‘Absences do not / Deplete the tavern. They hang over the haze…’ – Wole Soyinka, In the Small Hours
It all began one beautiful morning with absences: apparitions came and went, and the firmament was gone. By a corner, a revenant pillar of ants has ruptured in its own wake; and the dissolution heralds the quiet grief of receding rains.That morning, absences hung in the air, adamant as a mad man’s beard. And, though, I set my ears against the tune of fleeting birds; shadows fled upon the hour of rebirth.
It all began with absences – the absence of a throbbing inside, of a memory’s torment, like the absence of morning; when a world’s grief is quiet; when all sensations of unfurling flesh echo the flight of phantoms on a vanished mileage.
Like several night-markets I have known, this kind of absence stuns me: the sudden departure of seasons, with all their demons that have faded into the past. They are abrupt tensions from the divining fingers of the mind, elusive as roads untrodden, as ridges unplowed. They are absences within – the evocation of a forgotten will, hungers stillborn, and lost inhibitions of the heart.
But absences do not evoke themselves; they simply perch, abound in the light of a lingering day, haunting the blooming soul. In the morning, absences fall; and the noon emerges, brandishing their rites of severance. I attest to such levitations of strange impulses. Yet, when the night descends, absences become tragedies; become spaces of anguish that come tumbling in tidal waves.
Absences throw infinities, as a skin’s immortal itch, where a lover’s caress plunders after the fingers have fled. Absences are infinities: there is the absence of voice; absence of motion over individual resolve, vision, including even the exercise of thought. Tyrants of every form and manner actually propose that liberty is found in this numbing kind of absence. Epochs of stagnation have been devoted to that notion; exhalations from cesspits and every enclave of constraint.
There is the absence also of thunders through a mist of rains, cascading down in diligent silence from furrows paved by the nameless servitors of fate.
There is absence within the presence of photographs, rather than within their own absence; absence even of the will to shun reminiscent ghosts of a distant past or demise, as exhumed by photographs; the kind festooned with crumpled skins and ancient faces bristling with light.
There is the absence of light; absence of ease in tumultuous corridors of light, where so few actually transcend into other kinds of light. There is also the absence of dialogues; which, for some, is no absence at all; but a rousing form of illumination; one not as surreal, however,as a warm clandestine touch, or the absence once more of such.
It all began with absences. It all begins with absences: all intimations and melodies of life, beyond mere presences; all pathos and catharses, beyond mere manifestations of self, as mere echoes returning, wearily.
Now I had returned from a distant world beyond a weary night. Now the morning stood before me, vast and numinous, yet vacant, like my roving eyes.
Now the ledge stank of absences. It had once borne the shadows of laughter and gods.
Oyin Oludipe is a poet, critic, and columnist. He was nominated as Young Writer of the Year by the Nigerian Writers Awards (2015). He is the Nonfiction Editor for EXPOUND.