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I want to write the songs of my people
I want to frame their dreams into words
their souls into notes
I want to catch their sunshine laughter
in a bowl

-- Margaret Walker, This is My Century


"This is my century", you proclaimed:
your songs sharpened their teeth
against the silence of its seasons

Plumbed its skies for hidden moons
sewed its days into garlands
for the Daughters of Light

Face powdered with the dust of galloping suns,
you watched dark horses neigh
with the night, their saddles red

With fire and sable winds;
when you spoke with the Sky, the Heavens
answered in thunder and purple showers

And so the Mississippi of your Muse
never lacked a current of alluvial visions
thronged, swift-footed, long-memoried

Black like polished mahogany
brown like a chocolate laughter
mellow like the blues which rose

Above the delta roofs
quick with questions
tremulous like a water reed . . .


Native Daughter,
you left your song
in the bruised palm of domestic hands

In the drudgery of Negro hordes
pounding city pavements
seeking justice, finding none

In the chaingangs of crowded prisons
where Black manhood withers behind the walls
and wails fall back to earth like wingless echoes

We have walked
on thorn-roads and tear-tracks
bearing pale idols like millennial burdens

Across shark-choked oceans
in yoked transportations reeking
of blood and bones

The wound is wide, the scar severe,
but Agony’s long road
is shorter than Hope

Jubilee drums ride the winds
summoning us to new steps
new songs hatch in the nest of buried feathers

“This is my century”, you proclaimed,
your voice the colour of earth
your song glowing like a tropical sunset

You have dipped your pen in sunlight
and written sour nights into daring days
your face soft-blue like a summer sky.

Niyi Osundare

Niyi Osundare is a prolific poet, playwright, and literary scholar. He was born in 1947 in Ikere-Ekiti, Nigeria. Having served as a professor and also Department Head of English at the University of Ibadan for eight years, Osundare and his family moved to the United States to allow one of his daughters the chance to broaden her education. He has been an English professor at the University of New Orleans since 1997. His most recent poetry collection is entitled
City Without People.