Poetry

The Babalawo: Poems by Baba Olutunde Olufemi

THE BABALAWO

Quietly sitting in front of a small fire
A lone medicine man begins a ceremonial ritual.
He rubs sacred ash over his face
painting his face into a supernatural mask
that he will use to bring himself into the spirit world
in the most ancient way.
He reaches into a lion skin pouch decorated with cowrie shells
bringing out a hand full of herbs and roots.
Which he offers to the first source and center
and from his heart/mind/soul
he turns his eyes upwards and speaks to the heavens.
Using a language taught to him
A language carried through the elements of time and matter
by the many spirits joining him by the fire
who are his ancestors.
He holds the herbs and roots in the center of his palm
looking modestly into the flames of the burning fire
Iba se Ori ewe
(I pay homage to the spirit of the leaves and roots)
he says before slowly blowing them into the blazing fire
using the old language of his people
words that the Orishas know
Iba se Egun
(I pay homage to the spirits of my ancestors)
A-way mo dew-pa-we as-shay
with words pouring from his heart
he asks the spirit of the radiating fire to be a portal
for his eyes to see into for guidance
in finding a cure for healing his people
so that they will live a healthy and full life
and that their hearts/souls/minds will be filled
with the knowledge/wisdom/understanding of worship and truth.
He has spoken words to the spirit of the bright fire
words that the spirit of the burning inferno knows
for such words are of a language
that has been used since the Empire of King Tutankhamen
in such sacred rituals.
Words that the indigenous world recognizes
words of life that come from no book
words that allow shamans to invoke those unseen by the average man
this the lone medicine man knows with certainty
such are the ways of his forefathers and foremothers
and as the smoke transcends upwards
carrying the medicine and words
beyond the realms of the earth into the hands
of those who are looking down into the planet
waiting to become more active in life.
He is given a nod of approval
by the many spirits joining him by the fire
who are his ancestors.

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TO APETEBI

When the last sparkling ray
Of the sun cease to exist
And the last droplet of water
Quenches our dying thirst
I will remain holding
You comfortably in my arms
Flowing with the motions
Of our timeless rapture
From the top of my mountain
To the valley of bones below
In the web of our silence
In the midst of the eternal
shadows of what is called night
you will constantly hear
the ecstatic colors of my voice
proclaiming the cadence
of your fruitful breathe
imbues my world with charm
your dark lavender spirit
fills the chambers of my soul
with a music and laughter
that has stained my heart
with the joy of having you
affectionately in my arms.
For in holding you
I’ve found something
That death could never
Conquer or attain
In the stillness of darkness
Where our love shines
so bright and beautifully
shimmering from the celestial
peeping through a vitality
That is the workings of Immortals
Who rain meat for our pots
Grow bread for our table
pour water from the dry
Stone of the desert at their command
Powerfully transforming
What sustains them into us
Flooding our sacred lives
With a lamp the world blows upon
But can never put out
A flame that sits upon the horizon
Like the afternoon sun
In the zenith of twilight
Showing us the way into bliss
As our spiritual fire burns
With an extraterrestrial passion
That is so aquiline in essence
It proves without a doubt
This is the strength of love
alive and acting like nature itself.

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(c) Babafemi Olutunde Olufemi

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