Poetry
 
 

Abiku
 

In vain your bangles cast

Charmed circles at my feet;

I am Abiku, calling for the first

And the repeated time.

 

Must I weep for goats and cowries

For palm oil and the sprinkled ash?

Yams do not sprout in amulets

To earth Abiku's limbs.

 

So when the snail is burnt in his shell

Whet the heated fragments, brand me

Deeply on the breast. You must know him

When Abiku calls again.

 

I am the squirrel teeth, cracked

The riddle of the palm. Remember

This, and dig me deeper still into

The god's swollen foot.

 

Once and the repeated time, ageless

Though I puke. And when you pour

Libations, each finger points me near

The way I came, where

 

The ground is wet with mourning

White dew suckles flesh-birds

Evening befriends the spider, trapping

Flies in wind-froth;

 

Night, and Abiku sucks the oil

From lamps. Mother! I'll be the

Supplicant snake coiled on the doorstep

Yours the killing cry.

 

The ripes fruit was saddest;

Where I crept, the warmth was cloying.

In the silence of webs, Abiku moans, shaping

Mounds from the yolk.

           By: Wole Soyinka



Season
 

Rust is ripeness, rust.

And the wilted corn-plume.

Pollen is mating-time when swallows

weave a dance.

Of feathered arrows

Thread corn-stalks in winged

Streaks of light. And we loved to hear

Spliced phrases of the wind, to hear

Rasps in the field, where corn-leaves

pierce like bamboo slivers.

Now, garnerers we,

Awaiting rust on tassels, draw

Long shadows from the dusk, wreathe

The thatch in wood-smoke. Laden stalks

Ride the germ's decay-we await

The promise of the rust.

By: WOLE SOYINKA


The Call of the River Nun
 

I hear your call!
I hear it far away;
I hear it break the circle of these crouching hills.

I want to view your face again and feel your cold embrace; or at your brim to set myself and inhale your breath;
or like the trees,
to watch my mirrored self unfold and span my days with song from the lips of dawn.

I hear your lapping call!
I hear it coming through;
invoking the ghost of a child
listening, where river birds hail your silver-surfaced flow.

My river's calling too!
Its ceaseless flow impels
my found'ring canoe down
its inevitable course.
And each dying year
brings near the sea-bird call,
the final call that
stills the crested waves
and breaks in two the curtain
of silence of my upturned canoe.

O incomprehensible God!
Shall my pilot be
my inborn stars to that
final call to Thee.
O my river's complex course?
By Gabriel Okara


The Mesh
 

We have come to the cross-roads
And I must either leave or come with you.
I lingered over the choice
But in the darkness of my doubts
You lifted the lamp of love
And I saw in your face
The road that I should take.

By: Kwesi Brew

We Have Come Home
 

We have come home

From the bloodless wars

With sunken hearts

Our booths full of pride-

From the true massacre of the soul

When we have asked

‘What does it cost

To be loved and left alone’

 

We have come home

Bringing the pledge

Which is written in rainbow colours

Across the sky-for burial

But is not the time

To lay wreaths

For yesterday’s crimes,

Night threatens

Time dissolves

And there is no acquaintance

With tomorrow

 

The gurgling drums

Echo the stars

The forest howls

And between the trees

The dark sun appears.

 

We have come home

When the dawn falters

Singing songs of other lands

The death march

Violating our ears

Knowing all our loves and tears

Determined by the spinning coin

 

We have come home

To the green foothills

To drink from the cup

Of warm and mellow birdsong

‘To the hot beaches

Where the boats go out to sea

Threshing the ocean’s harvest

And the hovering, plunging

Gliding gulls shower kisses on the waves

 

We have come home

Where through the lighting flash

And the thundering rain

The famine the drought,

The sudden spirit

Lingers on the road

Supporting the tortured remnants

            of the flesh

That spirit which asks no favour

            of the world

But to have dignity.

 

By: Lenrie Peters

The Renegade
 

My brother you flash your teeth in response to every

     hyprocrisy

My brother with gold-rimmed glasses

You give your master a blue-eyed faithful look

My poor brother in immaculate evening dress

Screaming and whispering and pleading in the parlours

    of condescension

We pity you

Your country's burning sun is nothing but a shadow

On your serene ‘civilized’ brow

And the thought of your grandmother's hut

Brings blushes to your face that is bleached

By years of humiliation and bad conscience

And while you trample on the bitter red soil of Africa

Let these words of anguish keep time with your restless

     Step -

Oh I am lonely so lonely here.

 

By: David Diop



Waiting
   
Long-
er
than
the
y
a
w
n
of
the
moon
in
a
sky
so
brown
with
heels
of
fleeting
fancies
a
diamond
tear
waits,
tremulous,
in
the
eye
of
the
cloud,
dropping
Niyi Osundare


Our History to precolonial Africa
 

And the waves arrived.

Swimming in like hump-backed divers

With their finds from far-away seas.

 

Their lustre gave the illusion pearls

As shorewards they shoved up mighty canoes

And looked like the carcass of drifting whales.

 

And our sight misled us

When the sun's glint on the spear's blade

Passed for lightning

And the gun-fire of conquest

The thunderbolt that razed the forest.

 

So did our days change their garb

From hides of leopard skin

To prints of false lions

That fall in tatters

Like the wings of whipped butterflies.

 

By: Mbella Sonne Dipoko



Song of Praise
 

A Song of Praise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An oriki is a praise song or an attribution to a person. Praise songs are an important part of Yoruba oral traditions.

