Lengthy Poem Contest

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Defenestrationism.net is proud to present the

Runner-up for our Lengthy Poem Contest

Although we can include only three finalists in contention
for the 300 dollar grand prize, we couldn’t pass up
Signage That Murder English
for publication.

Fan Voting remains open through May 1st.
Winners announced May 2nd.

Signage That Murder English
Stanley Ikechukwu Echebiri

Across the length and breadth of Nigeria,
abound and litter signage and signage
that repel than attract who reads them,
because they char meaning out of English.

On street corners, nooks and crannies, even
you find them,
in shapes and sizes enough to swallow words.
In colours that side by side
would pale visibility out of the rainbow
fonts and styles that threaten calligraphy,
you find them bold and beautiful;
‘Notice me’, they shout.
Plus the art, and meanings they fail to convey,
they share more things in common.

On a crowded area in Central Lagos,
like a graffiti, one adorns a wall
cautiously it warns;
‘Do not write on the wall’,
but like a collage, it defaces the wall.
It reminds me of the one in a police station
that says;
‘Police Station – do not dump refuse!’
‘Other by police!’ It proudly says.

A signage claims that
it recruits nannies and maids for
who desires of their services;
‘Our domestic staffs come with peace of mind,’ it claims.
A great relief if you have tried to recruit one on your own lately;
‘For living and non-living nanny – contact us’
it announces.
Who wants a non-living nanny? I ask
until I realized, it meant live-in.

Downtown Mushin,
a cool signage invites customers to a unisex salon;
‘International barbering saloon’ it announces
‘Come and cut your head!’
My God! Who wants to cut his head? I scream,
but it gets funnier;
‘Our prizes are affordable – not cut-throat!’
it emphasizes
and yet, another line below beckons;
‘Plate your head here’.

And then, I notice this one
in a realtor shop,
there are many of them in Lagos;
‘4 bird room flats for sale’ it displays.
I could not contain myself,
again I was angry
because, the realtor shared the same block with
a veterinary or animal care officer
who should have helped out.

But one moment
I knew why
when I looked at the signage
on the veterinary shop,
in bright colours, it advertises;
‘We sell dog children – boys and girls’.
Do they mean puppies?
I asked a man passing by,
read the signage now! He charged.
Maybe there’s something I missed, I felt
and then I looked well
the signage had given details;
‘We sell all breed, bulldog and East Asians’
East Asians? What breed is that?
Alsatians! The owner…they called him Doc,
replied me.

I’ve had enough for the day
I should find something to eat
so I looked out for a restaurant,
but more for signage that murder English
in Lagos,
in the canteen I found one;
‘Liking finger restaurant’, it claims
‘The Lord is my straight’, was the slogan.
I looked at the menu;
‘Snacks – meat piles, egg role, do not, fish pile’
I didn’t mind the ‘pile’, but the ‘do not’
a snack or what?
Ah Sir! You don’t know doughnut? the Salesgirl reminded me,
okay, I waved her away.

What a funny day I’ve had, I murmured
looking over to a church opposite my table
another colourful signage;
‘Run for your life international church’, it reads
and who would go to worship here? I sighed
and then, the crowd or congregation trouping
out of the church hushes me up
I remembered, it doesn’t matter
Nigerians, like Boxer in animal farm
are wont not to read things.

I wanted to rise and leave
then I noticed another signage – a job advert
at least the board was not large,
so the write-up or words were not as bold
as they were embarrassing.
What does it say? I read
Aha! I was not disappointed;
‘A male salesgirl urgently wanted’, it announced.

I sighed and left,
but in my silent mourn for English
I noticed a funeral shop
and yet another signage.
Do funeral shops now use signage in Nigeria?
I wondered
what would the signage say?
Daringly, it was the boldest and most colourful
of all the signage I had seen
it was a mosaic, collage or whatever you dare to call it,
the signage claimed many services the
shop rendered
undertaking, an all inclusive funeral package;
‘Give your loved one a befitting funeral – we design epitaph,
headstone and memory-lingering funeral orientation’
Jesus Christ! Who needs funeral orientation? I queried
‘It’s ‘oration they meant’, a man corrected.
I shook my head
and left finally.

FAN VOTING for the 2022 Lengthy Poem Contest
continues for two days more,
until Sunday May 1st at 11:59PM IDLW timezone
— which is the last time !anywhere on Earth!

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