Tanure Ojaide's "Womb-wrapped" continued from Previous Page


On either side drum-carving trees--
I hear heartthrobs, mortal fear of fire.


The young fisherman caught cowries in his net--
his priesthood in later years had been pre-ordained.


The forest is sailing into night;
its craft ambushed by sand dunes.


Wearing Shell-coated gear,
the arsonist escaped finger-printing.


(for Ezekiel Okpan)

The day the farmer lost all his harvest to locusts
the day the herdsman lost all his cows to rinderpest

the day the fisherman lost his boat and nets to a storm
the day there was a total eclipse of the sun

the day fire left dry leaves to burn out green ones
the day water failed to quench the burning thirst

the day the wind refused to blow away smothering fumes
the day the earth opened up a bottomless pit to another world

the day the muse thrashed the minstrel
the day the minstrel was struck dumb

the day the goat refused to eat yam leaves
the day the parrot refused to eat corn

the day the drums refused to beat for the dancer
the day the iroko was struck down by lightning

the day erased from the memory of celebrations
the day gone down without  a record of its hours

the day all the gates closed to the fugitive
the day the crossroads refused its sacrifice

the day all the alarms refused to go off
the day the clear-eyed guide lost his vision

the day the boneless beast opened its mouth
to swallow an entire man like sauteed crayfish

that was the day of the summer solstice when in
Jerusalem and my best friend died in Nigeria

(Hawthornden Castle. June 21, 2004)

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