The following oriki was sung by one of Olowe's wives and reveals the extent of his fame.

photograph by Joyce M. Sims

 

I am...Oloju-ifun Olowe
Olowe, my excellent husband.
Outstanding leader in war.
Elemoso. [Emissary of the king.]
One with a mighty sword.
Handsome among his friends.
Outstanding among his peers.
One who carves the hard wood of the iroko tree as though it were as soft as a calabash.
One who achieves fame with the proceeds of his carving.
The frightening Esu his forbids being burnt.
The frightening Esu his forbids being hurt.
Whoever burns him [Olowe] invites trouble.
Whoever hurts him [Olowe] incurs the wrath of Esu,
[Esu] forbids that [Olowe] be publicly disgraced.
Olowe, you are great!
You walk majestically
And with grace.
A great man, who, like a mighty river, flows beneath rocks,
Forming tributaries
Killing the fish as it flows.

A river has no slaves,
His father had slaves
The unworthy dead are his father's slaves.

But, Olowe is honorable.
The son of one who dines with masquerades.
The son of the great elephant killer in the forest.
Even though he slaughters a dog at home
And a slave behind the house
He is only interested in joining them in consuming the dog.
He does not join them to eat Elekole's slave.
Although Elekole has a good name, his oriki spoils it.

The son of Elekole, who has an overabundance of clothes
And uses them to wrap the Ose tree.
His cloth is so plentiful that there is enough to throw away.
The one whose house is painted white [with lime chalk] right up to the gate.
Rather than being ugly, the lime chalk makes it attractive.
It is against Olowe's custom,
And so we do not use ego to drink water in his house.

My lord, I bow down to you,
Leader [senior head] of all carvers.
He is a great dancer,
Whose dancing entertains.
I adore you!
You have done well.
You have brethren who are not uninitiated.
The ignorant person who does not know his mother today will never know her.
You, the brethren of Ejige, where rituals are performed.
I shall always adore you,my lord.
He [Olowe] spends iroko money to achieve great things,
Who carves the iroko tree with the ease of carving a calabash.
Whoever meets you unawares risks
Becoming a sacrificial victim.
Whoever meets you unawares
Sees trouble.
I shall always adore you, Olowe!
Olowe, who carves iroko wood.
The master carver.
He went to the palace of Ogoga
And spent four years there.
He was carving there.
If you visit Ogoga's place
And the one at Owo,
The work of my husband is there.
If you go to Ikare,
The work of my husband is there.
Pay a visit to Igede,
You will find my husband's work there.
The same thing at Ukiti.
His work is there.
Mention Olowe's name at Ogbagi
In Use too,
My husband's work can be found.
In Deji's palace,
My husband worked at Akure.
Olowe also worked at Ogotun.
There was a carved lion
That was taken to England.
With his hands he made it.

 

From: The Yoruba Artist: New Theoretical Perspectives on African Arts. Edited by Rowland Abiodun, Henry J. Drewal, and John Pemberton III. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994; pp 100-102. Recorded by John Pemberton III, 12 June 1988, at Olowe's house at Ise Ekiti. Sanmi Adu-Fatoba transcribed the oriki and Rowland Abiodun assisted in the translation.



Outsider
 

Between the oyster-beach and the greens...

Sea and barren coast.

Between tresses of dark silver and reels of danger...

lonesome bird of the wilds!

I spat on the world from between my gums,

Shouted at the moon from between my lungs,

Hooted at the chirrupy mermaid of the dusk...

clever lad of goddam tribe!

Then came the winds, flushing hearts,

The rains came, drenching all their mirth,

Came thunder scattering all irrelevance..

happy child of the new testament!

There were tears, then, when I was born,

There were aches, too, when I was born

Tears to drop, and hearts to ache,

No brains to pry, no minds to try

Where, when I was born.

So take, take me away!

Send, send me away!

Let the gold I loved which never was

Delude its glory-minded prodigy.

Send, O send me away!

By: Micheal Echeruo

 

Native

Your eyes toe-set

thumb my nerves

as you weave

your being into frenzy;

and your tongue,

weaving a song,

painting the scenes

as I sit toe-dancing

Then you pull

those eyelids over

as you bend

downwards to dance

yourself into goddess;

And your waist,

swinging to rhythm,

answering the drum

as I look, headshaking.

Then light fades,

those scenes fly

as you stretch

your being, panting,

and your mouth,

muttering my name,

stifling my nerves

as I end my verse!

By: Okogbule Wonodi

(Dedicated to Miss Eunice Akaninwa and the village girls who do the dance I know well. 21:1:63)

 

Noliwe

The weakness of the heart is holly...

Ah! You think that I never loved her

My Negress fair with palmoil, slender as a plume

Thighs of a starlet otter, of Kilimanjaro snow

Breasts of mellow rice-fields, hills of acacias under the

East Wind.

Noliwe with her arms of boas, lips of the adder

Noliwe, her eyes were constellations there is no

need of moon or drum

But her voice in my head and the feverous pulse of the

night

Ah! You think that I never loved her!

But these long years, this breaking on the wheel of the years, this carcan strangling every act

This long night without sleep I wandered like a

mare from the Zambezi, running and rushing at the

stars

Gnawed by a nameless suffering, like the leopards in the

trap.

I would not have killed her if I had loved her less.

I had to escape from doubt

From the intoxication of the milk of her mouth, from

the throbbing drum of the night of my blood

From my bowels of fervent lava, from the uranium

mines of my heart in the depths of my Blackness

From love of Noliwe

From the love of my black skinned People.

