Tag Archive | The Cliché Collector

The Cliché Collector/ Alchemist: Issue 13

A grebe leapt in my heart. My eyes, two lamps of light, held hers in glutinous intimacy. My lip muscles relaxed and my mouth hung like a virago’s in mid caterwaul. I took a step forward. She stood still, smiling wistfully. Suddenly possessed by ambition, I fell into her arms and together we sealed a lease of rapture. Your lips are caviar, I said, disengaging myself. She stared at me, two liquid bronze dots on her cheeks. I will call you Alhambra, I said. Without a word she took my hands. I found myself being led through a bend in the river… #My New Mistress September

[The lab. ALCHEMIST is observing everything within].

ALCHEMIST [relief stenciled on his face]: Maybe the lab is free of bombs. Maybe. But no regret having stayed away yesterday. [Coughs and swallows the phlegm]. We still have Ameh Comrade Godwin to thank for today’s specimen. Three rounds of applause for him, please. [Claps drunkenly. Stops as quickly as he had begun]. Someone must be eavesdropping: I heard a sound at the window. [Walks to the window and pokes out head]. Nobody visible… No, they must have hidden. [Moving away from the window]. I see death stalking me… [Shakes head]. Thanks, Godwin, for this –

Specimen – A BIG/ HEAVY BLOW

In the phrase Big and Heavy are robbers; you should have realized that. They are clumsy, but having the power of death, they slaughter without inhibition. Have you seen Ananaias of The Jero Plays? Congratulations if you have. Ananaias is a sterling representation of the murderous duo of Big and Heavy. A (brutal, enervating) blow has been dealt, not on the widow, widower, rape/ accident victim, e.t.c., as you would have us believe; but on the head of your story/ feuilleton. What we have now is a stunned page.  Grammar Nazis and linguistic snobs are sending you a free coffin…  [Grabs head, suddenly]

Headache? [Staggers out of lab].

The Cliché Collector/ Alchemist: Issue 12

Now August gathers her pants for a cold date with history. She had been a dull mistress and I am glad to let her go. I remember having looked forward to her coming; I recall the fervid conversations with her in my room. She had this zany habit of looking out the window and smiling whenever I am speaking to her. I had opened my box of troubles to her in the hope that she would take care of them – the abandoned essays, the turgid short stories, the bloody novel, and of course my enemy the poem. In retrospect, I should not have relied too much on her: she was a slut from birth. It is stupid to trust a slut. Go, August, go…

[Late afternoon. ALCHEMIST is seen sitting on a rock in the street just opposite the lab. Occasionally, he looks at the lab, uninterested. Pedestrians and passers-by watch him in amusement.

A VOICE [mockingly]: Your lab now scares you…

ALCHEMIST [Looking above his shoulder at the interloper]: Get behind me, fop: we have no business together.

SAME PERSON [helpfully]: Why roast in preposterous assumptions? You couldn’t have been a target. The bomb went off several metres away from your lab. [Walking away]. Your lab is safe; return to it.

ALCHEMIST [shrugging]: He doesn’t deserve another response, the fool. [Clapping both hands on his head]. More than five dybbukim gloat in Ameh’s article… [Spits out phlegm and stares right at it]. That’s one of them.


Hideous. Keep away from this devil; he belongs to the mad and stubborn. He is full of rocks and is entirely bereft of sauvignon. Expect rocks, not a sandal on the head: Your death has been decreed. By none but you. You will be stoned like Stephen. Unfortunately, a martyr you are not …. 

[ALCHEMIST walks off, shaking head in grief]

The Cliché Collector/ Alchemist: Issue 11

The American poet and pediatrician, William Carlos Williams, wrote, and I more than agree: “Compose. (No ideas/ but in things) Invent!/ Saxifrage is my flower that splits/ the rocks.” Well…. Headache is my hammer that splits the skull… my head bangs in the anarchy of wild dervishes… whorls of fire, unseen, scalp my skull… the keyboard retreats; the words, the letters, are blind…

You will recall that on the 3rd of June, 2012, Dana Airline Flight 9J-992 from Abuja crashed in Lagos, Nigeria, killing all 153 on board. Naija Stories, the destination of current Nigerian writing, made a call for prose/ poetry submissions to commemorate the event. Out of the hundreds of articles submitted, a few were selected and later published in e-book format. For putting up with the absence of TCCA yesterday, I am giving you a link to download the e-book at no cost: http://www.naijastories.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/So-We-Do-Not-Forget-Anthology.pdf .You will find a poem of mine there… 

Thank you…

[The lab. Stone-silent. The door clicks open and ALCHEMIST virtually floats in. He has apparently lost weight. His visage is streaked with vestiges of worry].

