joe ushie's literary / linguistics views

Monday, January 03, 2005

"Song of the Dead"

"Song of the Dead",
from Joe Ushie's most recent collection Hill Songs (Kraftgriots, 2000):

Before I died
You could have let me Lean on crumbs of yours;
But you did nothing;
And now you feed A market of mourners

Song of the Season

'Songs of the season' (for Kenule Saro-Wiwa)

We begin here another stanza
of the song of the season,
our song of sighs sung in whispers
until the tongue blisters, until
the troats dry up and the dry
earth is wet with our tears.

We begin here another stanza
of this song of the season, attired
in sable uniform, mourning another
prometheus, Kenule Saro-Wiwa.

Brave to the death, you were the
lamb that stared the invading
leopard in the face. Anchored
on truth, you stood stoutly as
the people's pillar and they all
leaned on you like climbers on iroko.

But you are gone! Fresh feast
for the ants in shallow mass grave.
You, your priceless brains, your lion heart,
your tears for the people, all.

Shocked, the ever-journeying wind
reared not her head this day; the
birds hid on the nests, the rivers
slowed down their pace, the ants
wept aloud, the owls hooted
themselves hoarse and the
dogs barked their throats dry.

O ken, shield for man and god
when the driller's machine violated
the sacred groves of Ogoni gods.
Hear the homeless gods weeping.
The oil-soaked fishes mourn you.
The wounded farmlands mourn you.

The roasting streams mourn you.
The poisoned rivers mourn you.
The famine-choked Ogonis mourn you.

Rise, O winds, and fly our song to all lands.
Race, O seas, and bear our woes to all shores.
Shout, O hills, and boom the echoes of our
song from Babbe to Gokana to Tai to
Nyo-Khana to Ken-Khana and to all
lands that Ken has been silenced, talking.

"We warned you!" cries the coward.
But for how long shall we continue to
plant our maize in the house for
fear of the baboon? For how long shall
we continue to die lip-sealed?

In the leopard's clenched teeth
is the prime lamb of our yard,
but near the leopard's head is
the hunter's aim.

In life, you stirred Ogoni
In death, you stirred the world.
You will not die
unless death is dead.
You will sing
the requiem for the leopard.

Listen to our song, O gods;
and echo in your whistles
this cry of the living

And while the long night lasts
We long for your fruits
O mustard seed

November, 1995


Welcome readers,
This page is created to add to the varied views on literature. My views are expressed in my writings that are shared on this site. I welcome all comments as it adds to knowledge. Innovations in literature are the ingredients that builds a receptive society.
Read with a free mind.
Joe Ushie