By: Leopold Sedar Senghor



 

Songs of Sorrow

Dzoghese Lisa has treated me thus

It has led me among the sharps of the forest

Returning is not possible

And going forward is a great difficulty

The affairs of this world are like the chameleon faeces

Into which I have stepped

When I clean it cannot go.

I am on the world’s extreme corner,

I am not sitting in the row with the eminent

But those who are lucky

Sit in the middle and forget

I am on the world’s extreme corner

I can only go beyond and forget.

My people, I have been somewhere

If I turn here, the rain beats me

If I turn there the sun burns me

The firewood of this world

Is for only those who can take heart

That is why not all can gather it.

The world is not good for anybody

But you are so happy with your fate;

Alas! The travelers are back

All covered with debt.

II

Something has happened to me

The things so great that I cannot weep;

I have no sons to fire the gun when I die

And no daughters to wail when I close my mouth

I have wandered on the wilderness

The great wilderness men call life

The rain has beaten me,

And the sharp stumps cut as keen as knives

I shall go beyond and rest.

I have no kin and no brother,

Death has made war upon our house;

And Kpet’s great household is no more,

Only the broken fence stands;

And those who dared not look in his face

Have come out as men.

How well their pride is with them.

Let those gone before take not

They have treated their offspring badly.

What is the wailing for?

Somebody is dead. Agosu himself

Alas! A snake has bitten me

My right arm is broken,

And the tree on which I lean is fallen

Agosu if you go tell them,

Tell Nyidevu, Kpeti and Kove

That they have done us evil;

Tell them their house is falling

And the trees in the fence

Have been eaten by termites:

That the martels curse them.

Ask them why they idle there

While we suffer, and eat sand,

And the crow and the vulture

Hover always above our broken fences

And strangers walk over our portion.

By: Kofi Awoonor

'This is a poem that catches most pleasantly the tone and content of traditional lament...piling up images of sorrow' Nwoga.

Ibadan
 

Ibadan,

running splash of rust

and gold-flung and scattered

among seven hills like broken

china in the sun.

J.P. Clark

Olokun
 

I love to pass my fingers

(As tide thro' weeds of the sea

And wind the tall fern-fronds)

Thro' the strands of your hair

Dark as night that screens the naked moon:

I am jealous and passionate

Like Jehovah, God of the Jews,

And I would that you realise

No greater love had woman

From man than the one I have for you!

But what wakeful eyes of man,

Made of the mud of this earth,

Can stare at the touch of sleep

The sable vehicle of dream

Which indeed is the look of your eyes!

So drunken, like ancient walls

We crumble in heaps at your feet;

And as the good maid of the sea,

Full of rich bounties for men,

You lift us all beggars to your breast.

By: J. P. Clark

Love Apart
 

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

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

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

By: Christopher Okigbo

NewComer iii (for Goergette)
 

In the chill breath

of the day's waking

comes the newcomer

when the draper of May

has sold out fine green

garments, and the hillsides

have made up their faces

and the gardens

              on their faces

a painted smile:

such synthetic welcome

at the cock's third siren

when from behind bulrushes

               waking

in the teeth of the chill Maymorn

comes the newcomer.

By Christopher Okigbo

The Stars Have Departed
 

The Stars have departed,

the sky in monocle

surveys the worldunder

The stars have departed,

and I-where am I?

Stretch, stretch, O antennae,

to clutch at this hour,

fulfilling each moment in a

broken monody.

Christopher Okigbo

For He was a Shrub among the Poplars
 

For he was a shrub among the poplars

Needing more roots

More sap to grow to sunlight

Thirsting for sunlight

A low growth among the forest.

Into the soul

The selves extended their branches

Into the moments of each living hour

Feeling for audience

Straining thin among the echoes;

And out for the solitude

Voice and soul with selves unite

Riding the echoes

Horsemen of the apocalypse

And crowned with one self

The name displays its foliage,

Hanging low

A green cloud above the forest.

Christopher Okigbo

Olayimika
 

Song of a first born daughter to the beats of gangan.

I am the first fruit of your loins.
Seasoned with grace.
Seasoned with salt.
I stride to drumbeats.
Flywhisks attend my hands.
Like anklets of brass, joy encircles.

I am the consolation,
born for the day of affliction.
I am the vigour,
the virgin seed,
roosting under coverlets of aso-oke.

Down the winding road, I nurture the handkerchiefs
for champions who cry...
Behold the daughter,
your blessed harvest.
Your basket of plump yams.
Your scented one.

By: TOYIN ADEWALE


For Winifred Mandela
 

 

Madikezela mama

Madikezela mama

Soweto children cry

Soweto children die.

You’re in my way Apartheid

You’re in my way Apartheid!

 

You wept—you worked—you prayed

Beyond the iron walls of Robben Island

Rallied the people towards freedom

Healed the sick and raised black women’s pride.

You endured the hurts of your womaness denied

Postponed your orgasms for the revolution sake.

Banned and relegated to a nomadic existence

Stripped of your citizenship with your babies on your back.

 

Madikezela  mama

Madikezela mama

Soweto children cry

Soweto children die.

You’re in my way Apartheid

You’re in my way Apartheid!

 

Nelson calls you comrade now

His effort to define your consummated union

In the bed of the struggle—the bed of the liberation.

The wife he could not husband

The children he could not father,

While you the fearless womb’ed champion for the poor

Social welfare advocate for the motherless you adore.

