Two Poems from Where the Baedeker Leads

A poetic journey of departures and arrivals, James Yeku’s latest poetry collection Where the Baedeker Leads (Mawenzi House) travels through the spaces of personal transitions and experiences to the more physical journey of being pushed away from home—to new places that sometimes revive old and painful memories of all that has been left behind. Read on for two poems from the collection, below.


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Here, right in these daydreams
of dithering rhymes and rhythms
wherein metaphors scurry out
to witness the kisses of parted hearts,
a poet is not to be trusted with words.
Delicate as the perching of a half-moon
upon sly and seductive skies
are the incantations of his artful epithets.
He labors through soulish labyrinths,
as a hero questing for an unknown self;
the pilgrimage of the seeking warrior
ends at these crossroads of language.
Poetry is born, so is the union
of strange tales and tongues. Here
is where the Baedeker leads:
this doorway to arcane futures.
    Take a Knee
The art of being black when all lives matter
Is no art at all, only inchoate rhymes demanded
by alter egos and unloving allies.
Through the seasons of our lives, our knees
have bended to the wishes of blazing guns,
             choking smokes
from firearms in the blue hands
                       of law-abiding ogres.
Heralding an avalanche
of rocks and bottles, they scoff at US
for kneeling but march to kneel their rage
on the neck of Justice.
A clash of bended knees and occupied breathing
stumble against one another,
the flames of fury whitewashed into silence.
Struggling, the soul bestriding realms,
succumbs to stillness, eternal.
But we bend the knees again, chanting
what matter in Blues of protest,
to reclaim beautiful bodies and stories
from a broken country.

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James Yeku
is a Nigerian-Canadian writer who lived in Saskatoon for six years before moving to Lawrence, Kansas, where he is an Assistant Professor of African Digital Humanities at the University of Kansas. He teaches introductory courses in African studies, Black masculinities, and digital literary studies. Yeku’s poetry and fiction have been recognized with awards and nominations, including the University of Ibadan Okigbo Poetry Prize in 2008 (first runner-up).