroticism of weaponry?
was it the alarming echo of my
own demagoguery?
maybe it was the chagrin of challenge –
the old black wraith who dared me
to show him what i had, what the revolution
gave me, compelling enough to make him
risk his meager mite to get.
how can i liberate my people
if i can't liberate myself?
who appointed me liberator
in the first place? the truth?
"political" is merely an adjective,
a sound/symbol that cannot stand
by itself it must be adjacent, connected to
power. a flavor, a blend of taste & smell
peculiar to defining terms, creating reality,
changing things & making others do what u
want them to do. like water. i want power.
pure. hinted at by fluency in arcane symbols;
demonstrated by auguries, foretellings &
psychokinetic virtuosity. i want to see in
astral light, hear disembodied voices, feel the
vibrations of events. i want to cavort with spirit
guides & give my body up to mediumship.
i would trade the vision of revolution for a
clear & unobstructed view, beforehand,
of the next moment in time.

©Joseph McNair; 1988-2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009

crossing the niger (4)

crossing the niger

the taxi, its nature true of all beasts of burden &
conveyance however long of leg & wind requires a break in
a protracted journey. the carburetor cough, the ragged
revving of acceleration, like the belabored breathing of an
exhausted runner, telltales the need for rest. its driver &
passengers (me among them) too are travelweary; show the
collective strain of an unrelenting sprint, a random obstacle
course of gaping pot-holes, figure-eighting oncoming
maniac-driven vehicles which thread needle-eye openings
between to & fro traffic; have held for hours the unison
leftward oblique of anxious body posture, bodies leaning,
eyes straining to see around go-slowing lorries, rightward
leftward curves to see over the hills & through every
manner of blindspot. seven psychic pairs of hands to aid
the steering; seven extra pairs of eyes for the driver who
seems compelled by some demon to overtake anything
ahead on faith, to devour vast stretches of road at the speed
of light. we pull into the rest stop at lokoja, at the foot of
the bridge across the niger. my travel companions
disembark, & disappear into the raggedly rugged array of
scrap wood & zinc-roofed restaurants; settle heavily in
front of plate of rice & beans, eba & egusi soup, pounded
yam & bush meat. the air is pungent with palm oil. i
override my urge for food & drink & cast my eyes upon the
river. i am drawn by its languid motion & am compelled
down a footpath around & behind the restaurant…

“oga wetin? eat, now!” the driver, watching me, calls.
“i’m coming,” i say,
“kilonşe e? were oyinbo!”

i walk with vague purpose along the banks of this ancient
river thinking of all the rivers i’ve crossed in the blur of a
lifetime. there is always one more river, no matter how
deep or wide the last. i respect all rivers; become involved
on planes personal with those i touch physically. each
private mountain scaled has had its companion river. &
rivers, like oceans seem to suck all of my personal water
out of me, leaving me vampire-drained. obversely
inebriated, psychically disoriented, & hopelessly addicted
to large bodies of water. knowing the consequences i seek
out a place to sit, & find one on a mossy finger of rock,
bent at the knuckle, exploring the sensuous wet riverine
depths. removing my shoes, & rolling up my trousers, i sit
myself down, my feet submerged in the swirling eddies of
red & gold. giving myself over to its wet, noisy kisses,
oblivious to the sinister suck at my toes, ankles, & calves,
the steady seepage of feeling out through the walls of my
skin at points of contact, i am reeling…