 

Madikezela mama

Madikezela mama

Soweto children cry

Soweto children die.

You’re in my way Apartheid

You’re in my way Apartheid.

 

Now they don’t mine for the diamond and gold you carry

In your bosom—the cradle of the struggle;

Instead, they are digging for the dirt,

Underneath your fertile woman skirt.

Oh mama Africa—lawd it must really hurt.

You who gave blacks in the Diaspora reason to fight

Against the injustice, bigotry and anarchy of Apartheid

Now your beauty shrouded behind corruption

Oh mother of the world-nations-black,

Zulu gods must be crazy now.

 

Unkulunkulu Unkulunkulu

Unkulunkulu Soweto ma

Unkulunkulu Soweto ma

Madikezela mama

Madikezela mama

Soweto children cry

Soweto children die

You’re in my way Apartheid

You’re in my way Apartheid

You’re in my way

You’re in my way!

 

Freedom come

But we noh get none

Freedom come

But we noh get none

Freedom come

But we noh get none.

 

Madikezela mama

Madikezela mama.

Madikezela mama.

 

By: Andrene Bonner

 

Ode To James Baldwin
 



Berdis rejoiced at your arrival


Bright-eyed windows to the soul


First born. Black boy. Black man.


Leo. Lion heart. New York. 1924.


Black people in America were defining a culture.


A renaissance — a critical time when we took a stance.



Harlem was giving birth to black intellectuals


Revolutionaries—dancers—musicians—writers and orators.


An explosion of black churches on every Amen Corner


Stirs the conscience of the people live


Chant prayers for their redemption power.



Your youthful sermons rang the gospel bells of heaven.


Angels genuflect at your passion for black man’s freedom,


Where pearly white mansions pale to any urban shift of hope


From the ghetto’s of the north and the slave quarters of the south


Where you believe the Negro can become better than he is.



Winding railroads your hands did fashion


Vibrate with songs and cries of our ancestors.


Your black boygirl skin too feminine to shout Black Power,


Too feminine to articulate our cries against injustice—so they say.


And step-pa Baldwin say you so ugly as he defines manhood by


The revolutionaries: Marcus, Martin, Malcolm, Mandela, Ture and the Christ,



In a culture where spirituality and sexuality are as


Diametrically opposing as church and state.


So when you intone Go tell it on the mountain,


Many did not listen and Emmet Till dies over and over again.


Mother’s and fathers rage but for a welfare system to appease the pain.



Mississippi 1955. Whoa! Whoa! Black man burns. Still burns.


John Grimes still struggles to be understood,


A benediction to our suffering.


Those not so subtle Blues for Mister Charlie.


Did you really want integration Jim?


Did your really want to connect and not divide?



And they still murder the children. Evidence of things not seen.


And some blacks wait for justice in the sweet by and by


To avenge the sufferings that isolates them and,


Where the angels won’t contest their citizenship


And redemption songs will no longer be under big brother’s scrutiny.



And some black folk still find expression – find voice in Harlem.


And black girlish boys and boyish girls find Greenwich Village


Tolerable to their rhythm and blues--ballet jazz tap shoes,


While others find creative asylum in France


Where they can sing and rave Black dance.



For the darkness of our skin still intimidates America.


As behind white sheets and crosses they burn our houses.


Tell me Jim, whose Fire Next Time? By Andrene Bonner

Abiku
  Coming and going these several seasons,
Do stay out on the baobab tree,
Follow where you please your kindred spirits
If indoors is not enough for you.
True, it leaks through the thatch
When flood brim the banks,
And the bats and the owls
Often tear in at night through the eaves,
And at harmattan, the bamboo walls
Are ready tinder for the fire
That dries the fresh fish up on the rack.
Still, it's been the healthy stock
To several fingers, to many more will be
Who reach to the sun.
No longer then bestride the threshold
But step in and stay
For good. We know the knife scars
Serrating down your back and front
Like beak of the sword-fish,
And both your ears, notched
As a bondsman to this house,
Are all relics of your first comings.
Then step in, step in and stay
For her body is tired,
Tired, her milk going sour
Where many more mouths gladden the heart.
By J.P. Clark


One Special Market Woman
 

 

She spreads her legs wide open--cuddle bankra,

Frock falls graceful between her thunder thighs.

Breasts round like one big papaya--hides her secrets

Boat-neck cotton blouse makes her cleavage look divine.

 

She smells like Benjamin’s rose water

Dark and soft and smooth as Indian silk

Eyes like purple ripe star apples

Seen the world and many moons from where she sits.

 

Her head is crowned with bright bandana

Sweet sap leaf on forehead keeps her pressure down.

One lead pencil stuck behind her right ear,

Scratch down poor peoples debt from year to year.

 

Lips wide like gramma yesterday pudding pan

Makes her laughter more resonant— more infectious.

“Don’t touch me tomato if you nah buy,

Stop feel up feel up mi mango—you keep yuh small change!”

By: Andrene Bonner



Black Woman
 

Naked woman, black woman

Clothed with your colour which is life, with your form which is beauty!

In your shadow I have grown up; the gentleness of your hands was laid over my eyes.

And now, high up on the sun-baked pass, at the heart of summer, at the heart of noon, I come upon you, my Promised Land,

And your beauty strikes me to the heart like the flash of an eagle.

Naked woman, dark woman

Firm-fleshed ripe fruit, sombre raptures of black wine, mouth making lyrical my mouth

Savannah stretching to clear horizons, savannah shuddering beneath the East Wind's eager caresses

Carved tom-tom, taut tom-tom, muttering under the Conqueror's fingers

Your solemn contralto voice is the spiritual song of the Beloved.

