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I am Bound to this Land by Blood: Poems by Olu Oguibe

Song of Sorrow

for rosa diez
si només, però, aquesta

llum parada poguès durar

I shall sing you a song of
Sorrow when the moment comes.
It is the way of poets.

He will come bearing along his voice
Like the lament of an old guitar.
Only night shall fall; another day dawn.
I shall sing you a tearful song.

In the desert the rain fell on me.
Bushfires danced their way through
The undergrowth of my verse.

Your footfall soft as felt, you
Stepped into the light and
Asked the poet for a song.
I shall sing you a lyric of pain.

The blue moon peers through the foliage
Of your eyelashes. The minstrel hawks
His tears through the streets of night.

A household god is asking for water;
An old god is pleading at your door.
There’s a white rose on your breast.
It is the fortune of poets;

I shall sing you a song.
Untie the fresh leaves of dawn,
I want to make my journey short.

I will go upon the hill and cast my little net,
Decorate the river of your morning with petals;
I shall speak the words of songs.
It is the destiny of poets.

I shall sing you
A song of sorrow
When the moment comes.


All Because I Loved You

once i wrote with the irreverence of youth
and the fire of a heart burning to ash
i plucked words like faggots from blazing coal
and on the anvil of exile i hammered sorrow into verse
the burden of your suffering tore poetry from my flesh
and on the night of your hanging there was dust in my lines
i aimed for song and there was not an eye without tears

i marked the fourteen stations of the cross
but your death has killed my verse
each day i wake on the hour to mourn
and i feel like a wanderer in a city without lights
passion flees in the fog and words crumble at my touch
and my throat feels like a concrete floor
the power of tears has deserted me

i walk through the streets of this forbidding town
searching for faces i used to know
and your memory is like a faded picture in the pocket
here and there i hear your name like the distant crack of a whip
and there is a dull pain where the scars remain
i recall your stubbornness and the ring of blood on your wrist
and i embrace this cold that severed you from me

once i howled with the rage of a bard
there was epiphany in the pain
and all because i loved you
now i claw the walls for the naked word
my lines are a hollow sepulchre
ready for the final dust
silence claims us at last


I Am Bound To This Land By Blood

I am bound to this land by blood
That’s why my vision is blurred
I am rooted in its soil
And its streams flood my veins
I smell the sweat of its men
And the million feet that plod
The dust of its streets
Leave their prints on my soul
I have walked the footpaths of this land
Climbed the snake-routes of its hills
I have known the heat of its noon
And that in the fields where men toil till dusk
I have known the faces their creases
I have seen pain engraved on the foreheads of many
I have heard their agony

I have cried so often with broken men
And peered into a million faces blank
Faces without bodies bodies without faces
The owners of nothing breakers of stone
The owners who are owned I have known them all

I have heard the wailing of a million
I have stood in the crowd where men
Mixed their sweat and wiped blood
From their brows cursing silently
I have stood in the middle of silent whirlwinds
And their heat has left its mark
I bear the mark of the masses on my brow
And if I curse
If I raise this single voice
In the midst of dust and curse
If I lend a tiny voice to
The rustle of this crowd
It’s because I am bound to this land

I am bound to the dying mother the widow
The man with a weight on his loins
I am tethered to their moan they are my own
I belong with they who have no voice
They who trudge outside the gate
Those who sigh in their hearts
Who only shake their heads

And if I sing not of roses and rivers
It’s because I see rivers of blood
I look through the holler of the crowd
And I see blood on the ground
I see blood on the rockslabs
I look over the mangrove swamp
And I walk through fields of groundnut
And I see nothing but blood
I see blood in the face of the farmer
On the palm of the school child
I see blood on the statue
Of the Immaculate Mother

I walk through the streets and I see puddles of blood
I see blood on your shoes on your underwear
I see blood on the hands of men
And if I raise my voice to holler
It is because the grasses wither in this deluge of blood
Fishes float on their bellies with their eyes covered
By the sanguine flood

My verse spreads ungathered
In this spill of purple
Mine is the cry of a ram tethered
To the slaughterslab

There are no petals soft
No yellow centres
No polished pebble melodies
Piled into song
My words are rough-hewn from
These rocks where men toil
The plaintive voices of children
The plod of prisoners feet
The curses of the peasant woman
Are the wattle of my song

My pictures are the colour of dust
And I sing only of rust
I have swum in the flood
And I know better
For I am bound to this land
By blood.


(c) Olu Oguibe

Olu Oguibe
Olu Oguibe
Olu Oguibe, PhD., is legend in intellectual circles in Nigeria, most notably at the University of Nigeria where he set all sorts of academic records that continue to confound. The author of A Gathering Fear, A Song from Exile and Songs for Catalina, all collections of poetry, Olu has won all shades of grants, scholarships, academic and literary awards, including the All-Africa Okigbo Prize for Literature. Perhaps his most haunting poem, I Am Bound to This Land by Blood, is an anthem to the muses of pain and protest at literary gatherings. Oguibe is also a poet of the canvass, a visual artist who has had solo exhibitions the world over since 1988. He was at the University of South Florida (Stuart Golding Endowed Chair in African Art) before his current position (Senior Fellow, Vera List Center for Art and Politics, New School, NY). In his words, just call him 'an independent scholar and curator.' He says he has ceased writing poetry. We hope not!


  1. Though i read him in the ANA anthology edited by Harry Garuba….these poems reawaken me to the reality of Nigeria which howsoever we lash and shun it remains our root! I too am bound to this land by blood!

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