Classic Poetry: Abiku by Wole Soyinka
In vain your bangles cast
Charmed circles at my feet;
I am Abiku, calling for the first
And the repeated time.
Must I weep for goats and cowries
For palm oil and the sprinkled ash?
Yams do not sprout in amulets
To earth Abiku’s limbs.
So when the snail is burnt in his shell
Whet the heated fragments, brand me
Deeply on the breast. You must know him
When Abiku calls again.
I am the squirrel teeth, cracked
The riddle of the palm. Remember
This, and dig me deeper still into
The god’s swollen foot.
Once and the repeated time, ageless
Though I puke. And when you pour
Libations, each finger points me near
The way I came, where
The ground is wet with mourning
White dew suckles flesh-birds
Evening befriends the spider, trapping
Flies in wind-froth;
Night, and Abiku sucks the oil
From lamps. Mother! I’ll be the
Supplicant snake coiled on the doorstep
Yours the killing cry.
The ripest fruit was saddest;
Where I crept, the warmth was cloying.
In the silence of webs, Abiku moans, shaping
Mounds from the yolk.