Through mud some among them already tread across
others, underwater, passed archward
In each mouth a blue pearl,
each a blue pearl between lips.
Horns of dark wood sounded,
horns of ivory,
The Three talking drums,
the antique séele among them,
its stretched batrachian hide
Like a traitor heart, speeches rosy devastations
Conjures first rhythms, hearing
webbed thunderstorm hands.
And the toads chorusing
as if the world’s day one:
Twelve fertile heifers, their calves
Neck-deep in the river
Twelve stallions exit the sea
forging up the river’s course, to the lake,
there, within the One
Shadows’ shimmer above the surge,
shadows dance in curves of the flow
Grey-blue sky and
green fieldscapes, somber
Skies float above waters
in the water, the calao bird stretches,
And sky, reclined and rocking
how they lean against each other,
Reeds lying on the water,
The swell murmurs sensual in the gravepit,
in the gravepit two hundred albinos,
In the gravepit slippery silure,
and the Three Water goddesses dance in the depths,
Spades rummage in the haystacks,
of ample-body, plump-limbed
Calming the waters in pleasure’s vestibules,
waters made to appease, to bring peace,
to improve things,
Silent magnanimity fills the court with secret,
Loins in red grasses,
grind against vault,
The great word salutes the water,
separates the muddy waters,
fastens swell to boundaries,
Leads to the place of portage:
Now, the cry of joy.
vines and incantations
stitched with a soft voice, hands-behind-back,
in spirals, stitched again with light.
Clear words walk before us,
clear words are our ancestors,
words are our children,
they watch us from behind:
our children are our ancestors.
The twist-horned Sacred Ram,
male, sowing seed
perennially repeating his births.
Motherqueens waist-deep in dirt,
new ritual fire,
new comers to the cowbell’s calls
hearts and drum hides renewed,
hammers and emblems renewed
copulation, watering holes flushed clean,
new ardent-eyed mask,
bejeweled with triangles black and red
painted in sorrel, in sacrificial blood
bala seeds and oil of sa,
with a splash of dawgblood and th’oil sesame,
perfumed with sorghum root.
Seeding then signs,
bordered backwoods, scoured plantations,
the drums return, ferried in palanquins
the bulls return to the pen;
pressed g e n t l y
two by two into the earth,
g e n t l y, “watch your step,”
to incantate a safeguard for Orion’s trek, across the sea’s circumference,
and his return behind the cloud behind inverted Pleiades;
So, bodies and breaths refreshed,
ben-lãnmè-sea-bath head shorn clean wi’ swift obsidian blade,
stale breaths rejected anus-wise,
the four directions renewed,
Aspiring new emanations
of ritual traces restored,
symbols of the creation restored.
Thus the women joyfully cry,
paint their bodies red with padouk,
all glistening, all lightsome, well-kempt
Thus shed, we crossover,
by dawn, the rain will have washed us of goat’s blood;
“And now we can marry,
now we can recite eulogies, applaud loudly,
now we can fulfill his vow”:
To cultivate millet, to cut ready grain, to fill the granaries with it.
from “Water (Return)”
Old women at water’s edge
in the place that
in the place where
it never runs dry.
They sing water stories
to those who know how to listen,
But who still knows how to listen to stories?
Who knows how to listen to water,
Oh who knows still how to listen?
By the infinite marsh’s edge
Sacred Wanjina, mouthless,
Sãpola and Kpãkpali, those invisible twins,
and sea turtles, and manatees.
Thus they sing, immeasurably.
They sing: “Where, the water? Olo! Where, the calabash water-full?
Who holds the calabash water-full? Who will take the water, dleau?
And who will give to who? Who thinks of taking dleau?
To return to who? Who will return it to who in their turn?
Whose water, whose dleau? And who will take it? And it returns to who?
Claiming whose is whose?
Just where will he go with this dleau? Olo!
Just where does this water go?
Where will he return, fall-reversed, with this dleau? Olo! Olo!
Will Tigban take dleau and offer it to his father?
And when his father takes dleau,
Who will he pass it to?”
That the path be clear.