Wole Soyinka at 86: Eulogies, the stuff of legends!

Ko ko ko, Kongí ò!

By Oyin Oludipe

You must set forth at dawn—but
Kongí, must you? That wilderness
Of mist, of stamens fissured in
Lacquered dregs embrace you
As woodsmoke. How vile is the warp
When it is done—strange camaraderie of
Shadows, and weed-fingers drawn from
Vow to grain, to stalwart furrows
On your teeth, a veil of execration
Around your mane. Name? Ah no!
Syllables lurk beneath the anvil of gods.
Sage cadences of that sort break
The squalid tongue—but Kongí, must you yours?

For your tongue is gold
Kongi, your tongue is gold,
Whose crescent glow round the realm,
Salt to withered stars, turning rafters
Lodged in the armpit of a bygone rot.
Your tongue is light, cosmic dare,
A roar of drums upon whose echo
Our multitudes drift, decades lacerate
As weary foretaste to the death we bear
To bugle wonders for a “third world thud”!

Ko ko ko, Kongí ò! The door is stiff
As my shock, which perhaps is yours also.
Stiff? Stiff. Why? Each rap recalls,
Unearth past heaves from your chest
And I cannot bear to watch it dance
From this open air alone—ko ko ko—
Let libation from an alien horizon
Collide your eaves, bartering torment
With bold infinitudes of a regal dawn.
Let palm shreds, a nation’s music, quiet
Satiation from succoured cavern of bones

As this gorge, grimly gauged, yet clay
To the touch of fingers, deft as severance,
As tentacles of voice, as the truth…
Alas Kongi, for a renaissance, we
Enthrone you saint of shapes,
Guardian of troves, unbidden,
Doling their pity by the wait…
I do not dare to think tomorrow is
Abode for the estranged.

Ko ko ko, Kongí ò!
I merely await your glance
Time appoints you priestly sage,
Imhotep of our season, shut of breath but—
Unseen are the pliant shoulders, grime on wrists.
Their ache is the flutter of memories—behold
Eyes in awe from this enclave’s delirium
While rites recede to grey waters

Still, Kongí recedes not,
Whose soles wield blisters
To the weathered mount of truth,
Whose night-webbed brows have cast
Twilight’s tepid trance upon a veil
Of human sufferance, rage and gore,
The rift and midnight rave even as
Ages fell and lineages tell

But—yes—the fall never bent
Your world. I know your heart
Sweetly spawns as webs respun
On dawn’s epiphanies, borne in tapestries
Of seasons, of visions against
A dogged decree of decay…
Why must you set forth? The human breath
Of things? A morning feet plowing
Life’s seamlessness? Whisper, Kongí
This door; is it your deliverer?

Ko ko ko, Kongí ò!

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