21 July 2010

Voices and Soul

20 July 2010

by Justice Putnam
Black Kos, Tuesday's Chile Poetry Editor

The Nigerian Poet, Playwright, Actor and Political Activist, Wole Soyinka, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986; the first African writer to be so recognized. Though much of his early work satirized the absurdities of his society with gentle humor and an affectionate spirit; as the struggle for independence in Nigeria turned sour, Soyinka's work took on a darker tone. One such example is a conversation between two adversaries who are often pitted against each other; two adversaries who, in the heat of battle, believe one to be the master of the other, yet each are one and the same; and so Soyinka offers us a discussion between a...

Civilian and Soldier

My apparition rose from the fall of lead,
Declared, 'I am a civilian.' It only served
To aggravate your fright. For how could I
Have risen, a being of this world, in that hour
Of impartial death! And I thought also: nor is
Your quarrel of this world.
You stood still
For both eternities, and oh I heard the lesson
Of your traning sessions, cautioning -
Scorch earth behind you, do not leave
A dubious neutral to the rear. Reiteration
Of my civilian quandary, burrowing earth
From the lead festival of your more eager friends
Worked the worse on your confusion, and when
You brought the gun to bear on me, and death
Twitched me gently in the eye, your plight
And all of you came clear to me.
I hope some day
Intent upon my trade of living, to be checked
In stride by your apparition in a trench,
Signalling, I am a soldier. No hesitation then
But I shall shoot you clean and fair
With meat and bread, a gourd of wine
A bunch of breasts from either arm, and that
Lone question - do you friend, even now, know
What it is all about?

-- Wole Soyinka

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