ALCHEMIST [flopping into a seat]: Everyone in the country is worrying except the crooks in power. Enough of them anyway. My days are vibrant; sometimes they are newspaper and tea convalescences… Today’s specimens are just a click away. See them here: http://www.dailypost.com.ng/2012/08/25/cynthia-osokogus-murder-my-daughter-never-rough-girl-mum/ [Coughs]. Ameh Comrade Godwin has been a blessing to TCCA. Let us hope he continues…  [Coughs again]. Uh-huh, let’s go…


It is apparent that books are the registers of history. If someone had not invented writing, had not invented the book, much of what we know today would be lost. BRING/ BROUGHT TO BOOK had been as apt as a sword and been received with near rapture at invention. Right now it embarrasses your essay/ story/ feuilleton, it frustrates the march of your elocution, it announces your funeral… [Shakes head]. Another slip, another threnody… Bury the great Duke; don’t bury my friend…  [Moving towards the door]. More than five dybbukim gloat in Ameh’s story. I’ll roast them in #12 of TCCA. A rendezvous you can’t ignore. Next week… [^(i)^]

The Cliché Collector/ Alchemist: Issue 9

I was rifling through the journals of my early teenage years and stumbled upon this:

In all the state you lie
You’ll be forever mine.
To thee will I clung till I die
Oh, my wondrous faith.
Venomous adders may surround thee
But then I will take your stake;
You my ethereal moon…
You hurt and my soul bleeds
For nothing compares to thee…

I spent a few minutes wondering how I had written it and the context of it. And then I laughed: back in my teenage years, I had, without much care for the meaning, scribbled down whatever arrested my attention. I also had the habit of writing on whatever was available – my school notes, margins of textbooks, pieces of paper. Everything. Much of these early writings have been lost, swept into the trashcan by my younger ones. I have been a prisoner of regret ever since. Regret is a brutal tyrant; regret is right now tearing at my lungs…

Save me…

[Early afternoon. The sun is gradually increasing in gold. It is apparent that the door of the lab has been shattered: bits of wood litter the ground. ALCHEMIST is seen five metres away, ambling to the lab, heads bowed. He stops right at the door and freezes].

ALCHEMIST [Puzzled, aghast, but quickly recovers composure]: Oh my God! Whatever happened here? [Reflectively]. I would have died. Thank God I sneaked out the time I did. Thank God. [Walking into the lab]. They tried. [Smirks mysteriously]. But they are incompetent. [Looks back at the shattered door]. Ha! Ha! Looking at that door, the prisoners of ennui would readily say all hell broke loose in the street. [Fingering his pince-nez]. By the way, that’s the first specimen for today –


Hell is the doll of the bored; the new zeitgeist. Hell has been the world’s fancy, attached even to most the infinitesimal of things. Apparently, most people cannot wait to be swallowed by its arcane depths. Why have they deliberately spurned the linguistic paradise? They alone know. They have magical powers and can invoke angels. Why, then, do they choose to conjure up a crone as barbarous in decrepitude as ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE? The hell is not in the great hubbub, not in the hullabaloo, not in the bedlam, not in the tumult, and certainly not in the scene of chaos and pandemonium that you want to describe; the hell is in the article/ essay/ feuilleton. Because it is in your interest, I shall blab: grammar Nazis and linguistic snobs are right now plotting your execution… [Looks ahead, sullenly]. Flee. Now. [Coughing]

Specimen two – BY AND LARGE

[Smirking]. So easy, and, oh, so hopeless. Kill that beast! Everyone knows you have a house under construction. The large ungainly beast in the premises brings no bricks, it brings no panes; it adds nothing but the ghastly forbidding visage of Grendel. Do you realize Beowulf has long exited the earth? There’s no saviour near. You have brought misfortune upon yourself. Now is the moment to trust your heels… [Sticks out tongue]. I should love to see you outrun a cheetah… Run, run, run!

[ALCHEMIST exits the lab, looking now and again at the damaged door].

The Cliché Collector/ Alchemist: Issue 7

Excerpts of a Pain:

“I opened the door of 10-8 with my own little klootch, and inside our malenky quarters all was quiet, the pee and em both being in sleepland, and mum had laid out on the table my malenky bit of supper – a couple of lomticks of tinned spongemeat with a shive or so of kleb and butter, a glass of the old cold moloko. Hohoho, the old moloko, with no knives or synthemesc or drencrom.”

