When at break of day at a riverside
I hear jungle drums telegraphing
the mystic rhythm, urgent, raw
like bleeding flesh, speaking of
primal youth and the beginning,
I see the panther ready to pounce,
the leopard snarling about to leap
and the hunters crouch with spears poised.
And my blood ripples, turns torrent,
topples the years and at once I’m
in my mother’s laps a suckling;
at once I’m walking simple
paths with no innovations
rugged, fashioned with the naked
warmth of hurrying feet and groping hearts
in green leaves and wild flowers pulsing.
Then I hear a wailing piano
solo speaking of complex ways
in tear- furrowed concerto;
of far away lands
and new horizons with
coaxing diminuendo, counterpoint,
crescendo, but lost in the labyrinth of its complexities, it ends in the middle of a phrase at a daggerpoint
And I lost in the morning mist
of an age at a riverside keep
wandering in the mystic rhythm
of jungle drums and concerto.
About the Poet
Gabriel Okara is a reknowned Nigerian poet and novelist. He was born on April 21, 1921 in Boumoundi, present day Bayelsa state. He attended Government College, Umuahia, Yaba Higher College, and Northwestern University, USA. He worked as a book-binder for many years and as a journalist in the then Eastern Nigerian Government Service. His works are widely accepted with his poetry featuring in the Black Orpheus and other anthologies. He has to his credit the following: Fisherman’s Invocation (1978; Commonwealth Poetry Prize, 1979), which is partly based on the Ijaw oral tradition, The Call of the River Nun, and The Voice (1964), a controversial short novel.
To be continued