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A creative genius of a poet performed.
His first lines went before of him; his rising voice right ahead of him. Like the hooting horns of a train pulling into a level crossing.
It was a humid Saturday night at Ulli Bier Arts Theatre on the University of Ankara campus.
It was the night following the evening Kelvin and Yemi took a walk, out under the eyes of a doting gazillion stars up high.
And here about now, silence wrapped up all of the huge Ulli Bier.
Only the performer’s deep toned backstage voice boomed within the four walls through powerful speakers.
This earth is not my art
This earth… this art is my heart
My worth is not this world
My worth… my world is my word
Everything went silent again.
Suddenly, the heavy crimson drapes backdropping the semi-circled empty stage parted open at midpoint.
In a moment, a silhouette of a young man advanced towards the spotlight. His lowered head capped in a silver-rimmed black bowler hat. His majestic length garbed in an ash grey tuxedo.
His right hand moving a black walking stick, clacking against the hard floor in the rhythmic company of his shoe thuds.
And the silence lingered.
Head lowered in the spotlight even still, the dark skinned dude switched over his walking stick to his left hand. He reached forward with his right and yanked off the microphone off its stand with a deft sweep of a hand.
Next, he switched over the microphone to his left hand to join his walking stick in his grip.
And with his right hand he doffed his hat for a second and capped the mic stand instead with an elegant swift move of a hand.
A deafening, glorious chorus of applause followed, like a thundering echo would tail the flash of a lightning bolt in a clouded sky.
The young man raised his head. And it was Kelvin.
A frenzy of mad shouts and screams joined the ecstatic rounds of clap. The arts theatre shook in the manner of the monstrous arrival of a massive volcano.
Heartbeats. Mad noise. Pure fire!
And everything quieted again when the master of stage resumed in a bold, overwhelming performance voice.
He was performing the piece, In Your Head. It was a poem he’d started writing when he came back to campus from home recently.
He bellowed his lines and they were coals of fire.
Hear the untought-of, see the unsaid
Think the unseen, say the unheard-of
Voiceless words, toughing sight
Wordless expressions, voiced silence
Silence shouts, voices feel
Thoughts speak… breathless words!
Kelvin had his audience’s absolute attention.
Their eyelids did shut in every moment. Their hearts listened to every sound. Their ears picked every signal. The performance… the sway it held on souls was literally breathtaking!
Now it talked of prejudice; talked of discrimination. It talked of condescension, and of self-righteous arrogance.
The conservative going extreme in a fight against extremists. The sincere going pretentious in a fight against double-standard.
The prey becoming predators in the fight to end predation. The righteous endorsing wrongdoing in the battle to end all wrong.
It spoke of the unpopular in a peculiar style.
Kelvin’s gaze span wide. It rested a moment on the high table on the apron. He’d just seen the film celebrity introduced today as the contest sponsor cringe a little.
He was just seeing the celebrity today—today being his first appearance since the contest started.
The young man had got a small, round face and a good-looking pair of eyes. And he could be in his mid-twenties, Kelvin observed.
Kelvin didn’t know his face. He wasn’t as much social as to keep abreast of films and celebrity actors anyway.
But then, Kelvin didn’t know that this was Teslim.
The one who’d been sent to fetch him.
The two young men’s gazes were locked for a few seconds. Kelvin’s heart leaped up in an unconscious flight.
A warm blood coursed through his chest in a bit. He gasped up in short warm breath and ran his gaze back to his audience.
He didn’t understand why his breath went up with that short frenzy. In any case, he’d got to catch up with himself so he doesn’t forget his final lines.
This culture cutlasses her moral excesses
She says she’s no dumbass brooding beneath its wings
This faith-of-the-fathers finds him divine life
He says he’s no foolhead staying within its glow
These ideologies heeds my id and fuels my ego
I say I’m no madman for seeking to know
In your head,
We are climbing up an infinite ladder
Down an endless, buttomless gulf
In your head, we’re livin’, we are passin’
We are dying: yes, we are
If ever we are wrong, if ever you are:
Oh pity, both parties are fated doomed
For all our stupid self-righteous prejudice!
