Saturday, 21 March 2020

SINNERS OF WITTENBERG (Act 1 Scene 1)


The dark stage is covered in clouds of smoke, the only visible feature for sometime, as a pensive monologue lasts. It is the voice of a lady, waxing lyrical over the tune of an old classic song: 

'Alas, the time has come, judgement must start from the house of God, then to the house of thieves, brigands and whores. Who shall live thereafter to measure the rooms of Wartburg Castle? Who shall live to speak of his own nobility, of coins dropping in the coffer, of souls springing from hell, and of sinners who were once saints? 
Luther's smoke rises ever so highly, yesterday it was seen from as far as Bonn, tomorrow it would be seen from as far as Bucharest. And soon it shall be a story of saints who were once sinners. Maybe, he is right that we have lived a lie well-rehearsed, maybe he is indeed a wild boar out to destroy the Lord's vineyard. Maybe he is the judgement which must start from the house of God.
Alas, we are afraid of ourselves, we tremble now at our past, we hide from our sins, and we shiver at our guilt, one nail has held ninety-five charges to a door, another nail would soon hold more numerous names to more numerous doors. Now, arise, man of Saxony. Arise, Hans of Wittenberg, the night is spent, the morning is here and at your door are the feet of friends.'


As the monologue fades with the tune, the smokes fade too and the spotlight is focused on Hans who is lying on a bed at the center of the stage. He awakens suddenly to the consciousness of the room around him; an elaborate chamber which is now made more visible as the stage lights are turned on. Behind his bed is a long stretch of curtains running the length and height of the stage, at one side of his bed is  a desk and a seat, and at the other side is a wardrobe. 
Enter Jerome and Karl with a clatter to the displeasure of Hans who sits up on his bed immediately.
HANS: Have you two left behind your manners? No knock on the door?
KARL: Have you not awaken with your manners? No greetings for your visitors?

The two men sit with playfulness at both sides of Hans, and to cheer him up begin to sing a familiar rhyme.

KARL AND JEROME [singing]: 
'Lonely but saddled this donkey rides
Heavy and gladly his burden glides
Tic toc tic toc this clock ticks by
Many a friend would walk by, yeah
But too few good friends would stop by, Hans.

HANS [sighs, indifferent]: Is that why you are here this early? To relive childhood fun?
JEROME: Is that why you are waking this late? To ask questions?
HANS [pensive]: I had a long dream...
KARL [interrupting]: Of course, you had a long night.
HANS: And I would soon forget everything if you keep talking back at me. [Takes a deep breath and buries his head in his palms as one would do in meditation].
JEROME [passively pulling on his beards]: Now, tell, what was it you saw in this famous dream of yours?
HANS: Lots of wisdom and signs of discord. 
KARL: Wisdom? Not one of your strengths.
HANS [stares dolefully at Karl]: I saw a pillar of gold around which danced a fair maid. 
JEROME: What is the subject? The pillar or the dancing beauty?
HANS: Both were interesting to look upon. What attracted me to the maid was the rhythm of her dance; it was new and slow, almost sorrowful but still interesting. I noticed that as she moved her hands around the pillar, names appeared on the surface of the pillar. There were so many names, names of noblemen, of common men, of all estates of men.
KARL [stretches his hand to feel Hans' neck]: It is certainly not fever.
Hans responds with a dreadful stare.
JEROME: I struggle to find the discord between a dancing lady and a golden pillar, but even then where is the wisdom you spoke of?
HANS: A long counsel from a medium that I had gone to consult, her words have almost all flown away. I remember she said something of Luther's smoke rising so highly.
JEROME: Which of the Luthers? The Butcher on my street or Frederick's shepherd dog?
HANS: Luther; the wild boar.
KARL: Hmmm; indeed what fire he has started and how large the bellows of his smoke.
JEROME [scoffs]: Oh, Karl, do not breathe life into a mere dream. There is nothing to these words nor to Luther's waning influence. The peasants war has shown that he is just another scam. 
HANS: How do you mean that the peasants war has exposed him?
JEROME: Of course it has, when he nailed his lies at the door of All Saints, who were his first converts? Were the peasants not easily seduced by his questions and doctrines? But when they started a war, he betrayed them.
HANS: Truth is often the first casualty of reason when the man who reasons is insufficiently informed. 
KARL [nods in appreciation]: Hmm, wisdom.
HANS: You have left a lot of gaps on the way to your conclusion, Jerome. And I wouldn't breathe further life into your confusion.
JEROME: Of course, you retain a lot of sympathy to his cause. You always have.
HANS [In a fit of rage]: I am a daily communicant!...
JEROME: And so what? That doesn't and hasn't stopped you from finding Luther appealing.
KARL [intervening]: Alright, gentlemen. We shouldn't let the matter of a dissident sequestered in a castle somewhere across the world to come in the way of such a beautiful morning. How about we meet at my place in the evening, I will have a boar grilled and we would see what it tastes like when washed down with a jug of beer.
HANS: Sounds like fun to me.
JEROME [still seething]: Of course, of course.
HANS: I will be there, Karl. Hopefully, we wouldn't go on about Luther and misinformed people.
JEROME: Yes, Karl. We won't come telling dreams of dancing women and rising smoke.
KARL [pulling Jerome along with him]: We take our leave now, Hans. A breakfast awaits us at Frederick's. We merely decided to stop by.