wet dreams. selfwaters merge with godwaters dissolves
time dissolve the walls door & windows between one
hundred & thirty one days seven thousand eight hundred &
sixty hours four hundred seventy one thousand six hundred
seconds such a swift temporal blink so complete a
transformation the boy the youth the man merely
characters encountered when i dream there is no one
outside to confirm their existence make flesh their
reflections breathe into them ... there was one once (who
was she?)… naked as a man with a few clothes can be
…skills/talents/abilities without reference less revered
applies to uses not intended (by whom? by me/i/) … living
an unctuous obsequious poem singing rhyming clowning
for rapt audiences of children laughing bose querulous
olukemi precocious wale sullen mansa stubborn yewande
& others (where are their names?) amusing them/myself
while mothers market fathers work me earning a now &
then meal & a bottle of beer a lift into town or a word to a
friend who knows someone who has a brother in the
ministry at the television house whose legs are long who is
family firm sure things relax take it easy… lectures in the
beer parlors (is that me talking?) pounding home the
vagaries of america's many-headed hydra of racism
reaganomics realpolitik ruthless rushream of cashflow
dirty collared hucksters porkbarrel perverts haute haughty
heterophobes…masking desperation in beer life of the
parlor big joe (small joe?) must be a professor from who
knows where university truth wrapped in fraud…playing
postman carrying my curriculum vitae twenty-five copies
for unilag thirty copies for unibadan forty for unife
traveling to iwo ilesa ijebu ode ekpoma clerk loses fifty
copies of c.v. at ilesa finds it for five naria dash to ile ife
dean keeps me waiting three hours queries my credentials
degrees never heard of my secondary school, it’s not in
nigeria sir oh i see why did u come to nigeria u weren’t
recruited aren’t u too young to be a principal perfect for
ibadan but well u see we want a ph.d although there aren’t
many if any on the faculty with yr experience or yr
specialized training my hand’s are tied iwo loses my
twenty-five c.v. copies five naria is not enough to find them
asuu goes on strike moratorium on hiring shoes worn out
business suit frayed unsuited for tropical heat ten kobo is
all that remains of settling stake sell my camera fade from
social contacts hide in a half life of three months move to
the boy’s quarters in bashorun cook with kerosene make a
fable out of abjectivity a shelter in which to live move now
like an
elephant in tight shoes… down but not out destiny
here in
the bosom of nigeria am made of strong stuff will
not quit
runaway be deflected owe it to myself-friends
real friends
found in the salt of nigerian soil shelter in the
time of
trouble rocks in a weary land ajax & linda poured
over & bandaged my broken heart watched over me
angel eyes frank oyenuga fountain of encouragement
zenobia soft severity looking glass clear chief bessie taiwo
sister intimate motherwarm held my hand shoveled food in
my stomach starch in my backbone john nwankwo gave
help when there was no help steadfast staunch regenerative
force olu akinkoye brother lost & found hundredfold giving
bola & lolita gave me shelter taught me a lesson in trust
& yemi sympathetic soothing caring a welcome place
to hide
to share chris chidebe provided cover from
a place to anonymously plan muyiwa ogunaike
companion helped me trace ibadan’s underbelly yaya
abubakar gave hope to hold on to lent powerful influence
with interest secured the future…debts too great to ever
repay except in kind & by an infinite number of cheerful
installments to nigeria my cross my crown

“oga, oga, chei! oga! wake –o…! why u do dis t’ing?”

the driver’s face forms from many droplets of a dream;
focuses into a mask of annoyance. “oh! sorry-o; must have
dozed off. is it time to go?”the driver hissed in that way that
only africans can, lips open, teeth clenched; sucking in air
mixed with bubbles of spit back across the cuspids forcing a
passage between the teeth & the soft inner tissue of the
cheeks. the sound & the meaning is unmistakable. he turns
angrily & runwalks up the footpath towards the taxi. fully
awake now i hurriedly pick myself up, grab my shoes &
follow – the fool might leave me if i dawdle. the engine is
running when i reach the cab. the other passengers look at
me strangely but say nothing. my stomach growls in
english, the price of indulging a turbulent spirit. on the road
again, we are quickly semi-airborne, flying across the niger
without ceremony. but for me a personal ritual is complete,
& with that inner calm & glow that follows yet’ another
initiation i allow myself to be carried north to kaduna &
then, perhaps to zaria & employment without a backward
glance. i feel, really feel for the first time on this continent
like a prodigal, bereft, bruised, but undaunted, coming