Naked woman, dark woman

Oil that no breath ruffles, calm oil on the athlete's flanks, on the flanks of the Princes of Mali
Gazelle limbed in Paradise, pearls are stars on the night of your skin

Delights of the mind, the glinting of red gold against your watered skin

Under the shadow of your hair, my care is lightened by the neighbouring suns of your eyes.

Naked woman, black woman,

I sing your beauty that passes, the form that I fix in the Eternal,

Before jealous fate turn you to ashes to feed the roots of life. By Leopold Sedar Senghor

Requiem: 5
 

I shall sit often on the knoll

And watch the grafting.

This dismembered limb must come

Some day

To sad fruition.

I shall weep dryly on the stone

That marks the gravehead silence of

A tamed resolve.

I shall sit often on the knoll

Till longings crumble too.

O I have felt the termite nuzzle

White entrail

And fine ants wither

In the mind's unthreaded maze.

Then may you frolic where the head

Lies shaven, inherit all,

Death-watches, cut your beetled capers

On loam-matted hairs. I know this

Weed-usurped knoll.

The graveyard now

Was nursery to her fears.

By: Wole Soyinka


Who Buys My Thoughts
 

Who buys my thoughts

Buys not a cup of honey

That sweetens every taste;

He buys the throb,

Of Young Africa's soul,

The soul of teeming millions,

Hungry, naked, sick,

Yearning, pleading, waiting.

Who buys my thoughts

Buys not some false pretence

Of oracles and tin gods;

He buys the thoughts

Projected by the mass

Of restless youths who are born

Into deep and clashing cultures,

Sorting, questioning, watching.

Who buys my thoughts

Buys the spirit of the age,

The unquenching fire that smoulders

And smoulders in every living heart

That's true and noble or suffering;

It burns all o'er the earth,

Destroying, chastening, cleansing. 

By: Dennis Osadebay


Abiku
 

In vain your bangles cast
Charmed circles at my feet;
I am Abiku, calling for the first
And the repeated time;

Must I weep for goats and cowries
For palm oil and the sprinkled ash?
Yams do not sprout in amulets
To earth Abiku's limbs.

So when the snail is burnt in his shell
Whet the heated fragment, brand me
Deeply on the breast. You must know him
When Abiku calls again.

I am the squirrel teeth, cracked
The riddle of the palm. Remember
This, and dig me deeper still into
The god's swollen foot.

Once and the repeated time, ageless
Though I puke. And when you pour
Libations, each finger points me near
The way I came, where

The ground is wet with mourning
White dew suckles flesh-birds
Evening befriends the spider, trapping
Flies in wind-froth;

Night, and Abiku sucks the oil
From lamps. Mothers! I'll be the
Suppliant snake coiled on the doorstep
Yours the killing cry.

The ripest fruit was saddest;
Where I crept, the warmth was cloying.
In the silence of webs, Abiku moans, shaping
Mounds from the yolk.
By: Wole Soyinka


A Call
  She did not call me by name
Not by the name my mother gave me
She called me by another name
A word
I have not heard it before
Yet I knew it was me.
Will you come under the cashew tree beside the cemetery? I know no cashew tree beside the cemetery
No, I don't.
Yet I will go.
Perhaps a revelation awaits me
Have they discovered the coloured cowrie?
Or the specific herbs that will conjure
They perhaps have found the lost wanderer
I went after her.
She stood still beneath the cashew
And spoke not a word.
By George Awoonor-Williams


Meeting
 

When I arrive in Nairobi
I will be wearing a face
Not so different from
The one you saw some seasons ago.

My spectacles, now bifocal,
Their frames round-rimmed with the years,
Still sit on the humble bridge
Of my nose. I peep through them

Like a sage stitching the rags
Of a broken age.
You will find a moustache
Blooming patiently on the cliff
Of my upper lip.
And a mane, now low-cropped,
triumphantly salt-and-pepper
Delectably groomed.

By Niyi Osundare

When You See Me, What Do You See?
 

When you see me, what do you see?
Do your instincts tell you to clutch your purse?.
Or were you brought up that way and this is no longer a wasted verse.
Do you imagine a video girl or a rap star?.
Not knowing my achievements have taken me so far.
Do you think my conversations consist of cursing and Ebonics?.
Not knowing I tutored kids so they don't need hooked on phonics.
Do you see me as someone who uses the system?.
Not knowing the system keeps my people from true wisdom.
Do you think I cannot achieve in this life?.
Not knowing my rights.
Have been denied since light.
I am Buchi Emecheta, I am Langston Hughes.
I am bell hooks, I am Sojourner Truth.
I am Alice Walker.
I am a daughter.
A mother.
A sister.
A listener.
Innovator.
And Creator.
Toni Morrison.
I know I can.
I am Nigerian American.
So please grasp that ma'am.
When your purse is in your hand.

By Valerie, May 26, 2003


Dear Africa
 

Awake, thou sleeping heart!
Awake, and kiss
The love-lorn brow
Of this ebon lass,
Dear Africa.
Whose virgin charms
Ensnare the love-lit hearts
Of venturing youth
From other lands.

Awake, sweet Africa
Demands thy love.
Thou sleeping heart!

When the all-summer sun
Paints the leafy boughs
With golden rays,
Know then, thou sleeping heart,
Dear Africa stands
Knocking at thy door. 
By Micheal Deo-Anang


Servant-Kings
 

Leave them alone,

Leave them to be

Men lost to shame,

To honour lost!