As they leave, Hans lies back on his bed, and light fades.

Sunday, 15 March 2020

TO THE ANGEL OF THE CHURCH IN WUHAN


I know thy works, your strength and vigour, your courage and perseverance have not gone without notice. The incense of your life fills the portals of heaven at the hour of prayer.

I know your love, which the scribes of heaven have well written of. The accuser of the brethren, yes, protests that you have loved that your multitude of sins be covered. And to him have I replied once, and twice he has heard that I know all things.

However, I know also that you have fallen for the trick of Balaam, you have hidden in your heart a lust for want, and in your cupboard is found the ghost of Nimrod. Behold I have mocked you with your own donkey, it has spoken without a word, and you have heard his reprimand even without an ear. 
He that has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches. You have embodied the pride of man, you have stood before the dragon's mirror and mimicked his lofty looks. I have flogged you with your colt's rope, nay, with the feather of a fowl. I have not assigned the host of heaven to fight against you, lest I should wipe off man who I have made. I have long borne the stench of man's incense, the odour of his boasts, his tricks, his politics, his unrighteous quests and designs. Did I not part the Red Sea by the blast of my nostrils? I made the magicians of Pharoah see my finger, and yet did not I show all of my arm against Egypt. Did the tower at Babel; the making of Nimrod's whims not fall by my counsel? I have drawn your ears away from flattery but you have again made your own praise to be your ears' delight.
If you have shaken at the sound of my footsteps, what shall you be when I stamp on you with the weight of my feet. I have against you what I had against Nebuchadnezzar, and I have done to you what I did to him. He repented after his malady had left him, would you repent after your malady leaves you, after this foul wind has ceased? He humbled himself, and gave honour to me after he had seen his vulnerability, would you humble yourself after this gentle fouled wind has shown you your feebleness? Would you return that which is sacred to its sacredness? Would you rebuild the altars of sanctity and cleans the sanctuary of justice? Would you repent of the foulness of the incense of your lives, and make clean the sheets of your beds? Behold you have been shaken by this mockery which I have allowed in a little measure, should you not humble yourself under my might and repent of your ways under the weight of my truth? 
The Jew has said of the Greek, 'behold a gentile', the Greek has said of the Jew, 'behold a Barbarian', yet has the world over which you have sneezed not united in fear of your cold. The days may come when I will dish unto you in full measure this bowl if you do not heed my voice. Now, let the preacher speak at the roof top, let the minstrel sing of the fear of the Lord, and let the ruler seek out the counsel of the godly, that you put me to remembrance in your days.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

OUR COMMON BLINDNESS

There is only one thing we can say of some things. If a man should ask about what rice tastes like, we can only say that rice tastes like rice. There is only one thing we can immediately all say of some things even if there are other things that could be said of them. If someone should ask about fire, we would all say that it is hot, before we would begin to think about describing its brightness or form.
Several times our judgement of events and things is based on that one thing that could be said of things even when there are other things that could be said of them. If we only speak of man's inability to breathe in water, it would be ludicrous to call water evil without also speaking of its use in quenching thirst, washing, and cleaning. Well enough for the most part we do not limit to one what we think of things, neither do we shrink our sense of proportionality without which one might say that drugs are evil only because a patient had taken an overdose.
However, in life we are wont to make categorical statements on how bad a person is, or how terrible a consort one could be for another, just by the one thing we wish to say about them, even if that is not the most visible attribute of them. It could be true to say that your teacher nags, but it would be improper to allow your listener to assume that your teacher is a bad teacher if there are numerous redeeming qualities in your teacher more visible than the nagging.

We have demonized our brothers and sisters before our children (their nieces and nephews) on the premise of the one bad thing that could be said of them, even when there are numerous other qualities that would make them so proper.

This here is where we imagine the deaf DJ and the blind cook, each has a great handicap especially relevant in the field to which they claim expertise. How would the deaf DJ appreciate his own mix, so as to spin the right disks and make the best beats and tunes? How would the blind cook avoid adding inadequate or excessive amount of salt or pepper? The truth is that in our lives we are blessed with specific gifts and specific handicaps, I believe life is so designed such that the deaf DJ would hear with the ears of the blind cook, and that the blind cook would see with the eyes of the deaf DJ. I believe that life is set up to be a web of continuous co-operation where our weaknesses are neutralized by the strengths of others.
As long as we continue to denigrate the blindness, the deafness, the dumbness, the lameness and the one handicap of one another we might not understand the need to complement and to complete one another. We need this understanding in our homes, among children of the same parents, workers in the same office, husband and wife, the clergy and laity, among others, so that we can all see, so that we can all hear, so that we can all talk, so that we can all walk and rise to a more prosperous existence.

