Return to homepage
Pius Adesanmi; Wayfarer
Dr. Pius Adesanmi, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at the Pennsylvania State University, is a survivor of the Nigerian Dictatorship. The poems from his first collection, The Wayfarer and Other Poems (Oracle Books, Lagos, 2001) bear angry testament to the quality of that survivorship. University of Ibadan is set in Nigeria's oldest university and may one day prove a trove of biographical nuggets for his generation of writers. In Message from Aso Rock... he foreshadows Helon Habila's Waiting for an Angel by putting words into the mouth of a dictator fulminating at Soyinka and Saro Wiwa. Peckham is not quite so angry: it capsules the nostalgia of the poet who stumbles upon a slice of Lagos transplanted into London's Peckham district.
    Pius is also preparing a new collection, The Gift of an Error , extracts from which follow.


(For Chris Dunton)
Excerpted from
The Wayfarer & Other Poems
© Pius Adesanmi


Where the ants of the dark-eyed General
Nibbled at the sugary remnants of sanity
Reaping bones and stones in fields
That once carried pregnancies of spring


Where the blood did not count
For the merchants of illusion
Agamemnon's mob
Jack-Ripping the land of Aeneas
With spear-tipped metal hoofs

There they gathered
Every sunset, weatherbeaten survivors
Of another day of thorns and thistles
They gathered, rustling in onomastic quicksands:
Wasted generation?
CNN generation?
Third generation?
They gathered, baby wordsmiths
In the field now a forest of striga
Where Ifa cleared brambles and thickets
And spread the first mat of knowledge

They gathered
In the cemetery of Ifa's doomed venture
To dream dreams yet uncracked
By the radar of the SSS
They dreamt of the day when
Through all the atrophies
One of the fold
Would enter Kongi's elephantine shoes
They dreaded the day
When the shitstem would haemorrhage
One more of the fold
Were all haemorrhaged
To Euro-America

They gathered
Some came with polio-stricken verses
Some with stillborn stories
Others with juvenilia
They spoke of promises uncommenced:
After versing Shadow and Dream, Harry was courted
By a novelistic Muse. He carried gangan, danced to the village square
Announced "Wahala", a novel that would pigmy Marquez
And send him to his kinsmen in Kongo's forests.
Sedated by a Macondo magician
"Wahala" sunk into one hundred years of slumber

They inventoried dreams frozen
By the commercial instincts of Shylock publishers
Ogaga's "Red Rain"
Osha's "Blind Eye in Naked Light"
Nwakanma's "The Roped Urn"
Adesokan's "Roots in the Sky"
All mummified papyrus
In some publisher's museum

They spoke of non-starts:
Otiono's "Rumours from Mamonland"
Remained just rumours;
Chiedu's half-written poems
Scattered in borrowed bedrooms and beer parlours;
Shola's poems paralysed
By theories of popular culture;
Wunmi's unease as
The Third Dimple, inconsolable,
Screamed for a sibling

They spoke Derrida, sang Dostoyevsky
Nine pairs of blackened lips
Awaiting Harry's one stick of Benson & Hedges
(abeg na one puff per person O!)
Nine thirsty throats
Irrigated by Harry's book-me-down beer
Until Georges opened Crowther lane
Where awoof food and booze
Renewed writerly romps
And the cling-clang
Of Raji's pre-Renaissance Olivetti
Supplied music for wanton bachannals
Odia would erupt from Lagos
Writing a hundred books one second
Publishing two hundred the next

There they gathered
Amid sore and gore
Amid rot and rust
Until one by one

they were haemorrhaged...

Roma, Lesotho, August 2000  




Your grandfather is a pain in the ass
Self-appointed flusher of imaginary morass

He held up a radio station
Screaming of a doomed nation

He raved he saw an open sore
And disturbed our giant snore

We asked him to fend death off our roads
He roamed Western capitals, croaking like a toad


Your father, ah, dat one was worse
Small pikin, shouldering a foolish cause

He abused his elders, calling them vultures
A so-called man of culture

He shelled Shell's dollar-spinning pipes
His lips married to his own pipe

We invited him to come and eat
He clung to a pen, clung to shit


You, having ventured under Northern skies
Please, remain there in your cage of ice

Oyingbo market, beseeched by a million haggling voices
Never notices the absence of one tardy trader



For Gloria and Robert Miller

I did not recognize your imperial face
Ravaged by freckles from Lugard's erstwhile laboratory
I did not recognize your imperial voice
Tonal, accented, every syllable stressed
I sought for the mischiefmaker
Who infested the Queen's tongue with Naija glands
No, I did not understand the absence
Of carriaged Dukes and Duchesses
Of gloved dowagers fanning delicate noses
Of hat-doffing gentlemen and umbrella-ed ladies too noble to shit
Of afternoon tea
Of good manners
Perhaps the brain that yielded Dolly
Ventured the experiment on Oshodi

Here, Sir Winterbottom
Is the faceless immigrant
Here, a tearful Beethoven, a mournful Handel
Dish out concertos in empty halls
Sunny Ade and Wasiu Ayinde do their romps
Owambe trysts scrape autochtonous eardrums
Obesere declares to the winds:

Níbo la wa yi lati gbe n pariwo
Ilu Lawndawn sha la wa yi lati gbe n pariwo

(Where are we, making a hell of a noise?
We are in the city of Lawndawn, making a hell of a noise)

Perhaps Oduduwa's hen scattered
Some of the primeval grains of sand here
Unleashing turbulent tropicalities
On the land of the Pax.
Wayfarer, scrape your hair
At Yinka Hairforce Base;
Oblige your belly amala and abula
At Adebayo Bukataria;
Bless your throat with Gulder
At Tiwa-n-tiwa Beer Parlour

Peckham! You are a peep show
Rerooting the wayfarer
With nude images of his homeland.
Peckham! You have heeded Senghor's supplication
And like New York have consented to transfusion
A gush of Naija blood
Now cleanses your rusty veins


London, June 2000


© Pius Adesanmi.

Click to continue to Akin Adesokan's Roots    
©2006 Chuma Nwokolo, Jr.