If All

By Uche Ogbuji


Earth Day blessings, 2011
Elu anughi, Ala ga anu.—If the heavens don’t hear, the Earth will hear. (From an Igbo proverb)

If all the skies were sewers
If breezes made us gag
If flocking birds were charnel herds
What would our lungs for swag?

If all the seas were petrol
And all fresh water slops
If all the fish thrashed feverish
What sap for veins and crops?

If every storm’s potential
Were parboiled troposphere
If hurricanes swept all our planes
What home could persevere?

If all the ice were ocean
Fresh gems in tidal crown
If deep marine stole all the scene
What husbandry would drown?

If all wild beasts were slaughtered
All livestock engineered
If feed were chemic seed
Would we evolve upon the weird?

If all our wealth turns garbage
If all our pleasures rot
If waste divides swell algae tides
What mutants lie begot?

If all the trees were severed
All bushes put to flame
If smoking shoots served us for fruits
Would all accept the blame?

If all our vision’s shallow
And all our cares a sieve
If market gains short all our brains
How shall our children live?

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UCHE OGBUJI is a founding editor of the TNB Poetry section. He is also co-creator and co-host of the Poetry Voice podcast. His short collection of poems Ndewo, Colorado (Aldrich Press, 2013) is a winner of the 2014 Colorado Book Awards. To expand a bit, Uche Ogbuji was born in Calabar, Nigeria. He lived, among other places, in Egypt and England before settling near Boulder, Colorado where he lives with his wife and four children. Uche is a computer engineer (trained in Nigeria and the USA) and entrepreneur whose abiding passion is poetry. His poems, fusing Igbo culture, European Classicism, U.S. Mountain West setting, and Hip-Hop influences, have appeared widely. Uche also snowboards, coaches and plays soccer, and trains in American Kenpo. You can catch more of the prolifically fraying strands of his life on his home page, or, heck, even on Twitter.

18 responses to “If All”

  1. Zara Potts says:

    May this not come to pass…

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      You know, Zara, I kinda like the idea of your standing fast at the narrow bridge in the grim sepulchre, staring down the balrog figure of our proverbial ruin as you issue the fleeing on to safety, then with the elegance of Athena, invoking the words of Gandalf, you bellow “This shall not come to pass!” 🙂

  2. Zara says:

    I like that too!
    “This shall not come to pass!”

  3. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    This poem says what’s been lingering my heart for ages. Thank you for giving these thoughts such beautiful expression. It’s not too late. Not yet.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Oh that really means a great deal to me, Ronlyn, especially since you wrote one of my favorite contemporary poems on the topic of how we abuse Nature (“Mother’s Bleeding”). Thanks you. And I agree it’s not too late. Mother Nature is an awesome power, and our children will only stand for our wrecking their legacy so long.

      • Ronlyn Domingue says:

        Wow, thanks, Uche. What an incredible compliment. I don’t have children, but that doesn’t make me any less concerned about the future for the ones who are here and yet to come.

        Keep sharing your powerful gift!

  4. Irene Zion says:

    You are a true poet.
    This was wonderful.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      Aw you’re just saying that because you know I love you.

      BTW I got what you sent me in the mail today. Got a good kick out of it, and it reminded me of this:

      Fintan O’Higgins recites “Poet proposes marriage to Beyonce Knowles” to folks at dinner. What better apĂ©ritif than a lyric beginning “BeyoncĂ© oh BeyoncĂ©, would you be my fiancĂ©e?” 🙂

      • Irene Zion says:

        Thanks, Uche,
        That was quite a kick, that video!
        Beyoncé once had an apartment across the water and some buildings from our house, but she lived up really high.
        Victor used to pretend that she was watching him when he was outside gardening.
        I told him she was surely pining for him.
        But, I guess he broke her heart, because she moved away….

        • Uche Ogbuji says:

          Wow. I almost missed this. You simply must get Victor to write/dictate/whatever his memoir some day. Sounds like he has had all manner of entertaining episodes. I know you’re definitely doing your part with your TNB pieces (drug reaction en route to South Africa, the Florida mall upskirt episode, etc.) but then you keep on slipping us even more tantalizing nuggets 🙂

  5. kristen says:

    A sad and lovely song, Uche. I love sieve/live…

    You by chance a fan of Wendell Berry? He sprang to my mind on reading your poem.

  6. jmblaine says:


    uche uche uche

  7. 1159 says:

    Here I am
    E flat minor
    singing for
    your mother
    & my mother
    midnight in
    belly of
    the whale
    at the bottom
    of the

  8. Uche Ogbuji says:


    “…and should not I have pity on Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand, and also much cattle?'”

    Definitely sounds like those who do nod heed the lessons of their mothers. And of course…

    “The waters compassed me about, even to the soul; the deep was round about me; the weeds were wrapped about my head.”

    But the poem is written in warning, and not despair. I do believe that we’ll be vomited out of the the worst of our self-made consequences. We attack our mothers, and in the end they save us.

    Happy Easter, friend.

  9. J.M. Blaine says:

    & I looked,
    & behold
    a pale
    & he that sat
    upon him,
    his name was

    Then I saw a new
    & a new
    for the first
    & the first
    had passed away,
    & the sea was
    no more.

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