Monday, August 13, 2012

POEM: Echoes in a Dying Head - In memory of Ken Saro-Wiwa

In 2005, I set out to write poems for individuals who mean a lot in my life. At the time, I had heard of Ken Saro-Wiwa and even with little knowledge of his works and deeds, I set out to write a poem about this man. This week I am read a book written by him titled A Month and a Day & Letters. It is funny how much of what I captured fits in. I am sharing this one with you to celebrate this man who gave his life and also all individuals who fight against injustice everywhere and who are persecuted for doing so.

(Only the weak fight with Guns)


Between the cockroach and the cock
all disputes are settled with a peck.
You eat the gods’ sacrifice
and you owe them twice:
no crow to bring you kernels
no stone to crack them;
The pigeons’ pinions are wet
Their legs tied to their nests.

Pocket torn
Stomach churning

Maize farms yielding swallows
Thieves singing praises for their daily bread
They sow not, reap the lot
My eyes are dry
…cries high
I see a light
it shines not from the sun
I know not the time
The place?
Keep pace with me
Know my face
Erase every trace of this message
            From your conscience
            From your system
            From your soul
                        …transient images
                            in a whirling thought;         

I did no wrong
They said,
I am a threat

Sudden lights…callous slaps
Metal doors…padlocks

Seeking internal peace


A priest…a patriot
…a threat perhaps
Depends on who’s asking;
Thousand five hundred years
First logical payment
How many times have virtues not lost?

Stomach whining
Pocket torn

Rodents snuggling in the arms of the cassava farm
Pots of maize ready to trap their fruiting greed
They sow not, reap the lot.
The pregnant ceiling
to deliver its conception
unto my torrid throat.
My blanket is sodden
My warmth is trodden
in turns in the dreary den;
Heard it through the wind
Her tears tortured my heart
Her cries torched my mind.

I did no wrong
They said,
I am a threat

Courtrooms…paid attorneys
Ignorant jury…false witnesses
Greased judges…strange charges
Guilty verdict…Death Sentence:
A threat to the fattening apes
A havoc wrecker
Just try and uncover a bin of sin
especially if the can of worms
is lodged firmly in the fish’s head.


Are my people still dying?
Hmm…better be quiet
Today they have my pen
Tomorrow my tongue
or mercifully still my mind;
Who said the pen is mightier?
What if you’re an imbecile?
…or even a dumb amelia?
Or a frog against the cobra?

But Galileo Galilee died
and Socrates
and Christ;
After all what is a mosquito
on a dead man’s toe?

Pocket torn
Stomach turning

I only asked why
when I should’ve applauded
and be a quiet celebrant
of Ananias’ wealth—
partaker of the sold lands;
I asked why
when I could’ve said:
“Wow! What a beauty”
when I could’ve hitchhiked
to our village’s junction
walk the rest of the million miles
swim the remaining thousand with smiles
to my tribesmen
and say to them
with the pride
of a dying cockroach:
“I saw it first.”
But foolishly I asked why!

I did no wrong
They said
I am a threat

The traitor…the Devil
The thief…the headlines:
A havoc wrecker
A threat to the milk cows
An anomaly to be corrected
A disease to be cured
A stain to be cleaned
A parasite to be pruned.


I can’t shut up!
It would tantamount to betrayal
I would be the loser;
It is not for nothing that the roach
puts up a fight against the nursing hen
The clouds are getting darker
Death is imminent
I won’t surrender
Not ever!

Stomach thundering
Pocket torn

I only saw barrels of our boiling blood
Being exchanged for fleets of Royce
Besides there are no roads to our village
and no bridges over the river
so I asked why?
A simple, harmless, monosyllabic ‘why’!

I did no wrong
They said,
I am a threat

Green uniforms…thick phalanx
Mob attack…numerous slaps

So I know
Never ask
when it’s clear


The second payment
Bullets buried in the heart
I would want nothing
to be engraved on the tombstone
of your minds…the cove of gory remnants
(Though I would have none
In the hearts of the wicked and the weak)
but my deeds and your needs;
None to weep! Lest we die;
Tell Papa
not to weep but to ask them why
the road to our village is still not there
nor the bridge over the river
though they’ve slaughtered
his only son on the penal altar;
Tell Papa to tell them
that our children still crack nuts
under the seasonless almond tree
They still die young of nothing
            but empty stomachs filled with stones

They should tell them…

That though a bird flies in the air
it feeds from the ground
where its feathers fall after death;

That the benevolent gods of our land
are counting the days
hovering in their breaths…
the clay
left in their bones, their blood, their bodies;

That never is it absolute or final
the triumph of the wicked;

That soon, always soon, truth
like the seedling of the Odum tree
            The smell of wine
            The air we breathe…
overcomes falsehood
Good overcomes Evil;

That what Evil fears most
is the resolve of the weak
and ours is the sea,
            The heavens
            The village’s gods
            Our hearts…its needs
            Our lives…its soul
            Our unshakable will to succeed:
our resolve is them.

Another would come after me
who has been enlivened
to ask why
            they’re no more.

                                                            Copyright Ó 14th October MMV by Fredua-Agyeman Nana


  1. Nana, this is more than powerful; it is riveting, a bold statement, an awakening cry from the dead. This is poetry at its best, this is genuise. Well done, my brother

    1. Thanks Celestine. When the dead inspires you you can't afford to do anything less.

  2. I am impressed by the depth, the width,the length n breadth of this ginormous piece.the inferences,analogies n contrasts were sharply deafening and i could just relate to it thpugh it looked long.U should perform this somewhere .....preferably in Nigeria if afforded the chance...kudos

  3. This is gripping. It is so true and sad that this is what society has come to. It is a beautiful piece and i love it


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