──────── Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange

Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, part-written in the lunatic code that is Nasdat, was a strain to read. But I do not regret having plodded the pages of that book. You will love this book, the blood and the violence notwithstanding. By the way, what are you currently reading? How often do you have a book break?

Hey, I almost forgot. Where is the alchemist?

[“Behind you,” croons a voice. But for the moment no one is seen. A minute later, the ALCHEMIST walks in gingerly and moves straight to the window.

ALCHEMIST [opening the window]: I can see the wind collecting fealty from tree to tree. Poor trees, how violently they’re being robbed off their money! The ground is rich when the trees are poor… Today’s specimens cannot be shown, unfortunately. [Coughs].

Specimen one – A WIND OF CHANGE.

A wind of change indeed; your wind of change. Not mine, I’m warning you. [Splutters with laughter]. You have just earned – or rather been given – $100 in your dreams. What good fortune! Now show us the money. [Looks ahead introspectively]. Of course your pocket is as dry as a nightmare: nothing there. That’s how it is with a wind of change: you feel you have earned something when in fact you haven’t. Leave it at wind. Or at change. Even better, discard both of them. [Backing the window]. I will confess to you, the wind does changes things with serpentine celerity. It changes you from the living to the linguistic dead – if you officiate at the marriage of wind and change. [Scratching his chin].

Specimen two – SHORT BUT SWEET

The relationship (etc., etc) has ended but you remain a prisoner of its memories. And in your lassitude, or rather amorous indolence, you simply cooed “oh, it was short but sweet.” When grammar Nazis and linguistic snobs hear you say that, they convulse with mirth, drink glasses of vodka and dismiss you as naïve, sentimental, emotional – a teenager. Scalding. “Short” and “sweet” have been married for too long they’re beginning to demean and denigrate each other. Divorce them and the hosts of heaven will click glasses to your sagacity. Do it. Now.

[ALCHEMIST stares at the quartz clock on the wall, freezes, recovers, presses both hands on his stomach. Running out of the lab, he bawls: “I’m late for lunch!”]

The Cliché Collector/ Alchemist: Issue 6

Have you seen – I mean read – the book? I speak of Coming of Age in Mississippi, Anne Moody’s autobiography. I fell in love with that book and with its author as well. Does anyone out there know where Anne Moody is? I’m desperate to see her, if only to tell her how much I admire her. She used to be called Essie Mae Moody. Back in her childhood when she needed a birth certificate, Essie Mae, the name which she found somewhat embarrassing, was accidentally changed to Annie, and it pleased her. Apparently she had later done away with the i. Now the name is Anne.

Coming of Age in Mississippi is one dark tale of privation, mutilation and degradation, but with the underlying message that everyone can if they think they can. Anne Moody is a sterling example. It is unavoidably tempting to compare this book to Richard Wright’s Black Boy. In both books innocent tulips were bashed and told they don’t belong; they were stereotyped, dismissed as stupid and made to act like they were. It is not surprising, then, that, like the Bigger Thomas character in Native Son, another novel of Richard Wright’s, most blacks ended up as branches in the clockwork orange of hate… (Will review the book here later…) 

For now, just pass the word: John Anusie is determined to see Anne Moody…

[The lab. Enter ALCHEMIST, brushing his feet against the floor. On his right hand swings an ancient briefcase. His countenance is obviously ambiguous, alternating between amusement and exasperation].

ALCHEMIST [dropping the suitcase on a cabinet]: He wanted to borrow money. Am I a contractor? [Cackles]. But he didn’t move me one bit, that indolent neighbour of mine. [Opens briefcase and brings out a doll].


When a linguistic pretender made this doll, the world clapped and screamed approbation. The doll has since grown old and hideous – a fearsome crone – but most men still think her beautiful. They go out with her – to their ruin. In the linguistic paradise, a vast concourse is seen as actually waiting for GODOT. And you know what happens when you wait for GODOT. You get dusted by the wait of waiting. x:-P. Salute the creator of this doll: he has done well. But refuse to date his creation – you’ll die. [ALCHEMIST drops the doll in the suitcase, brings out another, larger, three-headed].


[Cackling in amusement] A Goringian bulk, three watermelons for heads. I wonder, is that why her name is To All Intents And Purposes? She probably eats garri, sushi and vol-au-vent at the same time. She’s obese and Gorgonian. And you can rightly say she goes nowhere. However good your intentions, however benign your spirit, you’ll flop ignominiously if you marry her. Already married to her? It’s likely grammar Nazis and linguistic snobs haven’t noticed. Unwed her now and be safe.

[ALCHEMIST drops the doll back in, clicks the briefcase shut, picks it of the cabinet and struts out of the lab].