To My Late Teacher, Nigel Henry – Azeezat Okunola
In memory of my loving teacher and friend, Mr. Nigel Derek Henry, the longest-serving academic member of staff, University of Ibadan, who spent over four decades nurturing students in the various sub-disciplines of Classics, especially in Greek and Latin languages and literatures, M.A. (Classics) with First Class Honours (1969–73) from the University of St. Andrews, and the B. Phil in Classics (1973–75) from the University of Oxford, and who died on the 30th day of January, 2021, at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, I dedicate this poem:
If in some enstranged sleep, you too could sit before him, obvious breaths like veins in the soil, old fingers clinging to familiar glasses, double-bent face, like an angel soaked in acrimony,
If in the giggles of your kids, you could hear, with every turn and twist, the coughing of bones and muffled whispers of sickly muscles, like garglings from lungs of a soldier, lewd strains on the heart of a conscript,
If every flame that cracks is a poem, a shadow, a memory of night candles thick white like the clouds and waxing hot, a blue denim jean, a white t-shirt, the hieroglyphs of a non-comformist, drowning, choking, guttering,
If in some quantum space, you could stand by his bedside, watch all the mischief his eyes once held disappear into the night like stormy dust flying loose on 9/11,
Would you still tell tales of brazened trees and classical myths or would your hearts soar like a queer sardonic rat’s?
Would you line the train of his memorial, stand above his corpse, whispering lyrics born of the heart of chastised men and scribbled on the graves of warriors, or would you walk the same path hoping for Immortality?
…in all, I’m glad I took the opportunity to spend time with him, and told him to his face, how much of a rare gem he truly was, while he still walked the earth. I’d forever be grateful for the amazing classes, for the helping hand, for those invaluable conversations and for unapologetically being you.❤️