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Ójé Ìgbálé

We able-bodied sons of our meek mother,

Would pound the raw rice in the mortar.

One would pound and count, ínyè, éjì, êtá...

And allow another pestle to beat the rice by a brother.

This we do to peel off the bark of the rice,

With pains in our palms making the rice look nice;

The rice too would feel the pains we have felt,

They would be beaten, pounded into pieces and melt.

Being an industrious mother she is,

She would see laziness and takes no ease

To kill it. And she would winnow the rice with a tray;

Asking the unwanted to go with the air far away.

This she does to bring out the real rice to be ground into powder.

The grinder would talk for some moment with orders from a man-power,

Mother then comes home, boils water and scoops exiguous amount of the boiled water out.

She would pour the powdered rice gently into her large-mouthed clay pot, and the aroma would sprout.

She would stir and stir the boiling rice to stop it bubbling,

She would examine the thickness before adding the scooped out boiled water.

After this, she would close the pot to heat and foam out faster.

After twenty minutes of the beautiful and satisfied heating,

Mother would go back to check her food if it is done, really done.

She would go inside to bring out palm oil and some big clayish plates and utter, “Hunger is gone.”

Our mood would change positively, those piteous pains would go and smiles would surface.

I would retort with a question “Mama, una fu kpa?” —Has fire killed it, mama? with a grinning face.

Already the Obóró soup garnished with native condiments and pieces of stock fish,

Has been prepared properly, gearing our never-to-die appetite.

“Mama, I can’t wait any longer” I would say in a mood so selfish.

“My son” in a soothing tone, “I’m almost done oo, I understand your plight”,

She would rub the plate with oil she uses to mould the food- Oje Igbale, —

To make it look drooling in the plate and native to the belly.

Fifteen minutes later, brothers are already found biting their fingers,

And satisfactorily making some sounds, “mpiom mpiom”, like hunger-tortured churchly singers.


1. Oje Igbale- is a native food of Igala extracts (Igga) living in Enugu State. The food is made using rice.

2. Obóró- is a native soup that Okro is used mainly in preparation.

3. Inye, Eji, Eta,- numbers as in One, Two, Three.

Chika Udekwe (he/him), an Igbo bilingual Birland pioneer poet, from Igga, Enugu State, Biafra is an indie author of The Rivers of Love poetry collection (a chapbook). He is a graphic designer, initiator of Birland For The Motherless or BFTM NGO, and a rice farmer and seller who always finds beauty in every stream and big river like the Omambala river. He enjoys the harmattan season more. Some of his poems have been homed in different international multilingual anthologies such as Arc's Prose Poetry Anthology, Iraq; Rendition of International Poetry Anthology, China; Save Africa Anthology, USA; 84 Bottles for Soyinka, Nigeria; Dead End Poetry Anthology, India; his food poem, "Oje Igbale" was shortlisted among the amazing top ten of Poets In Nigeria or PIN Food Poetry Competition, 2020 edition. A prize-winner of the Chief Solomon Njoku Poetry Competition, 2018 edition. Recently his "The Crabs" (a poem) got published in Moonflake Press literary magazine on the theme of Homecoming.

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