Christopher died fighting in the Nigerian – Biafran civil war that raged through the late 1960s. Then Nigerian politics was in grave turmoil, the military was in charge and various parts of the nation harbored umbrage for the Igbo people of southern Nigeria. The Eastern region attempted to break away from the federation and this resulted in a bloody war. The Igbos lost the war, Christopher Okigbo became one of the first martyrs who died fighting for Biafran independence. In 1967 he penned this poem and in the latter part of the same year, he died.
Here I remember a piece that may seem forgotten, I remember a poet who was cut off in his prime.
Come Thunder (1967)
Now that the triumphant march has entered the last street corners,
Remember, O dancers, the thunder among the clouds…
Now that the laughter, broken in two, hangs tremulous between the teeth,
Remember, O Dancers, the lightning beyond the earth…
The smell of blood already floats in the lavender-mist of the afternoon.
The death sentence lies in ambush along the corridors of power;
And a great fearful thing already tugs at the cables of the open air,
A nebula immense and immeasurable, a night of deep waters —
An iron dream unnamed and unprintable, a path of stone.
The drowsy heads of the pods in barren farmlands witness it,
The homesteads abandoned in this century’s brush fire witness it:
The myriad eyes of deserted corn cobs in burning barns witness it:
Magic birds with the miracle of lightning flash on their feathers…
The arrows of God tremble at the gates of light,
The drums of curfew pander to a dance of death;
And the secret thing in its heaving
Threatens with iron mask
The last lighted torch of the century…