Onye's uncle would take him into the forest
to bring back wood to carve a drum
round and moonish.
Deep in the Nigerian forest they could
search for days.
By feeling the tree his uncle could know the vibration
it would carry into the drum
and by tasting it, he could hear the sound
of the instrument that would later accompany
the yam farmers as they opened the
fertile ground in the morning .
He was also a mask carver and this was how it went,
the soul of the tree coming into
his hands along with the planet light and sunlight
that had trickled through the canopy
down its limbs,
and the stars that fell like lights
from the ancestors nodding their heads.
The moon would show its eyes through slits
and they would lavish the drum head
with animal brains to make it last.
The ones that resonated to the furthest outposts
of the universe
came from trees hit by lightning.
You can see it come over this African when he plays-
The lightning comes down into the top of his head,
into his hands and then the skin.
The beauty is, he can't be burned
because his head is partially composed of stars
and so it is true he has healed
and brought fertility
and sent the dying up to the open arms
of the ancestors
with this drumming from the heart of the forest.
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