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What Can I Call This? Poems by Kole Ade-Odutola

What Can I Call This?

At the Tee-Junction of decision,
the spot where Ogun’s meal
and the acolytes’ feet mix
I saw a street like an arrow
and a dream of sparrows and eggs
covered with red cam wood
and the richest yellow palm oil
dripping and clinging to Ogun’s soil
In the distance I heard a call
sounding like the voice that foiled
Dimka’s coup
This is a scared moment
When nothing should move
Not even the rustling leaves
It is a moment when gods in trees
and trees like gods transform the present
into dreams and the past into a gift
for the memory….
We give no cut to publishers to paste
wordy immemorial.
In our hearts and on our minds
these rituals are printed.
Can we ever forget the army of change agents
who are now numbers swollen in the ankle
of our earth?
Who can forget the gallons of blood
that watered deformed democratic plants?
To the distance, with my raw voice
I blessed the winds from the North
And for the East reached for invocations
of rising sun and warrior sons
The waters of the West are calm
but I still need the last psalm
that fights against those after my lamp
There is nothing to mend in the festering South
Those who drill and those who kill
have joined forces at this tee-junction
of indecision.
They have drilled our land to silly
They have killed our eyes and winners of bread
The street once like an arrow will bend
as they return from the earth that gave them bed


Beggars’ Day (Beggars dey!)

At the national beggars’ day
The president of beggars and cripples
read a wonderful speech
which moved the hall from tears
“Last year our numbers increased
and so the collective income decreased
none of our principal officers is deceased
The Vice-president cured one of his diseases
when the visiting pastor released
blessings in a different tongue
A new lease of begging life
is now his as bliss is recovered
and ‘bilisi’ is re-covered.
Life must go on
for the exploiters and the exploited
We know the ‘looting fools’ are re-born
at our expense, when pennies
develop wings and currencies
find new pockets to fill.
It is no longer a dream
that bigger better beggars are born
and are burning with zeal
on roads suffering from tar
but blessed with fresh and old pot holes
that slow down fast moving cars
in readiness for bowls and cans
from which the folks get fed
in prevention of never-to happen revolt.”


When I turn sixty

Please send for Sumonu onisakara
to play tunes of old
when my bones told the muscles
how to turn and twist on dancing floors
made from reused wood,
trampled upon by recycled soles.
Did I not know when the Naira,
that same Naira bought a Beatle for what
just one tyre costs these days?
There is nothing just these days,
the jaws seek justice, while the nuts
cry for power taken into the Rock
and the East like the eaten, hope for luck.
Has the national purse become like
hidden honey every hoe seeks to dig?
They cannot rig, if we form a league,
They cannot eat if we turn on the heat
like the famous Re-Bad-Do
who hits and cannot miss.

When I turn sixty and the holes in my
account remain unfilled and the dreams
I have carried like the hunter’s pouch
still sticking to a worn-out side.
I plan to take every dream apart
and give new parts to a tongue
that refused to lie,
a new role to rolling eyes that saw evil
and won’t tell…
If the powers sell the national theater
I plan to steal a stage for tired feet
to perform a new play for a nation born deformed
when others accepted reforms and
coerced individuals and institutions to conform.
So that their future may be sweet.
When I turn sixty will be song still be
about the sweetness of life
or the life of sweetness?

Life sweet oooo
Can’t I tell from the color of hunger
that paints a face blue black
and a red tongue as white as wool
for lack of rice stewed and peppered
at different mama-put joints.
Have I not seen the rich, hunger for Cognac
sold at a good percentage of a poor’s yearly wage?
Have I not heard of rich daughters who cry for lack
of pancake that costs more than the bride-price promised for the Agbero’s
In all my years I have never felt that
gutter water could taste so sweet
and the salt in tears good for left-over stew.
Days have crawled into years
And tears have formed fine patterns on
a sinking chin but the ship of state remains afloat
carrying unproductive thieves and chiefs to Dollar destinations.
As every day takes from the journey to sixty
We the people cannot allow our imagination run dry
The poor must pour their dreams like dry gin
and dry their tears with numerical Sun.
When I turn sixty, the song of the poor
must seek that Sankara’s tune cut before it grew.


