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The Emperor’s Lingering Voice: Poems by Babatunde Fagbayibo

IMAGE: Craig Sunter via Flickr

The Emperor’s Lingering Voice

The air is thick and heavy
with the smell of fear
There is a mist
of distrust
Faces express
choreographed peace
Silence is an enduring companion,
a perfect alibi
Even the birds fly with a sense
of trepidation
The wind blows cautiously
careful not to upset the status quo
Freedom is on an indefinite sabbatical
in this land

The voice of the long dead Emperor still
haunts this land
Shhhhhhh …
The Emperor is trying to utter words
Inaudible, faint and distant
This isn’t the voice of a ghost
but maybe if the silence of fear
is temporarily supplanted by
that of strength and hope
He’d be heard
If the broken cord that separates the
self from the soul is stealthily
before the ubiquitous regulators
of illusory orderliness emerge
He may be heard.

The Emperor’s voice lingers
Even the modern day suzerains
who play god with freedom
can hear the voice
through the walls of the palace
The Emperor’s calm voice
“Once upon a time, I was you!”

If only the instruments of brutality
could silence the Emperor’s
recurring message …
If only the bitter liquor of suppression
could be forced down the chatty throat
of the Emperor …
Where is Mengistu?

Where is the Dergue?
The Emperor must be re-killed
If only… if only… if only…
But until then,
the Emperor’s voice
uninterruptedly lingers.


We’d Never Know

Have we killed the future?
Is the imminent already buried
in the abyss of past misadventures?
We’d never know.

Yet we live,
We ordinary souls –
Embodiment of life’s lessons;
Interpreters of the seen and unseen;
Foolishly wise, wisely foolish;
Merchants of faded hope;
Agents of timeless optimism:
Driven by the unknown.

Are we the vectors of
a glorious future?
Unidentified keepers of the rhythm of what
is to come;
Forebears of inventors, trailblazers …
that will one day build castles in the sky;
Nurturers of project “heaven on earth” …
We’d never know.

I guess we’d never know whether
the future is the present or
another episode of our imagined existence.


Me, You!

Me, you,
main characters in fate’s soon
to be finished novella about us.
While our story is still
being written, could we
possibly sneak out of this
Plot the coordinates to the
denouement we desire?
Perhaps yes,

perhaps no.
Let us at least try.
Let’s despoil fate’s claim
to fame by muddling up the narrative.
And force an ending where there
is no me or you:
only a translucent panel that reflects


Poems: Babatunde Fagbayibo
IMAGE: Craig Sunter

Babatunde Fagbayibo
Babatunde Fagbayibo
Babatunde Fagbayibo is a poet and law teacher. His poems have appeared on platforms such as Kalahari Review, LitNet, Nigerians Talk Litmag, Jalada, Aerodrome, and Poetry Potion.

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