O ma se oo!! So that man too has died?
So death has coerced him out of living?
When? How did he die?
Does it matter?
He obeyed death’s beguiling beckon.
I remember him,
Wrinkly faced, aged mouth intoned in a plangent threnody,
Improvising in anguished lamentations
With a deft sobriety as his forebears had done.
Is he now dead?
The one who quipped Al-Mautu in his solemn chants
A coward? To have yielded to death’s summon?
Alas, another dirgerer
In unhurried languid tones, as his erstwhile.
Iku leers at him from the shadows,
Waiting, waiting to seize him
Seize him vengefully at the appointed time.
Oh harbinger of rigor mortis,
Didn’t we attempt to bribe you?
You scoffed at our mortal pleas,
your quarry already aimed; our dirge singer
Unfallen wrestler of bygone years,
how did you fall to the faceless coward?
Did he pounce on you from behind?
How cruel this vanquisher is?
Not even allowing you picks buba or fila
Before whisking you off in hurried covet.
Fatally inebriated, the swig you took from death’s goblet.
Haa!! Iku ti gba opa ilu lowo re
Timber with largest girth, is always short-lived in the forest
You yearned longetivity, who doesn’t?
Al-Mautu disagreed, the Creator refused,
The mouth wished to retain the delicious meat, but the throat disagreed
The visitor has returned to his dwelling
Your soul; the visitor
Visitor of the body
It eloped in the cordial company of death
Multitude musings at my mouth
Don’t you tire?
Marauder of many mortals, even the meek,
Thrusting deceased into the womb of the earth,
Earth the voracious, swallows,
Like cloudy skies to the sun.
Sharp screams of pain tears me out of reverie,
The new dirge singer dirges on robotically
A newer one at his would-be demise
After all a dirge for a dirge singer
*o ma se oo: A popular Yoruba expression “what a pity”
Al-Mautu: Arabic word for”death” also used in Yoruba vernacular
Iku: Yoruba word for “death”
Buba and fila: Yoruba traditional cloth, buba could be shirt or smock and fila means cap
Iku ti gba opa ilu lowo re: a Yoruba expression roughly meaning “death has wrenched the drum stick from his drumming hands”
Dirgerer: a coined word from the poet meaning “a dirge singer”
(This piece was totally imagined in the form of a household whose family heritage it is to sing dirges at people’s funeral, only for them to die to be replaced by another one. It was inspired by the so many news of demises around us, and from Ayinla omowura’s song “omi titun ti ru”)