Kelvin Babalola took a bow.
There was a moment’s silence of meditation. The lines tore through heaving chests like a brazen arrowhead.
Suddenly, the whole of Ulli Bier Theatre was up with a standing ovation for the grand, genius performance.
A heavy rain of applause poured and resonated through and through for minutes on end.
Kelvin had bowed out of stage but the applause wasn’t ending yet. The audience was absolutely impressed. Some members of the audience, indeed, brought out whistles and blew so loud in an ecstatic thrill.
It was Kelvin’s style to thrill his audience beyond control. And nothing was going to stop the audience now.
And then, as though out of the blues, Jordan Samuel appeared on stage. He was the next in line.
But the audience was still chanting a mad chorus of ‘Kelvin! Kelvin!’
Caleb gazed at the stage where he was in the audience. He wondered how Jordan was going to beat Kelvin’s feat.
He chatted with a classmate beside him. ‘That guy standing there ain’t gonna beat this!’ he tried to yell above the noise.
‘Sure stuff bro!’ the boy shouted back.
Suddenly everywhere was quiet. Jordan Samuel was a performance poet of repute. And he’d just stolen… no, he’d simply taken back his spotlight.
Right in the spotlight was the poet performer, dropped down on one knee, facing east. He had his head cocked as though skywards.
Everyone had sunk to their seat and was highly curious in the moments of tranquility that wrapped the stage and the entire theatre.
They raised their heads up the slide when the slideshow turned on.
And the poem’s title glowed out above in a cool, soft blue.
Not until now did the audience realise they’d unwittingly fulfilled the initial purpose of a performance poem, the way they the poet had so effortlessly quieted his audience.
Caleb raised his head too and his mouth fell open. ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa… this guy is freaking good!’ he gasped.
Jordan’s voice came up in a quiet, steady rollout of his lovely poetry lines.
Ones that stood out as a sweet prayer. A precious creed. A beautiful hymn.
Light showers and sparse sunrays
Beaming through the rains
Are intermittent rainbows of respite
And relief – in the sun-heat of our busy world:
Give me a life of some quiet, a comforting sunshine
Against the window of my sombre writing study!
Let me be able to see over me a star-lit night sky
Unmasked by skyscrapers or factory exhausts; or, stand still
And be able to hear the birdsong from woods
Un-swallowed by the nagging noise of wailing sirens
And roaming helicopters and congested roadblocks
Everyone followed all the way through rhythms of the poetic hymn. Lines after lines, and stanzas after stanzas.
By the time the young poet was getting up on his feet with a last couplet, everyone was rising off their seats with him.
And lem’ be able to take a walk, take a shower
Take a nap or take a vac every once in a while.
A beautiful chorus of amen greeted Jordan’s ending couplet. Followed by a lengthy cheer of jamming hands and screaming voices.
A second place compensation prize was awarded to Jordan Samuel, ‘for a poetry performance that holds a sovereign sway over its audience’s attention with all creativity.’
Jordan came to the stage to receive his prize, greeted with a standing ovation.
Teslim shook hands with him and offered him a sealed brown envelope. ‘Well, this envelope contains a free ticket for an intensive screenwriting workshop.’
Teslim awarded the winning prize of an iPhone, a sum of money and a publishing deal to Kelvin Babalola.
‘For a grand poetry performance that skillfully and ingeniously engages on unpopular subject in a peculiar and creative style.’
Like he’d weave plots and actions into a full film on the big screen, Teslim with his perfectly honed skill had successfully directed a poetry contest—and given what he had to give to get what he had to get.
But then, Kelvin was no small chap either, with the confidence he exuded. If he’d got nothing at all, it appeared life at least always kept him safe.
But then, one cannot be so certain.
With a born terrorist as Khalid!
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Copyright © 2019 by Kayode Olla