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Pius Adesanmi; The Gift of an Error
Dr. Pius Adesanmi, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at the Pennsylvania State University, and author of Wayfarer & other Poems is working on a new collection, The Gift of an Error . The poems that follow are new and previously unpublished. Rise, Son, Rise! is a poet's incantational: Pius' tribute to a forbear and contribution to the never-ending love-affair between sons and mothers. The title poem is a comic twist on a Yoruba creation story. Words Bigger than the Mouth is a suite of short, passionate poems inspired by the brutal murder of Bola Ige, a former Justice Minister in Nigeria These last poems have the tautness and anger of his 'dictatorship' poems, but they are also more redolent of Pius' culture, occasionally plumbing the tonal potentials of his native Yoruba language.


Excerpted From the Forthcoming
THE GIFT OF AN ERROR ( & Other Poems )

And a voice touched my ears:

The blood and water I shed
On your head as it embraced the earth
Sealed a destiny foretold by the patriarch
Of a humble bearer of a gift
For men and women

Rise, son, rise!
Rise and sway words
Sway words where you will
For you are efufulele
The furious wind who
Sways the forest's crown of foliage
Wherever his heart desires

Rise, son, rise!
Rise and go where you will
Follow the paths you have chosen
Follow the paths that have chosen you
For you are the black mamba's scion
Nightfall opens up the forest's arteries
For your exploring sport. Show me the ratling
Who, like you, dared the forest at night

Rise, son, rise!
Rise and ride where you will
Ride like the sun, roast the earth's face with your right hand
Ride like the moon, dry the earth's tears with your left hand
For you are the promised Word
Proverbs your horses
Galloping your people's miseries
Into history's septic tank

That voice touched my ears: rise, son, rise!
For you are the kola lobe
Which blossoms to maturity
On the patriarch's tongue

A voice touched my ears: rise, son, rise!

The voice was Lois.



Excess of palmwine is
The beginning of art.
I covet not your golden chain
And my tongue does not water
For the liver of your sand-scattering hen
Grant me only the gift of your error

Weary after a long day
Of moulding perfect men
Drained after a long day
Of sculpting perfect women
You punctured the neck of a palm tree

Alas! Your throat imbibed
The foaming liquid in excess
The same excess that made Ogun
Flood the land with an ocean of blood
Gushing from the headless bodies
Of subjects he swore to defend

Ah, Obatala! You who own the
Whiteness of the liquid. Is this you?
This staggering silhouette
Slave to the whims of the foam?
Palm wine drove your creative hands
From a uniformity of shapes
To a cacophony of forms

Surely, excess of plamwine is
The beginning of art.

I salute the cripple
I salute the albino
I salute the obese
I salute the anorexic
I salute the giant
I salute the dwarf
I salute the one-legged man
I salute the one-handed woman
I salute the born-blind
I salute the born-deaf
I salute the born-mute
I salute the born-blind-deaf-mute
I salute the Black man
I salute the White man
I salute the Brown man
I salute the Yellow man
I salute the Mulatto

I salute you all
‘Imperfect' products of
A god's error of inebriation
Icons of art's plenitude
To a poet's admiring eyes

Ah, Obatala! Grant me the gift of your error
That my verse may escape the tyranny of uniformity
Grant me the gift of your error
That I may rhyme some, free others
Grant me the gift of your error
That my art may sing the beauty of difference
Grant me the gift of your error
That my art may be rainbow

December 24, 2001



(Poems written around the assassination of Uncle Bola Ige)

If the red slayer thinks he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
I keep, and pass, and turn again.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson


Orunmila, grant us words bigger than the mouth
Words tougher than the belly of a lizard
To satiate Ofo's rampaging hunger
As he plants corpses in Awolowo's household

Let them rain, words bigger than the mouth
Words coarser than the insides of a gizzard
To repair the ill-luck chosen long ago
At the crossroads whence we became Esu's muse

Let them sprout, words bigger than the mouth
Let them fill the air like an angry blizzard
That our land may shed its crimson cargo
That Arun's raging flames may be doused


Orunmila, when our future undressed before you
Like a fowl's anus at the mercy of the evening gale
You saw a Yoruba woman blow pepper into her child's eye
To remove a grain of sand

When our future undressed before you
Like corn pap disgraced in the assembly of banana leaves
You saw a Yoruba man scratch his son's back with thorns
To soothe a transient itch

When our future undressed before you
Like a child's mischief, not meant for his father's ears
You saw that the ants devouring Awolowo's spinach
Reside in the stalk of the leaves they destroy


Ah, Orunmila! You saw it all!

You spotted the lizard with the bellyache
Smiling among its prostrate kind;

You saw it all!

Saw the treacherous cracks in the wall
Toll gate for adventurous geckos

You saw it all!

Saw the rotten tooth
Basking in the company of resplendent molars

You saw it all!

Saw the rivers of blood
And the harvest of bones

You saw tragedies mammoth enough
To eclipse Ogunpa



Your vision became the word
The word became flesh
Dwelt among us, screamed among us:

Yoo Yoo Yoo, Yoruba ro'nu O!
Yoo Yoo Yoo, Yoruba ro'nu O!

Your words entered through the right ear
Exited through the left

Yee, Orunmila!
We were the overzealous dog
Deaf to the hunter's whistle
We were the impertinent Sigidi
Who insisted on a splash in the stream
We were the single bullet
That pierced history's heart


(To be recited to the accompaniment of Ladysmith Black Mambazo's “Reveal Yourself”)

Wherethen I approach the crossroads
I, Adesanmi, poet-bearer of the sacrifice
To straighten paths bent
By a people's prodigal propensities

Reveal yourself, reveal yourself Orunmila
That dogs may end their wanton feast
Of kolanuts in Yoruba land

Reveal yourself, reveal yourself again
That my brother from Modakeke may
See human beings in Ile-Ife, not rattle snakes

Reveal yourself, reveal yourself once more
That my sister from Ile-Ife may
See human beings in Modakeke, not vipers

Reveal yourself, reveal yourself
That Idan may pack his case of rags
And seek asylum on other shores

© Pius Adesanmi

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©2006 Chuma Nwokolo, Jr.