The Kingdom of the Mad
(for B.J. alias Biodun Jeyifo)
B. J., as you know, poetry,
for all exiles,
begins in Flight.
The British Airways plane hovered over Lagos,
like a wounded albatross, then, headed North, towards
Ibadan, emitting its jets of smoke over smaller cities:
Ife, Ondo, Abeokuta, Ekiti, and the green forests,
the markets, rivers, lakes, valleys, plains, mountains
and the smouldering savannahs of the hunch-backed
landscape we once called our country;
over the kingdom of the mad, and its greedy,
corrupt populace grinning gangrenously, below,
like wounds on a punctured, suppurating heart;
over Nigeria, a fiction on the edge of extinction.
It jetted round the neck of Olumo Rocks
like a curse, straightened its neck, blessed the skull
of the earth with its urine-streaked droppings,
then, banked westwards, its iron wings
scizzoring the wind and the clouds and the light with fury
like a hurricane nicknamed the tail of the devil.
Airborne, now, I look down. How secure
and powerful it makes one feel to look down,
from these heights, and see one's own country
and people as damned, see them as toothed vulvas
waiting to bite off and chew into pieces whatever
you put like a bone between their gaping, yapping,
flapping, oversized, omnivorous lips: food, foolishness,
manifestoes, your penis, even urine from an aeroplane,
raining down their open-ended throats like a sad,
lugubrious poetry ; the poetry of power…
And suddenly, it dawns on me that this must be
what it feels like, I mean the ecstasy of power. This is what
seduces us all. This feeling that one can soar above it all,
and feed on it, alone, like a gifted vulture,
like our late president who, it has now been confirmed,
died from an overdose of viagra pills.
Had esoteric tastes in women. Every hue and colour. Every shade
and shape. Every style. Every position. Including `The wheelbarrow'
which dumped him into his shallow worm-cushioned grave.
And so , B.J., from the comfort of this seat,
empowered by the cheap red wine,
the distance, the height, the British Council fellowship,
and, the dazzling, blinding light,
the country spreads out below like the carcass
of a gigantic cow rotting in the sun, its future, a capsized canoe
on the ox-bow loops of the river Niger crawling below.
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