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THE BLACK MAN’S BURDEN

-  Not for Rudyard Kipling

by Kunle Okesipe

But we reworked our steps when in the desert
the sun its method revised;
Sands once leashed in the ampersands of roots
Their artless colours unfurled,
and we mourned with meagre tears
The burial by dust of the first harvests of death.

We knew, like a pack of cards that fate played,
Some cards might win;
But we also knew that cards were cards:
A dealing hand would deal again after a round of loss.

We knew,
Like a stowaway that falls on the roof of Heathrow
As a little tribute to gravity,
That death might vary its style,
But every mode of dying is same to a chicken in a pot of soup.

So in the second moon we left a village of desert hares,
A settlement besieged at night by nocturnal hunger of owls
And in the morning by double digits of feline ambush.

Then in the night of our middle passage,
In a boat weak of wood but strong in dare,
With the suave trafficker, his wares of girls
And their twin assets of trading breasts,
With a boy eating an onion to taste right for
a picnic of holidaying sharks;

With a seer gifted in forecast of soccer and a talent for betting:
For a fee of water,
We sold off a prophecy of bliss in Lampedusa
To a man in perfect jeans but tattered French –

Not the first to bequeath his last breath to the charity of wind,
Nor the last to enter the third course of a Mediterranean meal
Of a rabble of honest piranhas and psychotic dolphins.

Without counting the women tricked into commerce of flesh,
Without counting the skeletons in suits
And a crepuscular nostalgia of orphaned shoes,
Without recalling the dust storm of the desert and the
witchcraft of insatiate waves,

Here we are at last,
The crumbs untouched by the cutlery of death,
At the gate of Lampedusa, half devils and half children,
O Kipling, to save your sons from exile with us,
The cry of hosts ye humoured at your doorstep at last.

 

 

Image adapted from photograph by Sara Prestianni under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

 

About the Author

Kunle Okesipe

Kunle Okesipe is a Nigerian poet and playwright whose poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Revolution Relaunch (TRR), The Tiger Moth and a number of anthologies. He has also won prizes for his plays.    

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adda is looking for new writing on the theme of climate change. We are seeking poetry, fiction and – in particular – non-fiction. Deadline 31 January 2020.

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