We managed to find JP Clark-Bekederemo, arguably Nigeria's best-loved and most famous living poet. We met with him at the Lagos Motor Boat club for drinks. At 74, he is still going strong. He is currently working on an 8-part documentary series on the Ijaws. A strong political contestation drives him yet onwards. I'd like to have as much passion and conviction when I'm his age..
We read this poem as we travelled around Yorubaland (more poems here).
What time of night it is
I do not know
Except that like some fish
Doped out of the deep
I have bobbed up bellywise
From stream of sleep
And no cocks crow.
It is drumming hard here
And I suppose everywhere
Droning with insistent ardour upon
Our roof thatch and shed
And thro' sheaves slit open
To lightning and rafters
I cannot quite make out overhead
Great water drops are dribbling
Falling like orange or mango
Fruits showered forth in the wind
Or perhaps I should say so
Much like beads I could in prayer tell
Them on string as they break
In wooden bowls and earthenware
Mother is busy now deploying
About our roomlet and floor.
Although it is so dark
I know her practiced step as
She moves her bins, bags and vats
Out of the run of water
That like ants gain possession
Of the floor. Do not tremble then
But turns, brothers, turn upon your side
Of the loosening mats
To where the others lie.
We have drunk tonight of a spell
Deeper than the owl's or hat's
That wet of wings may not fly
Bedraggled up on the iroko, they stand
Emptied of hearts, and
Therefore will not stir, no, not
Even at dawn for then
They must scurry in to hide.
So let us roll over on our back
And again roll to the beat
Of drumming all over the land
And under its ample soothing hand
Joined to that of the sea
We will settle to sleep of the innocent and free.
By: J.P. Clark