© Joseph McNair; 1984-2009

murtala muhammad airport (3)

murtala muhammad airport
september 4, 1981,
ikeja nigeria

i am stiff with apprehension. how different four
interminable days ago when apprehensive amble
now was gallivanting gait; giant steps naive &
exuberant. today i wary walk through this echoing
corridor, my eyes scouting ahead, my stomach
writhing with warning. so much noise; so many people.
immigrations, like four stations of the cross, is besieged
by arriving passengers; a mob of pressed pushing flesh
with a thousand arms, waving in the air like reeds in
the wind, waving passports & papers, beckoning,
beseeching the harried, but unhurried officers who
randomly select documents to process. no line, no
pretense of order, i stand rearward of the mob &
prepare for a long wait.
suddenly, i see my name flash, misspelled, on a makeshift
sign held by a plump, deferential black man. i wave to
him. he comes forward, introduces himself as o–-;
says everything is arranged. he takes my passport
& papers & melts into the mob. sudden anxiety
inflates a balloon in my chest when he disappears;
expands to panic in the passing moments. despairing,
desperate, i search for him among the faces clustered
near, berating myself for again being so gullible; a
stranger's affliction. but, as i mind-made-up move
to report my loss, he reappears like a sorcerer, with
an apprentice, & writing magical runes in the steaming
air, points me & the boy to the baggage claim.the balloon
in my chest deflates with a whoosh; my head swoons with
relief & i deliriously divulge to my new & trusted friend
the number of bags i have; my experience in liberia; my
apprehension of customs. he nods gravely, looks concerned,
& says nothing, except a few harsh barks in yoruba to send
the boy to get the luggage trolley and my bags.we wait for
him to return in silence. i stay the again mounting anxiety
by turning my attention to the airport throng ...

focus on that blur of chocolate & caramel faces,
with a white one or two or three marbling the mixture;
focus on the parade of lace, dutchwax & hollandaise.
the melodious strains of yoruba swell & cascade around
me in tones derivative of or acting upon a loud, lusty life incomprehensible english breaks in the air & is
hastily put back together again in a tonal mosaic. there
is urgency here...can be heard in the swish of expensive
cloth; in frantic calls for stewards; in the rush of shabbily
clad porters chasing down tips.there is convergence here...
people greeting each other caricature their joy in seeing
one another. some fall to the ground in abrupt, ritual
respect. dark seeming sullen faces nova into dazzling
smiles when recognized; high pitched ejaculations of
laughter waft above anonymous noise. there is sensuality
here... in the long graceful necks of slim yellow-brown girls;
in plump purple-black matrons whose george-cloth bottoms
rise & fall to prurient polyrhythms; in the eyes of comely
women of all shades of black who with a glance can assess,
entice or dismiss. & there is wealth & power... subtle
in the confident clusters of white folk, cardin casual,
smelling of st laurent & lanvin; ostentatious in the floppy
or conical-capped, gown-garbed black men with bulging
attaches,who are surrounded by sycophantic attendants
who fawn,who flutter, who fuss. i am swept up in the
fast-changing scene...

the boy returns with the baggage trolley. as he loads the
four suitcases & the large 3x5 foot locker, i tightly grip my
camera bag; can no longer contain my anxiety. it oozes
out of my pores with sweat. luggage loaded, we follow, o–-
& i, that trolley to the customs checkpoint; to the waiting
inquisition. there is no line. the boy pushes the trolley past
the customs station. i almost call out to him, but am silenced
by a throat-throttling glance from o–-. the customs man on
duty turns to speak to a policeman standing by; doesn't
acknowledge our infraction or our presence. shocked, i
looked to o–- for an explanation. he only smiles & winks.
outside, in the airport foyer, he magnanimously tips the boy
ten naira, in two five naira bills; one, he says, is for
the boy, the other is for the... mosquitoes... & he laughs
a loud belly-shaking laugh. welcome to nigeria, he says!

© Joseph McNair; 1984-2009