Servant kinglets,

Riding to war

Against their own,

Watched by their foes

Who urge them on,

And laugh at them!

Leave them alone,

Men lost to shame,

To honour lost.

By: R.E.G. Armattoe


Art Sanctuary
  I would always choose to be the person running
rather than the mob chasing
I would prefer to be the person laughed at
rather than the teenagers laughing
I always admired the men and women who sat down
for their rights
And held in disdain the men and women who spat
on them
Everyone deserves Sanctuary a place to go where you are safe
Art offers Sanctuary to everyone willing
to open their hearts as well as their eyes.
By: NIKKI GIOVANNI


Revolution
  Great mob that knows no fear-
Come here!
And raise your hand
Against this man
Of iron and steel and gold
Who's bought and sold
You-
Each one-
For the last thousand years.
Come here,
Great mob that knows no fear,
And tear him limb from limb,
Split his golden throat
Ear to ear,
And end his time forever,
Now-
This year-
Great mob that knows no fear.
By: LANGSTON HUGHES


Idoto
 

Before you, mother Idoto,

          naked I stand,

before your watery presence,

          a prodigal,

leaning on an oilbean;

lost in your legend...

Under your power wait I on barefoot,

Watchman for the watchword at

          HEAVENSGATE;

out of the depths my cry

give ear and hearken.

By Christopher Okigbo

Watermaid II
 

Bright
with armpit-dazzle of a lioness,
she answers,

wearing white light about her;

and the waves escort her,
my lioness,
crowned with moolight.

So brief her presence-,
match-flare in wind's breath-
so brief with mirrors around me.

Downward...
the waves distil her:
gold crop
sinking ungathered.

Watermaid of the salt emptiness,
grown are the ears of the secret.
By Christopher Okigbo.


Streamside Exchange
 

Child: River bird, river bird,

Sitting all day long

On hook over grass,

River bird, river bird,

Sing to me a song

Of all that pass

And say,

will mother come back today?

Bird: You cannot know

And should not bother;

Tide and market come and go

And so shall your mother,

By: J.P. Clark

Night Rain
 

What time of night it is

I do not know

Except that like some fish

Doped out of the deep

I have bobbed up bellywise

From stream of sleep

And no cocks crow.

It is drumming hard here

And I suppose everywhere

Droning with insistent ardour upon

Our roof thatch and shed

And thro' sheaves slit open

To lightning and rafters

I cannot quite make out overhead

Great water drops are dribbling

Falling like orange or mango

Fruits showered forth in the wind

Or perhaps I should say so

Much like beads I could in prayer tell

Them on string as they break

In wooden bowls and earthenware

Mother is busy now deploying

About our roomlet and floor.

Although it is so dark

I know her practiced step as

She moves her bins, bags and vats

Out of the run of water

That like ants gain possession

Of the floor. Do not tremble then

But turns, brothers, turn upon your side

Of the loosening mats

To where the others lie.

We have drunk tonight of a spell

Deeper than the owl's or hat's

That wet of wings may not fly

Bedraggled up on the iroko, they stand

Emptied of hearts, and

Therefore will not stir, no, not

Even at dawn for then

They must scurry in to hide.

So let us roll over on our back

And again roll to the beat

Of drumming all over the land

And under its ample soothing hand

Joined to that of the sea

We will settle to sleep of the innocent and free.

 

By: J.P. Clark



Young Africa's Plea
 

Don’t preserve my customs

As some fine curious

To suit some white historian’s tastes.

There’s nothing artificial

That beats the natural way

In culture and ideals of life.

Let me play with the whiteman’s ways

Let me work with the blackman’s brains

Let my affairs themselves sort out.

Then in sweet rebirth

I’ll rise a better man

Not ashamed to face the world.

Those who doubt my talents

In secret fear my strength

They know I am no less a man.

Let them bury their prejudice,

Let them show their noble sides,

Let me have untrammelled growth,

My friends will never know regret

And I, I never once forget

 

By: Dennis Osadebay

African Easter
 

III Easter Morning

 

THE AFRICAN INTELLECTUAL:

 

Ding dong bell

Pussy’s in the well.

 

Another day….

 

Sleep leaves my opening eyes slowly

Unwillingly like a true lover.

 

But this day is different.

The lonely matin bells

Cut across the thin morning mist,

The glinting dew on the green grass,

The cool pink light before the heat of day,

The sudden punctual dawn of tropic skies,

Before the muezzin begins to cry,

Before the pagan drums begin to beat.

 

Easter morning.

 

But still for me

The great rock remains unrolled.

Within my wet dark tomb

Wounded peace remains embalmed,

The pricking thorns still yet my crown.

 

Easter morning.

Where are my ancestral spirits now?

I have forgotten for many harvests

To moisten the warm earth

With poured libations.

Where are you now, O Shango?

Two headed, powerful

Man and woman, hermaphrodite

Holding your quivering thunderbolts

With quiet savage malice;

Brooding over your domain,

Africa, Cuba, Haiti, Brazil,

Slavery of mind is unabolished.

Always wanting to punish, never to love.

 

I have turned away from you

To One who stands

Watching His dying dispossessed Son

Shouting in Aramaic agony

Watching the white Picasso dove

Hovering above the Palestinian stream

Watching and waiting, sometimes

To punish, always to love.

 

Sleep confuses my tired mind

Still the bell rings

I must up and away.

I am a good Churchman, now.

