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Chinyere G. Okafor



Seasons of Maine 10

(From Earth's Bar/chamber, 20-23).

I never forget that the earth is one. She only has different names in different sides of her body that carries her children, whom she has decorated with peculiar characteristics, as a mother would clothe kids in different costumes. Part of her body that carries Maine is covered with one color during the winter. 


Winter is a solitary spirit. It makes people lonely and cold. They walk very fast in order to escape from the cold weather. Some people migrate to warm places like Florida and California, hoping to come back to Maine during the summer. 1 also migrate, in my thoughts. I contemplate the beauty of winter. Winter coats the world with one color of exquisite sky white. Sometimes I think that it would be peaceful for the world to look like winter with one color, without the wrangling of racism. But one color would be monotonous. for it would exclude the colors of rainbow that mirror in the faces of the earth. Winter takes my mind to places of warmth. I look at the Atlantic Ocean in Maine, and wonder whether I can swim across to Nigeria, which is the land on the other side of the ocean. I remember a poem that I wrote in Swaziland (Southern Africa) during the winter season. Alone and gazing at the cows snuggling for warmth in a field that is dried up by the winter cold, I thought about the warmth of Nigeria and became nostalgic. I decided to write a letter to Ani, and came up with a poem.


My love for you grows in winter,
When the grass turns brown,
And birds return to their nests.
My love for you feeds on shrubs.
It eats the thin leaves of winter. …

Seasons of Maine 22


Spring quickly merges into summer. The character of Portland changes in summer. The streets fill out with people. The people smile with the sun. They have time to linger and tarry, to exchange fellowship with strangers. I take long walks at Deering Park. I meet others who like to walk also. It is easy to smile, ask questions, and give answers. I go boating with friends. Summer is a friendly spirit. It is joyous, with festivals, fireworks, and street parties.

“Sea food is the thing.” Mainers love seafood, and there is plenty of seafood. There is a festival devoted to seafood. It is the Clamp festival performed during the summer. I wonder why people weave festivals around food. In Nigeria, we have Yam festivals. Yam is a delicious tropical tuber that is very popular. In my community, Arochukwu, we do not eat new yam before the Ikeji festival. Ikeji is a festival of thanksgiving that marks the beginning of the year. It has various items of preparation, homage, rituals and ceremonies of yam, harvest, and chi (personal spirit). It also has feasting, masking, wrestling, dance and theater, on designated days. The climax of the festival is Eke-Ekpe when the nineteen villages of the town present masquerades and dances in a competition organized in the Town Square. Each village strives to outdo the others, so as to be the winner. Individual members of the community that make up the audience ‘dress to kill,’ as if they are also in competition. Colorful wrappers and headgears fill the place, and joy of life massages the soul. It is a spectacle to remember.

I recall Ikeji as I make my way to Falmouth, to participate in the clamp festival. People line the street for miles, carrying chairs and picnic bags. Of course, there are soda and ice cream vendors beside the road. The main attraction is the parade. It is a parade of the heart and soul of Maine. Every aspect of Maine’s culture is represented in the parade. Historical and contemporary veterans, automobiles, and fire engines, tell heroic stories of yesteryears and today. Seafood emphasizes the watery nature of the environment. There is a giant lobster in a float. There is fish in a float. There is a clamp queen that does not look like a fish, for she is a beautiful young

Seasons of Maine 23

woman with long black hair. Musical bands intersperse the line, so do mascots and clowns that play with the kids. It is a colorful parade of the past and present. It has the message of solidarity and patriotism. 

The clamp queen is very human. She even smiles and waves at us. I may see her again and I will recognize her friendly face. She is flesh and blood. Seeing her reminds me of another watery queen, Mami-wata. Unlike the clamp queen that is human, Mami-wata is a spirit. She is the subject of many tales in Nigeria and some other African countries. She can be found in streams, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, oceans, and any offspring of the watery presence of earth. She is said to manifest in many colors, but many stories describe her as sky clear in color. She has devotees who make covenant with her. She can give them wealth or fame in return for devotion. Some of the men are so devoted that they will not marry an earthy woman, because of their love for Mami-wata. The clamp festival has certainly made my mind to travel and connect with oral literature of Nigeria.
From Portland Hall, I move to an apartment by the ocean. Everyday, I witness the waters rise, sometimes as if it will engulf my house. I also witness the waters recede. I smell the ocean and observe the tides rise and fall. My body begins to anticipate the tides, which seem to recall the tides of my life in Portland. I begin to write about my Portland experience. 

The watery presence of Maine is very striking. It salutes me, welcomes me and follows me everywhere from Kate’s in South Freeport to my ocean apartment in Portland. Even when I accompany Nkenne and Michael to Gordon Haven in the countryside of Biddeford, nature follows me with beautiful lakes. I mean, there are so much of the ocean, the bays, and waterfronts everywhere. For me, Maine looks like a pregnant woman, brimming with beauty that is special. The moon is very large and bright. Sometimes it droops as if it will make contact with the water. The sun comes up with beautiful colors; red, amber, even blue and green. Sometimes I see purple. It is beautiful. What about the ocean, the lakes, the rivers and streams? This watery environment, with its natural beauty, is home to my soul. I try to capture it in a poem, but you cannot capture nature.

Seaso,is of Maine 24 

Streets of colors painted by the fall, 
World with one color made by the snow, 
Forests of crystal sculptured by ice rain, 
Watery presence punctuates the land. 
This is Portland.

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Page title: Excerpts - Seasons of Maine
Last update: December 1, 2009
Web page by C. G. Okafor
Copywright © Chinyere G. Okafor