POEMS

Telephone Conversation – by Wole Soyinka

The price seemed reasonable, location Indifferent.
The landlady swore she lived Off premises.
Nothing remained But self- confession “Madam, I warned, “I hate a wasted journey- I am African.”
Silence. Silenced transmission of Pressurised good – breeding.
Voice, when it came Lipstick-coated, long gold-rolled Cigarette- holder pipped.
Caught I was foully “HOW DARK?…… I had not misheard……
“ARE YOU LIGHT OR VERY DARK?”
Button B, Button A, stench
Of rancid breath of public hide-and –speak Red booth.
Red pillar box.
Red double-tiered
Omnibus squelching tar.
It was real.
Shamed
By ill-mannered silence, surrender Pushed dumbfounded to beg simplification.
Considerate she was, varying the emphasis- “ARE YOU DARK? OR VERY LIGHT?”
Revelation came
“You mean –like plain or milk chocolate?”
Her assent was clinical, crushing in its light Impersonality,
Rapidly, wave length adjusted, I chose “West African sepia”- and as afterthought, “Down in my passport.”
Silence for spectroscopic
Flight of fancy, till truthfulness clanged her accent Hard on the mouthpiece.
“WHAT IS THAT?” conceding
“DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT IS”
“Like brunette.”
THAT’S DARK, ISN’T IT?” Not altogether,
Facially, I am a brunette, but Madam you should see The rest of me.
Palm of my hand, soles of my feet Are a peroxide blonde.
Friction caused Foolishly, Madam – by sitting down, has turned
My bottom raven black-
One moment – sensing Her receiver rearing on the thunderclap
About my ears- “Madam” I pleaded “wouldn’t you rather See for yourself?”

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Wole Soyinka

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