Poetry: For the fear of death

by Onyeka Nwelue

When I tell people that I sleep for two or three hours at night, they don’t believe me. At all. I honestly do. Not because I’m insomniac. I do, because I am afraid of the dark.

I fear death. I don’t still know how death looks, but I stay awake all night, thinking about it.

These days, I fear death, not because I am afraid to die, but because I don’t know when. I have learnt to live my life in a hurry. I never plan. I’ve heard people ask me about my plans for the next three years and I laugh. I laugh, not because I think the person is stupid, but because I see no meaning in planning for the next three years when you don’t even know what will happen in the next two minutes.

I had once written a poem, When I Die on a cold evening in Hong Kong, while I was completely depressed and lonely. This was last year. I will share it with you.

I will die young
this I know for I know
but behind I shall leave a legacy
packed with Truth and Honesty
to lead me gracefully to my grave

But when I die
weep you shall not
for if you do, you shall lose your sight
right there where you cry

I will die like a King
with pride, for the world
shall remember the good things I’ve done
and forgive my evil deeds
for when I was Alive, I was never perfect

So when I die
do not task any man to bury me
because from my wealth
I should be laid to rest

I will die a fulfilled man
though young I shall be
and in my heart, my prayers
I pray, be assured by Nature
for on Earth, I lived well

but let all men and women
from all corners of the world
not go home hungry
after my funeral

I will die leaving this little wish behind
for to my heart, it is very dear
as I hope the world understands
since I’ve asked a little
and I hope to be given

I will die on a Saturday
when the weather is mild
and I shall be sitting when I do
with a book on my lap
very young and vibrant I shall be

so, this is my last wish:

Do not take my lifeless body
to the Pope for I detest him
and not even to murmur a prayer
or even the white cassock-wearing Catechist
for I am the Enemy of ‘Organised Life’

This is insanity you’d say! It is not to me. Truth is that I have come to live my life in a hurry – sleep for two hours, wake up, go to my computer and write frantically, as if there is no time left again. And just like a friend asked me recently, ‘What is the purpose of your coming to this world?’

Honestly, my answer is: ‘I don’t know.’

I know that when I’m dead and gone, someone would know what the purpose was!

Onyeka Nwelue is author of The Abyssinian Boy.


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