‘Idanre’ for BBC 100

Night sets me free; I suffer skies to sprout

Ebb to full navel in progressive arcs, ocean

Of a million roe, highway of eyes and moth-wings.

Night sets me free, I ride on ovary silences

In the wake of ghosts


Ogun’s mantle brushed the leaves, the phase of night

Was mellow wine joined to a dirge

Of shadows, the air withdrew to scything motions

Of his dark-shod feet, seven-ply crossroads

Hands of camwood, breath of indigo


Night sets me free, soft sediments on skin

And sub-soil mind… Dawn came gradual, mists

Fell away from rock and honeycomb, Idanre woke

To braided vapours, a dance of seven veils

The septuple god was groom and king.


Mists fell to mote infinities from mountain face

Retrieved, were finely gathered to a sponge

Of froth murmurs in palm veins, he rinsed

The sunrise of his throat in agile wine; I took the sun

In his copper calabash


Dawn, He who had dire reaped

And in the wrong season, bade the forests swallow him

And left mankind to harvest. At pilgrim lodge

The wine-girl kept lone vigil, fused still

In her hour of charity


A dawn of bright processions, the sun peacocked

Loud, a new mint of coins. Ans those were all

The night hours, only the dissipated gourds,

Rain serried floor, fibre walls in parsimonious

Sifting of the sun, and she…


Light burnished to a copper earth, cornucopia

Fell in light cascades around her feet. Our paths

Grew solemn as her indrawn eye, bride of Night

Hoard of virgin dawns, expectant grew her distant gaze

And Harvest came, responsive


The first fruits rose from subterranean hoards

First in our vision, corn sheaves rose over hill

Long before the bearers, domes of eggs and flesh

Of palm fruit, red, oil black, froth flew in sun bubbles

Burst over throngs of golden gourds


And they moved towards resorption in His alloy essence

Primed to a fusion, primed to the sun’s dispersion

Containment and communion, seed-time and harvest, palm

And pylon, Ogun’s road a ‘Mobius’ orbit, kernel

And electrons, wine to alchemy.

Recording used by permission of the BBC - recorded by the author for a BBC radio broadcast on 22nd September, 1968 - from Idanre and Other Poems (Methuen & Co, 1967) used by permission of the author.

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