Poetry

The Last Epistle of Saro-Wiwa: Poems by Karo Umukoro

STILL VOICE IN THE NIGHT

If tonight as I lie
The cow-hide drums in my heart
stops beating in tune with the rhythms of life,
And the pulse of my wrists
stops rhyming in harmony with the ticks of time,
and the rivers swimming in the pipes of my veins
dry up as the lake in the arid desert,
and the lids of my eyes close tight
as the flower’s petals at twilight,
and the sweet voices of my family
voiceless and still as a cemetery,
and the night’s zephyr only pipes the voices
of my ancestors who bid me come
from the white cloud to my weak ears,
Then the inner eyes of my imaginations
turn blurry and dark as fog,
Suddenly, my mortal clay grows cold
and stony to stir…
Leaving death’s chest to rest on me
Where shall I go from there?

****

NAKED

Naked
As the celestial spirits gliding round the Ethiopian moon,

Naked
As the fire goddess shining from the Egyptian sun,

Naked
As the thunder god crying in the Nigerian sky,

Naked
As the royal mummies entombed in the ancient pyramids,

Naked
As the ashen zephyr of the driest harmattan,

Naked
As the forgotten martyrs of the Zulu dynasty,

Naked
As the barren cisterns of the Dead Sea,

Naked
As the infertile earth of the Sahara desert,

Naked
As the labyrinth of Africa’s mystical myths;

Naked
Is the child of mother Africa!

 *

Inspired by:
…the destitute state, the lack of assurance, comfort and certainties the African child experiences day to day.

****

BEYOND YOUR PERSPECTIVE

Someday like vapour, the sun would rise
out of the endless sea of night’s skies
and shine like golden orbs again
to dissolve the gripping gloomy pain
that makes your heart cold as ice…

****

THE LAST EPISTLE OF SARO-WIWA

I’ve ridden the two-wheeled chariot of time
round the tortuous face of messily meshed earth,
I’ve swum through the endless depths
of the seventeen green seas of life’s strife,
I’ve flown on the weak wings of humanity
across the enshrouded carmine skies of mortality.
Now I sail in whitewashed clouds as fluffy
as cottons in the ethereal skies of immortality
to the eternal cosy bosom of paradise.
Nevertheless, I remember you Ogoni, a million times
you forever remain my birth, origin and pride,
See how sweet green memories stream through my soul
like the therapeutic rhythms and melodies of music
showering solace to the broken depths of my heart!
…as I remember the divine morn I was born
the world shone bright like the moon’s cosmic lights,
I remember how the sun in her virgin beauty
arises to kiss your glorious shores every dawn,
I remember that you, my mother nurtured me
with the milk of your supple breasts through infancy,
I remember your youthful mahogany maidens
who blossomed before enchanted eyes like Cana-lilies
and are swaddled in the luscious radiance of a goddess,
I remember your valiant men who grew wild
in virility and heart like ferocious lions
and stood unflinching against the pangs of tyranny
like the mammoth mountains of Jos,
I remember squatting under the shade of moonlight
listening to ageless folklore of my ancestral myths
as my ancestors’ eyes twinkled in the twilight skies
urging me never to allow my ancient cradle break,
I remember that day I bathed in the quiet depths
of your silver River Niger, feeling her nakedness
with the creamy-skinned mermaids floating beside me-
when noon’s sun stood on golden hills to dance.
I remember the evergreen fertility of your rich soil
wherein swim an endless sea of pure dark oil
which caught the lustful eyes of egregious exploiters.
Nay! For the cause to shield you from cruelty
and injustice, I shed my blood with eight others
who gallantly wore the weighty armour of truth
and despised the demented dictates of our anarchical khaki lords!
Alas! What a pity, men have allowed coal clouds
of foul greed to engulf the blazing sun of justice.
How I remember that November misty night
which was laden with brimming mysteries of the unknown
when my fluttering candlelight finally died down
after those barbaric and undemocratic tribunals decreed obnoxiously.
…also I remember the screaming tears and grief
that raucously racked my woman’s and blood’s souls
when I kissed them a sorrowful goodbye
and pleaded with them in anguish not to cry.
Now I go to wine and dine with my ancestors
but I forget you not my fragile ancient cradle,
for in the destitute of tomorrow’s certainties
you rocked me with motherly comfort and assurance.

Mother Ogoni, accept the libations of homage
I pour herein in obeisance and remembrance of you.
Though my mortal clay’s turned ashes, my spirit lives
as my dreams of seeing you liberated from economic shackles!

 *

This poem was written to the heart-breaking memories of Ken Saro-Wiwa and those who died in the fight against the horrors of the military regime.

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