for Wole Soyinka, poet, dramatist, barman

You must set forth at dawn—but

Kongí, must you? That wilderness

Of mist, of stamens fissured in

Lacquered dregs embrace you

As woodsmoke. How vile is the warp

When it is done—strange camaraderie of

Shadows, and weed-fingers drawn from

Vow to grain, to stalwart furrows

On your teeth, a veil of execration

Around your mane. Name? Ah no!

Syllables lurk beneath the anvil of gods.

Sage cadences of that sort break

The squalid tongue—but Kongí, must you yours?

For your tongue is gold

Kongi, your tongue is gold,

Whose crescent glow round the realm,

Salt to withered stars, turning rafters

Lodged in the armpit of a bygone rot.

Your tongue is light, cosmic dare,

A roar of drums upon whose echo

Our multitudes drift, decades lacerate

As weary foretaste to the death we bear

To bugle wonders for a “third world thud”!

Ko ko ko, Kongí ò! The door is stiff

As my shock, which perhaps is yours also.

Stiff? Stiff. Why? Each rap recalls,

Unearth past heaves from your chest

And I cannot bear to watch it dance

From this open air alone—ko ko ko—

Let libation from an alien horizon

Collide your eaves, bartering torment

With bold infinitudes of a regal dawn.

Let palm shreds, a nation’s music, quiet

Satiation from succoured cavern of bones

As this gorge, grimly gauged, yet clay

To the touch of fingers, deft as severance,

As tentacles of voice, as the truth…

Alas Kongi, for a renaissance, we

Enthrone you saint of shapes,

Guardian of troves, unbidden,

Doling their pity by the wait…

I do not dare to think tomorrow is

Abode for the estranged.

Ko ko ko, Kongí ò!

I merely await your glance

Time appoints you priestly sage,

Imhotep of our season, shut of breath but—

Unseen are the pliant shoulders, grime on wrists.

Their ache is the flutter of memories—behold

Eyes in awe from this enclave’s delirium

While rites recede to grey waters

Still, Kongí recedes not,

Whose soles wield blisters

To the weathered mount of truth,

Whose night-webbed brows have cast

Twilight’s tepid trance upon a veil

Of human sufferance, rage and gore,

The rift and midnight rave even as

Ages fell and lineages tell

But—yes—the fall never bent

Your world. I know your heart

Sweetly spawns as webs respun

On dawn’s epiphanies, borne in tapestries

Of seasons, of visions against

A dogged decree of decay…

Why must you set forth? The human breath

Of things? A morning feet plowing

Life’s seamlessness? Whisper, Kongí

This door; is it your deliverer?
Ko ko ko, Kongí ò!

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