Theatricals of Chaos by Olumide Manuel

In the beginning, God, black and beardless, wrote a poem and titled it I. This is how to know that God loves pronouns, that of all the aevum subjects in the eleven heavens, earths and hells, God takes only the pronouns personal.

But then a Cyclone raided through the library of God and I, the second poem of God after his own essence, fell. The light cracked, and I became one with jargon and chaos. The background of this (un)becoming played faraway thunderstorms and gentle moist earthquakes spinning along the screams of a pregnant woman. It happened on the seventh day but it is easy to suspect God of an intentional uninvolvedness.

And here comes the prototype of doomed relationships —on one end stood I, a kingdom of nouns collapsing into itself, and on the other end stood the Cyclone, whose fierce love created the prongs of dilemma, with its mud river of forever promises, and the hard place of an unhealing grief. These two built a town with the debris of themselves, they called it Chaos. When they first copulate, they made the infamous siblings you know as Time.

Some among you argue that God is the grandchild of time, and not the granddad. This is wrong and not worth debating.

Soon I left the town of Chaos, hungry for God, searching for God. But God is not a million lightyears away, God is only an hairlength away from the cradle of I’s last daughter, and God’s hand is always in the breastpocket of the second son. I didn’t search well, I would have found God in his backyard.

In the void that I left in the heart of Cyclone, She became a cruel queen and ruled with a devastating skirt. Her first son, Yesterday, became ruthless and difficult, always with a prank in his backpack. Her second son, Today, lived aimlessly, on pills and liquor, never realizing how princely he looked under the sun of sobriety. Her last daughter, Tomorrow, refused to grow out of the cradle.

I, on the other end of Chaos, didn’t find God. It was the wild mouth of the galaxy and I had to survive. I traded the last vestige of God’s signature on him to a parliament of owls, and in return I learned the wisdom to sleep under the darkness of graves, nights and teeth, and still witness the next raid of colours and death. At this point, I cried at every hint of sunshine. I felt regrets. I, the villain in every love story, broke the heart of God, then the heart of Cyclone.

The conflict struck when Yesterday tried to teach Today how to drive a lorry. Today was already drunk, he shouldn’t be behind any wheels, but Yesterday, in his prankster style, insisted they tried it. And soon, Yesterday knocked Tomorrow (she was toddling about) down. They hid her body in a grave, and swear with a bottle of vodka to never tell any being of what happened. But a breeze, maidservant to Cyclone, saw them and she reported to the Queen. She sent for them. They ran away. Tomorrow was their mother’s favorite, and she would kill them. She would avenge her daughter.

The winds soon caught up with Today, but Yesterday escaped their jets. The trial of Time became a hot topic, that I heard the rumours of the lips of leaves and decided to go and save the second family from the ruins of his absence.

At the notion of the trial, Cyclone sat in her throne of disturbed waters with a grief so sharp it cut the silence of God in meteors and judgement. Today pleaded not guilty. Today faulted Yesterday. Obviously, the sin of covering murder was heavier than murder, and more terrible now that the body of tomorrow was not found in the grave. Today faulted Yesterday again. It seemed everything wrong with Today had Yesterday’s hand in it.

But where was the body of Tomorrow? Who could have eaten the god-daughter of the Queen? Tomorrow’s Grave was called into the witness stand, and when it slumbered there. The winds slapped it with a digger and a shovel, it woke up and pleaded not guilty. He had slept, like all graves do, in the mouth of coffin. It was a streak of light penetrating through the backdoor that awoke it. And he found the body gone, and the mouth of the coffin was still locked from the inside. Whoever burgled the grave without shoveling it is more feral than the town of Chaos.

It was a mystery, but the Queen must pass her judgement, and she will be brutal. And her loneliness and grief will eat her more into a black hole. Every unit of Chaos was scared. Even the distant kingdoms, everyone was afraid of the repercussion. But what saved the world was the entrance of a faint light. He was more of a sigh than a light. He was frail, old as the skeleton of Chaos. He held in his hands a toddler, looking so much like Tomorrow. Except that her eyes are full of happiness and fireflies nested in her wild black hairs. The entrance seized everything, it healed the silence of God back into vapors and mercy.

It was the Queen who broke the magic. “Who are you?” Her voice, soft, a shadow of her being.

“It is I,” I said. And everything crumbled into everything. Order greeted Chaos, and the city sank.

In another dimension, God found a scroll under His cabinet. It was His favorite poem. He read it to himself, dusted it and shelved it back to its place.


Olumide Manuel, NGP IX, is a writer, a biology teacher and an environmentalist. He is a nominee of Pushcart Prize, and the winner of Aké Climate Change Poetry Prize 2022. His works have been published on Magma Poetry, Trampset, Uncanny Magazine, Agbowó Magazine, Up The Staircase Quarterly, Frontier Poetry, and elsewhere.