Archive for February, 2011




Christopher Okigbo is a Nigerian poet who was born in Ojoto, in the east, in 1932. He read classics at the University of Ibadan and rose through many education-related professions to become the West African Representative of Cambridge University Press. He was a lively conversationalist and had a creative disposition, borne out of his large appetite for reading.

But civil strife in Nigeria took his life quickly. When the Biafra war started, he stood for the secession-seeking Biafra region and was one of the early casualties of the war, in 1967.

But before he passed away, Okigbo published the volumes Heavensgate, The Limits and Other Poems, as well as long sequences in journals.

Here is a true pillar in the development of Nigerian literature.

The moon has ascended between us,
Between two pines
That bow to each other;

Love with the moon has ascended
5 Has fed on our solitary stems;

And we are now shadows
That cling to each other,
But kiss the air only


This is a poem of heartbreak. Christopher Okigbo conveys this feeling through the particular reference to nature, where all artists seek inspiration. He uses the air, the moon and two pines.

In many parts of Africa, such as Ghana and Nigeria particularly, the passage of time is measured by the moon. “Three moons” is “three months” for the Ewe people of Ghana, Togo and Benin.

Okigbo says the moon has descended between two pines, he and another. The pine is an evergreen tree, symbolising longevity. This means that the two people still live on. But times have changed for them.

And with its ascent, it took love with it in line 4. So the two of them have lost the love they shared. And it’s left them solitary; Left them as “shadows!” (line 6)

So, two “pines” which loved, now only “cling” to each other in line 7 and kiss only the air. This cling is not the meaning that explains “holding tight.” The word cling also means to have emotional need of somebody. A need that is not met. That is hard or impossible to satisfy.

So, Okigbo tells us that the parting was done, just like the rise of the moon, maybe just fleetingly. But it leaves an ache, a pain, a longing, a craving that is hard to meet. And that is the power of the poem.
I dedicate this to anyone who will ever read this and may be hurting while reading. The pines are evergreen; that is the ray of hope. Life goes on.