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Wole Soyinka: After the Deluge

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

It's World Poetry Day! Poetry is communication - very powerful communication. Get under the spell of Nigerian Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, and his powerful poem "After the Deluge."

 

After the Deluge

Once, for a dare,
He filled his heart-shaped swimming pool
With bank notes, high denomination
And fed a pound of caviar to his dog.
The dog was sick; a chartered plane
Flew in replacement for the Persian rug.
He made a billion yen
Leap from Tokyo to Buenos Aires,
Turn somersaults through Brussels,
New York, Sofia and Johannesburg.
It cracked the bullion market open wide.
Governments fell, coalitions cracked
Insurrection raised its bloody flag
From north to south.
He knew his native land through iron gates,
His sight was radar bowls, his hearing
Electronic beams. For flesh and blood,
Kept company with a brace of Dobermanns.
But - yes - the worthy causes never lacked
His widow's mite, discreetly publicised.
He escaped the lynch days. He survives.
I dreamt I saw him on a village
Water line, a parched land where
Water is a god
That doles its favours by the drop,
And waiting is a way of life.
Rebellion gleamed yet faintly in his eye
Traversing chrome-and-platinum retreats. There,
Hubs of commerce smoothly turn without
His bidding, and cities where he lately roosted
Have forgotten him, the preying bird
Of passage.
They let him live, but not from pity
Or human sufferance. He scratches life
From earth, no worse a mortal man than the rest.
Far, far away in dreamland splendour,
Creepers twine his gates of bronze relief.
The jade-lined pool is home
To snakes and lizards; they hunt and mate
On crusted algae.

 

Picture: Nobelprize.org

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Comments

Submitted by Alicia Hetzner on
We brought Wole, through the kind offices of Tijan Sallah, poet laureate of The Gambia, to the World Bank for the first Conference on Culture and Development in Africa, April 1992. I have followed the career of the man ever since. His voice like rolling thunder, his own suffering at the hand of authority, his continuing to write and comment and mentor youth artists. What a voice--only Robeson compares, and Wole may be the winner. A true hero. My great benefit to have known him.

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