Broadminded, which means past caring

Whether High or Low.

The priest may hold the chalice,

Or give it to me. It depends

On where he trained. I only mind

That he wipes the wet rim

Not to spread dental germs.

A tenth of my goods

I give to the poor

Through income tax.

 

Easter morning.

 

Yet you Christ are always there.

You are the many-faceted crystal

Of our desires and hopes,

Behind the smoke-screen of incense,

Concealed in mumbled European tongues

Of worship and of praise.

In the thick dusty verbiage

Of centuries of committees

Of ecumenical councils.

You yet remain revealed.

To those who seek you.

It is I, you say.

You remain the sepulcher

Of my brown body.

 

Christ is risen, Christ is risen!

 

You were not dead.

It was just that we

Could not see clearly enough.

We can push out the rock from the inside.

You can come out now.

You see we want to share you

With our masters, because

You really are unique.

 

The great muddy river Niger,

Picks up the rising equatorial sun,

Changing itself by slow degrees

Into thick flowing molten gold.

 

By: Abioseh Nicol

Apocalypse
 

In the last days,

Strange sights shall visit the earth.

Sights that may turn to blood the moon,

This sun to midnight-in the last days.

 

But now, when swords are not yet ploughshares,

And spears still spears,

Hearken you, my little ones.

 

If walking, shaded by the mango tree,

Or running naked, scorched by this blazing sun,

You aught perceive

Now, while the arrow remains arrow,

And the miracle of spears and pruning hooks

Still remains an unseen miracle

Remember, my little ones

If perchance your infant feet do slide

And you find yourselves in some mysterious dungeon

Of black vengeful Sasabonsam,

In realms where dogs make speech,

And horns adorn the human front;

Where mermaids in their skirts of silvery scales

And chattering sea beasts flout mankind-

If in this strange sub-human realm

Your eyes fall on a stone, a hard black stone,

Lifeless and muddy, that has grown a beard,

Pray children, pass silently by.

Ask no questions.

For you are face to face with the first days

And the beginning and the end are one.

 

And in the end shall strange sights visit earth,

Stones shall be turned to men

And men to stones;

Sparrows beget eagles

And sand become good grain.

 

So children,

If perchance you see a hare that roars

Or an ape perched in a palanquin,

Look on in silence. Quickly pass by.

Quickly.

 

By: Frank Parkes

Be Nobody's Darling
 

Be nobody's darling;
Be an outcast.
Take the contradictions
Of your life
And wrap around
You like a shawl,
To parry stones
To keep you warm.

Watch the people succumb
To madness
With ample cheer;
Let them look askance at you
And you askance reply.

Be an outcast;
Be pleased to walk alone
(Uncool)
Or line the crowded
River beds
With other impetuous
Fools.

Make a merry gathering
On the bank
Where thousands perished
For brave hurt words
They said.

Be nobody's darling;
Be an outcast.
Qualified to live
Among your dead.

By: Alice Walker

Letter Home

By:Afam Akeh

in the fourteenth year

Where the largeness of the dream
is touched by the smallness of one's England
there are travel guilts a wayfarer sheds
like loose feathers or discarded skin.
The flight so far is full of fret.
This island is a perch to many birds,
home of sorts to the travel worn,
lost in transit, storied swallows
and things out of touch with their beginnings,
harried between exclusions and inclusions,
tortured by absence,
as spoiled for options but without choice.

One day grown is soon a decade.
What was closest becomes farthest,
what was precious, rooted, loving,
what assumes presence because always absent.
The longing glows for
the woman who was my beginning,
and her man my familiar flesh.
I list losses, claim my gains,
in places where memory is always loud,
between the furies caged in silence,
between the present and past elsewhere.

England is not unloved.
To kiss the nipple of an English dawn
is betrothal not betrayal, is memorial,
is the heart content, disarmed by birdsong.
One thinks mostly of smells and touch,
of Spring on treetops,
broadcast voices with memorial roots
in a childhood of wonder and dream –
the certainty then through the uncivil war
that life was English, peace English,
the future Cotswolds, English
as the rhymes one clung to for life,
dreaming beyond the uncivil war,
practising English for an English day.

England is not unlived.
Cakes, ales, but also carnival,
England is not only the English.
Think of Summer blown across the seas
bringing the sounds of other climes,
not just birds but tales of loss.
Much sacrifice in the histories
from which some come,
bearing their grief and many gifts,
a vision of London distant from Trafalgar
as the Trafalgar Square.

Pub life, punt life, “inn-keeping with tradition.”
Alone with dumplings, I announce my face.
I am a separate table, I know I am.
Humour is the unseen enemy,
pointing, probing, defining traditions,
ruling the tongues of engagement.
Suddenly shrunk by laughter,
the others to whom I am not present,
a mirror one sees into without seeing,
lab rat, cuddly toy, a Christie mystery,
something exotic as elsewhere.
They are laughing in English,
sharing a refuge in language.
Me too - I think in English.
My laughter is the alien dumpling.

“En-ger-laand! En-ger-laand! …”
This sense of being owned and not owning,
not being English in England,
some kind of circus watched every turn,
the transitory sun in its setting,
waking as from a dream with sounds of absence,
that vacant road travelled on promise
and Earl Grey tea,
discounting day trips to the regatta,
and castles, races, football at the terraces
- En-ger-laand! En-ger-laand! -
dressed English by a dream of England
the counties never dream of their greens.