Okwuchukwu Augustine Ndulue is my name.

Friday, 6 March 2020

WEEP ON CHILD

Oh weep on, child
There is little hope on sea
Though now your squids little be
At midlife they are krakens, vile and strong
Play well, my child
Your toys are things of fun
Forget not to slip upon the spill
Yes nurse your wound in tears
The scratch the first of many

Oh the days of youth
When he spelled his 'Pornishment' starting with a certain 'Porn'
And his 'Deepression' starting with a certain 'Deep'
Blunt and short the arrows of the mighty man had made a failed escape.
Caged in freedom, in diverse lusts and quests
Life dealt its dose-only halfway- of leisure, pressure and warmth
Perhaps we have flattered the pain of youth
It is fat, though not fat as a lie
Sweat, blood and tears behind the veil abound

Weep now that it has no shame
And wait not till a man's tears near Haram drops
Though anxiety cleaves unto his heart
With the romance of thirst on a parched throat
He dares not cry
He heaves a sigh, signs a cheque, and checks his heart
Yes, he must guard, my child, against something cardiac,
fatality at times could come
Yes, from militant thoughts it charges

Few be Kings, few be mad, need we find a ruler?
What metrics measures joy?
To what end, dear man, were you born,
and to what escape would you die?
Yes, time did wait from eternity's infinite past
And now counts to eternity's infinite future
Man thus comes, my child, a recorder of naught
He spends in relative duration but a snap of fingers
Barely starting to understand himself
Or to pick his pen to write
He is old and soon dies
Weep on, my child
Weep on

Monday, 2 March 2020

THE LAST OBOTEMAN (1)


The beams of his car’s headlamps pasted on the stained glass windows of the room, and it faded into darkness as the engine purred to a halt. It was atypical of his wife to not have come out unto the balcony after the noise of the car engine had stopped. He gave the electronic clock one last look at it blinked for the last time; 8:30pm was a little later than usual. The man walked calmly the short distance to the balcony, the path aesthetically flanked by a short wall of ixora was illuminated by a beautiful moonlight. There needn’t be a knock, disturbing his family’s night sleep would not be the best idea after returning home unscheduled. Such a complicated man he often thought himself to be, serving two masters at a time: a very demanding home and a very demanding job, to each he tried to give his best. On nights as this he would come home following the postponement of a scheduled night shift at the office. The man gently locked the door behind him, flashed his torchlight around the sitting room, a necessary protocol in his heedful manners, and walked into the passage. The ajar door of the children’s bedroom caught his attention and he had to take a closer look. Lutalo was wrapped in much of the blanket, leaving his sister, Kyagaza, out in the cold. The man didn’t bother covering them well, Lutalo would still pull the blanket away from his sister’s body. He gently closed the door and went into his bedroom. The torchlight found the exposed lap of Elizabeth, the rolling and tossing of a sleepy woman often unveils sensitive areas of the body. The man was staring at his wife’s laps, the much that was exposed below the twisted night gown. Much was left to the imagination and he imagined in silence. He swallowed hard as he dropped his bag beside the door with a light thud, and as he took dainty steps toward the bed, Elizabeth adjusted herself. He dropped his bag beside the door and swallowed hard as he took dainty steps towards the bed. Elizabeth adjusted her position and faced up as her husband sat beside her, in that moment he had to change his mind about sporting with a sleepy woman. He sat in silence removing his work clothes. A bit of memory flashed in his mind: he remembered that day in Memphis when Elizabeth agreed to marry him. For a romance story, love between a middle class Jewish girl raised on the broad way streets of the United States, and a melanin-rich boy whose greatest accomplishment for a long time was leaving his sleepy Ugandan village for Kampala seemed improbable, but such was their story.


