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Friend of Man: Poems by Kayode Afolabi

orisa oko
Image: Brooklyn Museum via Wikimedia Commons remixed


The gathering of clouds tell us
Our time-honoured gifts were taken
First yams, fever berries and virgin fowls
He-goats, croton leaves and mellow corns,
Òrìṣà oko shall shower blessings in return

Let the barren make bed at his altar
And bear kids as many as she’s mounted
Let single men merry as single women wiggle
Let one and all feast on pounded yam and melon
Òrìṣà oko shall shower blessings in return

Odùduwà wouldn’t stand the woes of man
He became Ọbàtálá
Ọbàtálá couldn’t contain his ire
He became Òrìṣà oko
Orisa oko, the god that befriends mortals
He touched the land and the land bore food
He touched the sea and the sea bore fish
Òrìṣà oko touched the skies and the skies bore rain
He touched the womb and the womb bore kids
He touched the testicles and seeds overflowed
Òrìṣà oko the greatest hunter, He shoots once
And two pouched rats and a buffalo fall
Barns are overfed and silos fatten
When Òrìṣà oko harvests
Greatest farmer!

Òrìṣà oko the psalmist, blow your fife
Women will again twirl into loins of amused men
Òrìṣà oko the just judge, strike the gavel
Your demon will again swirl a witch’s head into eager hands
Yemọja the fair maiden with a crown of rainbow is yours
Your eye for beauty is unrivalled, mighty one

I extol you Òrìṣà, under this September rain
Speak fortune into my future
Ẹ ọdẹ ní hìn-ín*


* Hunters’ greeting



Standing on the Niger bank’s brink
I eyeball the one whose five fingers are keys
To all elements that be
Water, fire, ether, earth and wind.

Once, a dullard drummed the wrong end of *bata
She danced in Timbuktu and raised raves in Lokoja
She danced but he got lost in the cyclone from her skirt
Once, she, in a ball of fire, led her mate into battle
She wielded the wind into the hearts of foes
She bent the skies into streaks of lightning
His toes curled, there was a thunderstorm
There was a quake and there was no foe left

Ọya, the water, the buffalo, the water buffalo
The gate keeper at the portal to the underworld
Goddess of beauty, goddess of sorcery, goddess of wisdom
** Ààjàláyé, Ààjàlọ́ọ̀run, Queen of all women Ọbtál
It’s a windy Wednesday
I’m clad in all the colours of the rainbow
Iyansan, take my red wine, take my egg plant
Feed the nine children your motherly eyes never leave

Standing on the Niger bank’s brink
I eyeball the one whose five fingers are keys
To all elements that be
** Ààjàláyé, Ààjàlọ́ọ̀run, Queen of all queens


* A double-headed yoruba drum shaped like an hourglass with one end larger than the other

**The whirlwinds of the earth, the whirlwinds of the heavens

Poems © Kayode Afolabi

Image: Brooklyn Museum via Wikimedia Commons remixed

Kayode Afolabi
Kayode Afolabi
Kayode Afolabi, the chronic cakehaholic, is a Nigerian medical doctor. His first attempt at poetry was a tweaking of W.H Auden's "Lullaby" at age 11, into a love note that was never dispatched. His poems have appeared on Ake review, vox poetica, Kalahari review, and a number of other print or online mags.


  1. This work is beyond wow. Your beautiful medley of The English language and the Yoruba maxim of wisdom is beyond epic. Queen of Queens is powerful

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