Saturday, March 15, 2014

Segun Akinlolu

(poetry is of the people, from the people, by the people, for the people – Ibadan, 2006)

             Poet: We pay homage to the sun
                        Bright shiny rays piercing the darkest gloom
The People: We all pay homage!
             Poet: We pay homage to the moon and stars
                        Our mothers and ancestors, guides of the night
The People: We all pay homage!
             Poet: We pay homage to the rain
                        And fiery Sango1 who rides the rolling thunder
The People: We all pay homage!
             Poet: We pay homage to the winds,
                        Friends from the east to the west, north and south
                        Soothing breath of the creator, angry belch of the gods
The People: We all pay homage!
             Poet: We pay homage to the earth
                        And Orisha Nla2, clad in white, father of all
The People: We all pay homage!
             Poet: We pay homage to the heavens,
                        Mysteries beyond the grasp of little minds,
                        Endless cover encircling the earth
The People: We all pay homage!
             Poet: We pay homage to the waters,
                        Omi l’abu we, omi l’abu mu, omi o se mu l’ota3
                        Greetings to our mothers in the ocean depths
                        Greetings to all the spirits of the rivers and streams
The People: We all pay homage!
             Poet: We pay homage to all the gods of the land
                        The elders and custodians of ageless wisdom,
                        Knowers of riddles and masters of time
The People: We all pay homage!
             Poet: We pay homage to Olodumare4,
                        Lord of the one thousand seven hundred divinities
                        Whose breath gives life,
                        You whose shrine is in our hearts
The People: We all pay homage!

(1 Yoruba thunder deity; 2 Yoruba arch divinity; 3 Water is essential – no one can make it an enemy; 4 Yoruba Supreme Being)

(upon rumination over the Nigerian civil war with an old combatant - Enugu, 1992)

Don't tell me of blood, sage
What I have seen I cannot forget
Tell me of no war,
Of my private ones I can swear
Spare me the gory details,
It’s a shame that men should die
For reasons to them unknown
Don't tell me yours old one
I’ve crossed those seas

Don't tell me of death,
What must come I fear not
Tell me of no pains,
Of the ones in my heart
I can swear, in my bones
Spare me the sorry details,
It’s a shame to see such sorrow in the midst of joy
So much hate in the heart of love
Don't tell me of death, sage
Tell me of life

(at a crossroads, post-school, pre-employment, 1993)

I’m like a wood-bit with motion diverse adrift
In the ocean so vast, uncharted
Endless waves and no berthing cove
In this broth of tides so strong, storms so violent
Lofty dreams crystallised upon broom stilts…
Will I build, can I grow
Or will I sway ad infinitum
Laughter ad libitum
In my emptiness, on ragged soles?

Like the droplets
Running with the rivulets
I must grow into the stream
And the stream on the brim
Fatten upon the land or grow into the ocean
So awesome, endless…
A man’s dreams are his legs.

(welcome distraction during an 18-hour transit at Nairobi International Airport, 2001)

Luminous eyes
Curiously emptying me,
Tiny fingers, tapping a tender tune
Only you and I can hear,
The smile you share
With dimples from ear to ear,
A shake of your head
Dark, shiny locks tumbling in abandon
You smile again at my loosening bonds…

Ageless virtue and beauty,
Life reborn again and tomorrow,
A shaft of virgin light piercing my gloom
I smile too, now, in my turmoil

Dainty child. So perfect.

(drowning my blues at Winterlude - Ottawa, 2003)

Ice sculpture,
My frozen fingers bear witness
Our blood types related,
Static, in conjectured veins,
We stare woodenly at the gaping world.
You, they find amazing
Me, amusing.
Our pose of defiance
Elicits quiet laughter,
Frozen respect-seekers
Stuck to the carving palette.

“In other places I am a god”,
Your words startle me.
In other places I am a person.
Beads of moisture trickle down your cracking lips,
“When the temperature changes, I will be gone”
So will I, brother, so will I.

Walking down the canal
Into streams of skating strangers
It’s a different world here;
Loneliness in a crowd,
The art I have mastered.

(following an emotional chat with some so-called African intellectuals and activists about the state of the continent - Lagos, 1999)

Father has just left the house with his rustle-shuffle
And no noise comes thereafter
For it’s a home for the dumb.
Our lives were collaged on shrubs,
Light orbs and distant dreams;
You may have the courage of a Zulu,
Can you hear the lark?