In another part of town, Hidi Hamin, the nation’s military chief was hosting a nocturnal visitor. On the balcony of a well-guarded duplex overlooking much of the valley estate these men sat and discussed over wine.
“Singapore.” Hamin puffed a bellow of smoke, he had a cigarette in hand.
“A promising country, isn’t it?” Hamin’s visitor, Bob Carlton, a Whiteman, bald and short, and with a conspicuous moustache, asked. 
“Yes, Bob, and now they have one of ours, a hairy ugly one of ours. That should cut a chunk of their promise.”
“President Milton isn’t that ugly, you know. I would say he is of moderate appearance, a perfect balance of both sides of beauty.”
Hamin maintained silence as he gulped some wine. He dropped the cup with a heavy thud and stared vaguely at Bob Carlton, “Tell me whose side you are on, man. You shouldn’t try to sound good on a man we will push off this boat in the next tide.”
“You know, Hamin, you should be scared of me just as I should be of you; two men stirring the cup of treason, setting up the cauldron to cook the man that holds us in trust. Why should we trust each other after now with legacies of betraying trust?”
“I am not and will not be scared of you, man. And when I become the leader of the country you should be scared of me, sore afraid of me. But let’s postpone our fight till after we pull this off. And I do not want to think this a selfish ambition, I want to save my people from…”
“Is it my people already?”
“… I want to save this country from the misrule of that chimp.”
“And save yourself from time.”
“Excuse me?” Hamin was static.
“I know your grafts, Hamin,” Bob Carlton smiled smugly. “It would be only a matter of time before this information gets into the wrong hands and you come under the jury of public opinion; beer parlour politics, you know about it, don’t you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Don’t play coy with me, Hamin.” Bob Carlton scoffed. “I don’t traffic in metaphors. I have been clear here. I came across documents in your trashcan, how smart of you to not burn them.”
“What documents?”
“Can you explain to me how funds meant for the military end up in your fat belly?”
A look of intense unease came upon Hamin, he looked around the balcony as if to assure himself of their solitude. “The lion does not disturb himself with the beer parlour politics and the jury of sheep. Do not think that I will lose sleep if people eventually find out I abused this office.”
“Oh, yes, the people don’t count, but if my calculations are right, you would derive much of your legitimacy from the international support that would come your way, and now, name one country that would support the regime of a known thief?” 
“Hmmm,” Hamin sighed, “Whatever I have taken I have shared with those around me. If this information gets out to the public, Hamin would not be the biggest casualty, a lot of bigger men would come crashing down with me. And think, few weeks ago I gave you a car for your birthday celebration. They would trace that car to you and explanations wouldn’t help you.”
“Hamin, Hamin,” Mr. Carlton giggled, “I am not threatening you. What would I gain from pulling another man down?” 
“Absolutely nothing.”
“Good. So, you have nothing to fear. However, I doubt I am the only one that knows about your dealings.”
“Who else does?”
“It is funny how you Africans are so unaware of your environment. You lived with minerals under your soil and for centuries knew nothing about them until we came here to help you. Even now in your own country you know not what happens under your nose.”
“Enough of your racism. Who else knows about this?” 
“I saw a journalist at the DHQ on three occasions, and he was investing so much attention in some covert enquiries. He was going through records and invoices…”
“The journalist, the one with the scar?”
“Yes.”
“My men are on him,” Hamin said with a satisfactory smug, “soon you will hear a different story.”
“And by a different story you mean?”
Hamin brimmed, “We will get him to sing a new tune. There are so many ways to do that. But if he insists on singing a nasty tune, we will make sure he meets a listening audience in hell. What price is too high to pay for order?”
“Hmmm,” Mr. Carlton sighed, “so you intend to take an innocent man’s life? That’s so quick and severe, well quicker than it is severe.”
“So, I guess you have a better option.”
“The nation will soon get into a period of change. It will not be a time to afford such distractions as an enthusiastic journalist with his reports. Handle him now before the coupe, and by handling him death should be a last resort. First, reason with him, when that fails then threaten him to not publish his findings. The power of death over a living man is not in death itself but in the fear of death. I enjoy such scenes, it is fun feeding off the cry of a grown man as a red hot knife marks territories on his bare chest. I have never seen a man leave the dungeon the same. You wouldn’t need to kill him to silence him, just two nights underground and he would quit journalism for good.”
“You know, Carlton, I could use your mind more often. You will surely have a place in my government.” Hamin sank into his seat happily. “May I ask if you love black women?”
“Don’t be racist, Hamin. I find your women devastatingly attractive. Why do you ask?”
“I don’t suppose you are a man of matrimonial fidelity, are you?”
“Hamin, my friend, the libidinal instincts of man are as that of a pig, so savagely reckless. What can man do against such pressure?”
Hamin made a snap of his fingers and immediately two voluptuous women came out from the house to take Mr. Carlton.
“Hamin, Hamin,” Carlton laughed as he playfully struggled with the women. “Easy, ladies… This is half the reason I love Uganda.”    
“And after tonight, it may be the only reason, I am sure they will take you to places you never knew existed!” Hamin replied as they exited the balcony.
Alone, Hamin sighed happily. It still seemed to be a dream that he would be leading his country in a matter of days. From lowly beginnings to the corridors of power, it was a gradual climb to power. But what lay between him and political power would be a well-planned military coup, and with the tacit backing of international powers, everything was expected to turn out fine.