Interpretations, interpretations…
Of knowing and not knowing
what is preferred or denied,
a word out of rank a call to arms,
that common refuge in weather talk,
the secret codes of natives in conversation.
And so, to the weather those who care,
to lightning flashes and storms over Dover,
skies with burst bladders
on mornings of graft and cappuccino,
to the safety of rains and heavy coats,
to muffins, gardens and estrangement.
This sense of having and not having,
knowing and not knowing England.

So one dreams of home and sunshine,
familiar odours, common folk
and their common talk, the lingering lust
for days of colour and vocal chords,
children playing, mothers calling,
streets loud-speaking their wares.
Then travellers and revellers,
a carnival one grows an ear for,
this dream unspoiled
until waking to familiar reports.
Then broken people, lost causes,
death, despair, the stories one mulls over
tea and croissants and tears.

Let it be told of this moment in our story
how the gecko, finding no life
among its kind, sensing
the warmth behind other doors,
forsook the wild and fled its own,
seeking refuge in a distant compassion,
living at the border of a new life.
Let no one detest its choice.
Pain is the chief guide,
the road out of death primal choice.

That road also the first lie.
Life without death, without dirt.
Infants suck at it.
Manic monkeys swing for it.
In Summer light, Bonn Square,
Oxford drunks disputing like dons
thread their vision of a world without law.
But the living is the dying,
one day emptied into another,
that rolling of shifts also in England
as in that distant familiar
one imagines now
as a dream, another dream.

And sometimes you think you know,
sometimes you know you don't.
The familiar is not long familiar.
What is not soon becomes, then is not again,
Home is not only hearth but also heart,
where the breath is and where the wreathe is laid,
spaces with remembered voices, tales untold,
times without record… home is finally only place
and place has the stories of all in it.

Oxford bells its people to lunch.
They queue for sushi and sundry fries,
sandwiched lives bridging the distance
between the pie and the burger.
They come from everywhere
with laundered lives, and laughters
echoing the differences of silence.
Many are lunchtime lovers, friends,
substitute families for the hugs frozen
in postcards and remembered pasts.
In rain or snow, out for sandwiches and more,
adopted by a city that cannot feel them,
they are home in generous Oxford
and also travellers, in harmony but also not.
Always the distant country,
home is a hunger beyond lunch.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

Afam Akeh

Letter to Soyinka

The children of this land are old
Their eyes are fixed on maps in place of land
Their feet must learn to follow
Distant contours traced by alien minds
Their present sense has faded into past.

(Wole Soyinka Samarkand and Other Markets I Have Known, 2002)

I am that brood of brats you haunt in verse.
Some feet I know may never walk home.

They are alien to any land.
Memory is not their friend.

They have lived many lives,
are too many lies from childhood.

I am with my fellows less convinced.
I have shit. And I dump.

I dump in poems. I dump on people.
I dream of home and dump.

The world I walk is not your world.
It has neither clarity nor empathy.

I don't attach. I detach. I am old at faking love.
Not good to be this dry, without oil,

moisture, the old validations, lost in loss
and its foggy sense of years.

Born to a land at war with its young
I fled and still flee.

Not that I quit: I reclaim my stolen life.
Not that I fall, but I wrestle with history.

And you know, you already do.
You too have lived this dark.

Your faithfulness unsettles me,
this sacred trust, your love of land,

all your roads leading home, the homecomings
never far from the departures.

What potion has your name on it?
Is it the weather or women,

the gods that failed,
Ogun the capricious, your avatar?

Is there divorce from a love
that would make and also break?

What talent in your beard is counsel
for my fellows this day of doubt?

For this much is our “present sense”:
Love changed and we changed with it.

We who were never suckled,
we play possum, play chameleon,

play dirty, and dump: refuge hunters,
parallel lives with undead pasts,

breeding abroad unsettled by home.
Distant. Defiant. Divided.

If we end as we have lived
we will be buried away from you.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Rust by Amatoritsero Ede:

(For Nathalie Desverschere)


                                             since you left
                                                     silence has invaded my heart
                                                a stillness sits upon my bones


                                             rust has set in where the joints
                                             were nimble and free
   
     
                                              those motes flying around the electric bulb
                                                     now crowd around my mocked head
                                                                         like christ's sad bitter crown


                           your departure has exacted a penalty
                                        the rabbits in my garden
                                            do not nibble and play


                                                  crouched in  grave-like mounds
                                                             they mourn the setting september sun
                                                               grey patches of grief
                             

                                                dotting the happy green on a darkening day
                                                            knowing that the rust of  a cold cold winter
                                     is spreading           etched already into this bed of grass



                                                         your going has exacted a riot
                                                 the clock has stopped
                                                          between my legs


       
                                                   it can no more mark the seconds and minutes
                                      of the breathing-in and the breathing-out of your thighs!
                                                     
                                        knowing  that the winter shall be an unbearable weight

                                   

                                             come back or I 'll desverschere!

 

___________________________

  Anike by Amatoritsero Ede:

(for Rose Williams)

                                                         her gentle halting voice
                                                                                     -the broodings of a
                                                                                      quiet volcano



                                                        quiet lava pressed down
                                                        with ready smile splitting her lips,
                                                        pressed down


                                                          the heat by some inner mechanism
                                  turning on the cooling valve of a languid walk

in the     morning                                                                                                                               



                                                         in the afternoons frenetic gestures betray
                                                                 restless lava inside her navel

                                                         and at night
                                               when she finally explodes
                                                         you shall have ashes in your mouth


                                                          fire on your tail
                                                          earth shall tremble
                                                          as the volcano coughs. 

 

 




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