I fell with the fall, swam with the sea
We saw with the eyes of the spirits
The seven mothers of the river world
My mother’s basket is full
But it is not heavy
Her breast is heavy
But it is not full

Father has just cleaned his feet -
We have all gone full circle
We hear the scratch of the ant
The whisper of the wind we cannot
And the shriveled old lady
We buried all of her, except her feet
Some gory road-mark for future wayfarers.
The truth is a neighbour’s hump
We laughed and pointed
And father too, he laughed loudest.
We built up anger, painted fury
Then went home happy
Deep in the gourd.

(fully drenched and pondering the lack of basic infrastructure and drainage, after torrential rainfall - Lagos, 1998)

Now that your fathers have gone to sleep
In their cactus cocoon of criminal content
And the children, they walk the sun
The wailing children, they swim the flood,
The poor children, they stalk the alleys
And now, fear reigns supreme
On the streets of malcontent.

Now that your mothers have lost a breast
And the other is filled with despondent pus
Motionless, this rabid chatter only serves a purpose:
May it please the rain to stop
May it please the sun to shine
May it please the gods to smile
We will be kings once again.
Like a fragile candlelight in the sea,
Today’s dreams die without a hiss.

I am the children too
Battered and worn, deadly like a gun
Wrinkled but young
Filled with a song

I am the children too -
I turn my face to the sun
I wish I wasn't born
I am the children too -
I plant my seeds at dawn
By night, the plants are gone
Withered young before the target
A collective yawn, our only harvest
I am the children too -
I tread the path of reproach
Like the dinosaur, the dodo and the mammoth;
If you stay in one place too long,
Your dreams soon become extinct

Cascading tears from eyes like hot bricks
Our father’s head is a bag of tricks
We will rue the day we crowned this king
If tomorrow’s song we fail to sing

I am the children too
Battered and worn, deadly like a gun
Wrinkled but young
Filled with a song

Now that your fathers have gone to sleep
In their cactus cocoon of corrupted dreams,
I sing a song for their demise
I dance upon their grave of forgotten lies.
I am the children too -
Battered and worn, deadly like a gun
Wrinkled but young
Filled with a bittersweet song.

(at a market-village, on the road to Jos, 2000)

The lamps are out
Like obedient ants standing guard
Straining against the wind
Signpost to the weary wayfarer
“Oh, there are other people
Still alive in this world
And they’ve got something to sell”.

We won’t be stopping
To knock on the weather-worn door
Behold the sleepy face of welcome
Shielding tiny curled bodies
On aged tattered mats
No, we won’t be stopping
For bread or fish or water
We’ve got something to sell too
And we are in a hurry.


It’s a cold morning
And I’m thinking of her hills
Hills of tranquil Awgu
Hills like a tolerant, bemused grandma
Gathering her valley of scattered roofs
Like the vultures silently watching
We too now see from the height of birds
The serpentine road and rock juts
The mammoth carpet of spreading green
Nature’s here
In time

(part of a series on what poetry is to the poet - 1999)

The world is pregnant for me
And my babies, they wait with insatiable curiosity -
Will I run, do a shimmy or stay bent but proud
Like one bearing his weight in gold?
My gold is in the skies
I dig her up amongst the heathen
I draw her water from a secret brook
And bathe her in a place
Only strangers like me have trodden
My name is strange,
My trade, a rage
Yes I bathe her in torrents of labial intercourse
I wash her with my bare hands, head down, toe up
Her face, her shoulders
Her breasts pompous with some kind of vengeance
I wash her in my little grove
Hands pressed to the warm earth
In supplication, surrender;
Mother, take me,
Strain me, train me,
Dip me, drain me
Make of me the most perfect of all beauties.

I wash her in the halo
Of a mystery even’, on a four-legged beast
Static, he only screams when dragged
He knows my furious hand and sweaty arms
On frustrating days, he kisses my forehead.
If we a festival become, some glass home
Your eventual sanctuary may be
Or will they, when I'm gone
Cut you up, feed you to a fire?
Fire is in my stars, my blood fuels it
My blood through my fingers flowing
I wash her with my fingers
In my blood, in the sanctum of my hallowed being
I bring her home to you
In your pains and laughter
I bring the world to you
In words deep, and strange
Like my name – strange, uncommon
My dreams are alien and many
Like my names and babies
The world is pregnant for me
Mother, take me, strain me
Make of me the most perfect of all beauties.

Segun Akinlolu was born in Ibadan, Nigeria in 1968. He has, at various times, worked as a veterinary doctor, researcher, writer/editor, factory hand and itinerant performing artist. He has published 3 volumes of textual poetry, an equal number of live poetry cds and a work of fiction, none of which have won anything notable. He is better known as the musician ‘Beautiful Nubia’ ( His music has won nothing either, well, except for maybe a few million hearts. He holds Nigerian and Canadian citizenship but calls everywhere he is welcome, “home”.

Artist website:

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