This is an excerpt from The Spices of Our Sky by Nwando Mbanugo.

Ogbuefi: The Chief

Okpu Ndi Ichie: The Red Hat

Soaked in the gore of expectant cows
five to be exact.
Your crimson shape guarded his temples
from the cheat of his sweat.

Was your smell thicker
than the scent of goat hair
burning at noon?
Or was it heavier
than that of our fathers
during the Biafran war
when they chewed on flesh
and drank their piss
to survive?

Tell me,
How do you look back at him
at night while his children sleep?

You, known to
bring him stares
envious ones from rivals
succulent one from village wives
in their heat.

Crowds cheer him into the village square,
watch him take his seat among men
you create.
Their voices hoarse
from carving warriors
out of boys, daily.
Their appetites for food
and sex
flare, the burn of alligator pepper
on young nostrils.

Umu-eze: The Sons

That rock-choked look we have
we learned from you.
The chill of your whip on our backs;
how else could we be firm?

I await the night
when I’ll be more
than a worker in your hive.
That night
I will break kolanuts for the gods,
for us men.
I will no more drink palm wine in secret
like a girl
but sip on it from my horn
like a man.

Until then, I will
farm your land.
I will guard your yam barns
from stray women,
I will not speak of your many lovers.
Dance for you is what I’ll do
in a frenzy,
that’s what I’ll do is dance.

Ogbuefi - A cheiftancy title in Obosi, Nigeria
Okpu Ndi Chie - A red hat worn by titled men
Umu-eze - The chief’s sons
Kolanuts - A bitter nut served to important guests