Re: and the Poet, filmmaker, EBEREONWU died

Igba mo dele mi o re ni kan o
Oju mi somi….

So indeed on my return
Visits to graveyards
Conspire to fill the time
And nights spent consoling
the living still in their sack cloth
has been tailor-made for my diary

Igba mo dele mi o re ni kan o
Oju mi somi….

Now I feel the pull….
One more drawn into the skies
from where water as paint falls
on our earth the canvass
He wrote Suddenly God was naked
and no reviewer gave clothes
or close marking of the text.
I knew him with a red beret
and a spirit ready for kinship
To Ebereonwu ideas were king
and a willing mind the link
between the streets and sheets.
The road has mixed man and metal
while fixing our minds to ‘next on the line’
Now I feel like a fool
not sure of when I’ll be drawn…
Igba mo dele mi o re ni kan o
Oju mi somi….


One Without Title

I was a proud member of the margins of literature
in the city of Lagos where words written were signatures
for the mean and their meanness.
Do not ask me if I still know the other members,
my answer is that I do not remember their faces
I can only recall the smell of our collective feces
and the odor of stinking reason written with bile.
I still see piles of unpublished efforts and lies
of reviewers who send rejection slips to induce
sleep in budding dreamers.
They who won awards of ANA and from other banal
givers never considered that text riddled with ‘is’ and ‘was’
serious enough for consumption by the lords of letters.
The teachers without students, the critics who dispensed
sadness to struggling scribblers.
I know their number in hell and the reserved palace
in the kingdom of heat.
They all will roast like suya meat
and rolled like local taba by those who smoke.
The writers’ empire is divided down the line
like the faulty class structure in a non-producing nation,
they parade borrowed notions
and take loans of ideas without thought
nothing will stop the rot, as nothing can cure
their madness….
I, a sober member of the margins of literature speak
far from the city of haters where written words
are swords to the heat.


The Next President

A reigning King is about to relinquish the throne,
the people are not thrown into mourning
He who comes anew is not morning-fresh
but a leader among national used-parts,
whose coming and going into our nation’s life
leaves our accounts serrated and dripping of red
Dig deeper next time, when rigging carnival is over
We know the real votes into the toilets will go
as ghosts and goats mix with thoughtless voters
and bloated numbers win the race for faceless,
heartless CONtestants…
Does anyone ever face
rusty jail bars for stealing people’s Voices?
Or are we back in the season when learned
friends of the bar make legal gymnastics
With the law?
Cries of anguish must have been hard
for those who bore these burdens all along
The road from freedom so long
Our feet and hearts have wounds inflicted as scars

We know Yar’Adua will not yell at the Aladura
for no just cause either in Jos or after Jumat.
The last king was always right and always ready
to yap any bloody civilian or militician
He was also a singing musician whose
voice blessed children with nightmares
and stones as bread for their parents
A draining King is about to leave
Long live the Ota farmer whose
Oppression fed nations
leaving opponents fleeing the nation
…and the rest so disillusioned
the past periods of pain appear
sweeter than a pregnant future.


© Kole Ade Odutola

Kole Ade-Odutola
Kole Ade-Odutola
Kole Ade Odutola is a teacher, poet, photojournalist and activist. He has a first degree in Botany, a Masters degree in TV/Video for Development from the University of Reading (UK), a second Masters degree in Organisational Communication from Ithaca College, and a Ph.D in Media Studies from Rutgers University. The author of 'The Poet Fled' and 'The Poet Bled' lectures in the USA. His latest book is 'Diaspora and Imagined Nationality: USA-Africa Dialogue and Cyberframing Nigerian Nationhood', published by Carolina Academic Press, USA.

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