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"Abiku" by Wole Soyinka for Poets of West Africa Workshop

Wanderer child. It is the same child who dies and returns again and again to plague the mother.
-Yoruba belief

In vain your bangles cast
Charmed circles at my feet
I am Abiku, calling for the first
And repeated time.

Must I weep for goats and cowries
For palm oil and sprinkled ask?
Yams do not sprout amulets
To earth Abiku's limbs.

So when the snail is burnt in his shell,
Whet the heated fragment, brand me
Deeply on the breast - you must know him
When Abiku calls again.

I am the squirrel teeth, cracked
The riddle of the palm; remember
This, and dig me deeper still into
The god's swollen foot.

Once and the repeated time, ageless
Though I puke, and when you pour
Libations, each finger points me near
The way I came, where

The ground is wet with mourning
White dew suckles flesh-birds
Evening befriends the spider, trapping
Flies in wine-froth;

Night, and Abiku sucks the oil
From lamps. Mothers! I'll be the
Suppliant snake coiled on the doorstep
Yours the killing cry.

The ripest fruit was saddest
Where I crept, the warmth was cloying.
In silence of webs, Abiku moans, shaping
Mounds from the yolk.

Written by Wole Soyinka

Editing stage: 


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author comment

.one of my best poem (by Wole Soyinka)

According to Yoruba mythology, Abiku refers to a child who dies repeatedly before puberty. It means ‘predestined to death’. Influenced by some spiritual deities a child dies prematurely leaving the mother miserable. Once the mother gives birth again and the child has the same physical features as the previous one, she puts a mark on the chest, back or face of the child. The parents then consult the oracle and appeases the spirit family of the child, if it is confirmed that it is from there.

Abiku’s are spirits who may have families in the spiritual world. The myth is that those spirits are hungry as no one offers sacrifices to them. In anger, they come to the physical world to eat and provide food for their spiritual family and at the peak of happiness in the home, they die. Such happiness may include marriage ceremony, coronation and wealth. This is a pure act of revenge as the cry of a mother excites the Abiku spirit.

The poem's persona, Abiku mocks the object used to confine him to earth. The bangles and charmed circles cannot refrain him from dying. He asserts proudly ‘I am Abiku calling for the first and repeated time’. From the tone of Abiku we know that he is addressing his parents.

He tells them that they are wasting their time by trying to make him stay. This poem vividly portrays the futility of life, meaning that man’s effort to avoid death is futile and man is a vain person. The dominant mood of the poem is pride. The language is simple with complex meaning. Its complexity is achieved by the use of metaphor and imagery.

what is your view on this poem, do things like this happen over there

A new workshop on the most important element of poetry-
'Rhythm and Meter in Poetry'

author comment
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