Poetry

In this Darkness of the Sun: Poems by Etornam Agbodo

Image: Michael Cordedda via Flickr

IN THIS DARKNESS OF THE SUN

In this darkness of the sun
where princes eat from broken bowls
and kings must need lead the horse that bears the guest.
The sun is hidden this day and the moon plays false.

By the sweet falls
stands the amnicolist,
hands towards heaven,
calabash held high he prays for rain
lest he die of thirst.

In this darkness of the sun,
the clouds have chased the rays
and gloom takes hold
The mare’s milk feeds the duckling
and foals die starving.

Thieves steal the night dogs away,
the cat speeds from the fury of the mouse.
It is a dark afternoon

shall we look to night for light?

On this land rich with corn
her children must wait to glean.
We work the fire
they wear the jewels.

In this darkness of the sun
we till our land and buy the harvest.
The dog lies silent
observing the cat’s bark.
From our mill the bread is baked
and we clamour for the crumbs.

This moon that pretends at shine
must give credence the source it reflects.
The breast must be set free from the metal brassieres.
The starved infant must suck.
Stunted too long
let him now grow on mother’s milk
that was deprived him to feed the
glutton who never satiates.

Give the sun her light
and this cradle of life her freedom.
In this darkness of the sun
let some reason return.

———————

THEY ARE GONE

In this house there are no men to wield the hoe,
no women adorn the hearth.
They are long gone.

The old chair still stands under the nim tree
but Sovo’s bottom will no longer weight it.
His broad machete still hangs to the thatch roof
where his hand was quick to reach.
Rusted now,
the keen shine of the blade is gone.
Where blood of the fallen once fed
bird droppings now litter.
They are gone.

Kpetsi the wild one whose drum called warriors to battle,
eyes consulting with the dread invisible
as mighty hands beat drums till they oozed blood.
He is gone.
Monkeys offered them bananas and they accepted them gift.
They are gone.

Dasi the pretty who was clad in raffia and white told the omens,
of they who will come from houses on the sea,
smile on their faces with frowned hearts
That the paleness of the skin was in no wise feeble
She too is gone and her sacred rattles find their places
burrowing deep and deeper in the belly of the earth.
They are long gone.

Oh! What that day?
Sovo’s great machete eating of pale blood, a glutton
The pale skin came from houses riding the seas.

They had mocked her so,
when she told of houses from the sea and evil pale of skin.
‘Ample yam and wine have we given the deep
with fat thighs of goat and beast,
now will the merpeople we so honoured savage us?’
So was their chant in glee.
But now when the sea poured forth houses pregnant with strange men
they knew their places and wielded arms.
Dasi’s place to laugh now though she did not.

Kpetsi’s drum sounds no more.
Sovo’s machete is silent and Dasi’s rattles rest.
Of the goat that won’t heed the word ‘knife’
the monkeys offered them bananas and they took them gifts.

This vulture now sits in Sovo’s chair
and cunning winds dust his blade.
The spear is bent and the sword blunt.
For the pale one came back with cunning
and guns too.

The home is empty,
rid of her owner.
Only ghosts hover
trembling at the cobwebs in shamble.
Monkeys offered them bananas
and they took them gifts.
The vulture perches in the nim tree
Above Sovo’s old chair
the inhabitants are long gone.

———————

I HAVE FORGOTTEN YOUR NAME

Your plump breasts,
generous as the watermelon nourished me.
Your firm back,
dark as hearth coal bore me gently
while you laboured in the mid-day sun
and each time I raised my high pitched
voice in the war call
you paused and gave me freely of your grace.

What is your name?
I have all but forgotten.
The memories of you grow dim,
even unreal.
Were you the one able to feed your
numerous children on golden milk
and give them young bull liver for meat?
Are you that one who clothed them in velvet
and sandaled their feet in gold,
girdling their loins in pomp?
Are you that one?

Did you raise the stout offspring
who held court and standing none could rival?
Did you spring the sweet waters so they knew no thirst?
Not just me but none seems to know your name now.

Did you birth these vagrants who go about begging bowl in hand?
Tell me these owners of fertile fields who go about pleading for
a morsel are not yours.

What is your name?
Your name?
Afru-ika?
Alkebulan?
Do you really have a name
or you are just a piece labelled at the toss of coins?
I do not recall
I have forgotten.
———————
Poems © Etornam Agbodo
Image: Michael Cordedda via Flickr

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