By Tunde Michael
Deborah gathers the expanse of the human experience of love, life, and mental health in her debut collection of poems.
The images in the collection are both enthralling and clinical, whether they explore the futility of a lover‘s disclaimer in “love me not” or examine a nation weighed down by corruption, poverty, dirty politics, and violence at “Lekki toll gate,” or – as in “Smitten” – delve into the overwhelming power of love.
“Skull on the Nile” exposes the utter exploitation of Black nations in the hands of the West, which it does in the name of development and altruism. In “If I had wings like a dove,” Deborah enjoins us to take care of ourselves as she writes: Fly away like an Eagle/far above the heavens/into an ocean of lights/waltz in the rhythm of the rain/shower in its sputter/to cleanse your ache/you sure took a long time/before tending to yourself/on this isle of time/paint feelings on a lone star/dance to the flute of the luscious wind /hop a skate/ roll and spin, eat and dine/fetch some happy pills/eat in an open sleigh/cull songs from the lips of a nightingale/spread your cold heart in sunrise/come away with love into a new morning.
Deborah brought meat to the flesh of surreal metaphors in the poem, “This mountain in my tongue”. To express her heartfelt concern for children on the spectrum, she writes: “Hanging on the blade of a mahogany/with tongues tied in the sparks of a bristling fire/this burst of reasoning and coded notes/stroke your soul with empathy/burdens etched in hieroglyphs speeches braided in alluring crypts/a horde of intents betrayed by a language for expression/minds as illustrious as a lush garden/with ingrained instructions of engagements/embedded in sounds not rasterized.
Take our hands into your tongue/place our heart on the scale of your drowning lips/we are the arc at the bend of a daffodil/a people built to upgrade the bandwidth of humanity – the decanters of the rainbow – and the cauldron of all things beautiful. Deborah didn’t fail to touch on the malaise of corruption in her country, and the shenanigans of traffic wardens and the ruthless poise of public officials in Lagos, in the poem,’ Mark my words, as she writes:
Mark my words/watch and run/drive and blaze/do not patronize roadside alchemists/or gospel retailing evangelists/foretelling the history of your ancestors to invade your pocket /do not turn at unmarked junctions/it is an official trap by LASTMA officials to impound/your car and make a monkey of you/don’t take directions from incoherent strangers /double-check the counsel of google map before you make that trip/do not fall in love in December/it is a meal ticket for emotional destitute/and gauze for the sores of deserted heart/do not stand and watch films in open spaces/the urchins will raid your pocket and help you search for your lost items/be wary of late-night buses/they are mostly bad/boys masquerading as bus drivers/do not display your account in the open/or flip phones with strangers…”
In this debut collection, Deborah Morenike Yisah enthused vulnerably about the happenings under the sun at the behest of time. This is not just a mercurial body of work but a winning one too.