The Bug That Ate the Vegetable

I spoke endlessly, you refused totally,
I articulated incessantly, you kept shrugging your shoulders
I spoke it in codes, I spoke French,
You turned a deaf ear, you did not take it seriously.
You said I am overdoing it, that I am pestering you a lot.
Where exactly is my error?
Is it really my fault?
The bug that ate the vegetable isn’t guilty,
There is a limit to a plant’s beauty.
Whoever pursues Àsùnlé is guiltless.
Isn’t there a limit to how beautiful a maiden can be!
Before you came, I had rejected others,
Before I met you, I had rebuffed the pleas of many,
I said I will be like the bat on a palm,
That hangs upside down, watching the acts of other birds.
Once bitten, twice shy
I said before I look at the face of another maiden,
It will be a while, it will be some time.
Hùn! the snail closed its door,
It says it will not answer the rain,
It is only the first rain of the year that has just fallen,
That has the snail carrying its house.
Wandering around the water with its horns,
It was peacefully by myself that I went to Gbági market
I got to the front of Sánráì and I committed a grave offense
I saw the-light-skinned-beauty with gorgeous shoulders
I saw the-beautiful-eyed-one-that-wore-everything-fittingly
The black crown on Àsùnlé’s head was fitting
It was more fitting than a prince’s crown.
My heart beat faster as if I should cry,
My heart panted as if I should start my message
I again remembered my promise and kept quiet,
I kept quiet; I went on like a dummy.
Alas! Once the arrow of love strikes, it cannot be pulled out.
It is swiftly that strong alcohol intoxicates,
It is quickly that a child returns from discarded farms
I glanced back once, I glanced back again,
They implored Orò not to throw stones,
He says how about the one that he is holding?
My snail is attached to your tree.
The two faces of the dùndún drum only produce one tune.
Both you and I, our hearts have become one.
If the elephant likes, let it go into the forest
If the buffalo likes, let it return to the grassland,
If the bàtá drum goes on a journey
Let its ornament bells follow it.
Once I see you,
Whoever wants to go can leave.


Don’t Snatch Àbèní

I cannot handle farming,
I am lazy,
I cannot hunt small game,
My wife has matured,
I do not have money!
The owner of twenty slaves must not take her,
The master of thirty servants must not snatch her.
Don’t snatch Àbèní,
Don’t snatch my woman.
He that snatches the wife of the lazy man snatches trouble,
If it were the rich man’s wife,
He could marry another instead.
It is the stirring about that kills the pestle
I will recount the story in Adó
I will recount the story in Ede
I will report in Ìgbàrà Òkè
I will report up to Ìbàdàn.
Àbèní does not want money,
Àbèní does not want clothes:
The words of my mouth are soothing to Àbèní
The mouth of the wealthy cannot be as soothing.
I, the one that speaks to thrill the young,
The-thought-provoking-speaker for the old.
I have recited poetry in small settlements
I recited in the land of Aké
I recited in Ibàdàn
As an indigene.
Olúbàdàn actually came to watch me.
I recited in Lagos,
They couldn’t make fun of me.
I recited poetry for the landlords,
They gave me a house to live in,
I recited poetry for the owners of the path,
They bequeathed me with the road.
It is poetry that I recited,
They said that I wanted to snatch their woman.
We have wife,
We have wife.
It is poetry that you heard and you adjusted your headgear!
Àbèní is enough for me.
If it is a rich man that wants to snatch Àbèní,
He will fritter away his money,
If it is a chief that wants to snatch Àbèní,
He will use his crown as collateral for a debt,
The priest that wants to snatch Àbèní,
He will become an adversary of God,
It is me, Àjàní, that says so,
I am not saying this timorously.
Words will not tear my lips,
I have been saying this for a long time!



It’s not that I have never seen a bird,
But the peacock is different among birds.
It’s not that I have never seen a snake before,
But Nìnì is the most attractive of snakes.
Even though non-human,
It covers itself in the farm with velvet.
It’s not that I have never seen spinach,
But òpòpò has the most attractive texture to me.
It stands out with its cool dark texture,
The eye that has seen masquerades and festivals
But that has not seen the Gèlèdé performance
Has really not seen anything.
It’s not that I have never seen a young woman,
But the day I briefly saw Títí
Was when I concurred that the work of God is limitless.
Beauty could be in twenty ways.
Beauty could be in thirty ways.
But beauty is different from beauty,
Congenital is different from fashioned,
The natural is different from cosmetic.
Títí is exceptionally beautiful,
She stands out among others.
To be dark-complexioned and shiny too!
To walk and walk gorgeously.
Clear eyes as fresh as the water in the mud pot
Thighs as sweet as a comb of honey.
If you claim to be as beautiful as Títí
Your character cannot be as good as Títí’s,
And even if you say you have good character
Your intelligence cannot be close to that of my friend.
Equitable body, desirably slim
With hair-like-a-crown, her teeth, white as cotton.
If a wise person has character and beauty
She cannot but be highly attractive all over.
And so, what is wrong
That you close your ears to my song?
Open your ears, my song is sweet
It is indeed harmonious.
You own the house where I want to dwell,
You own the door that I am knocking.
Don’t hide your love,
Open the door for me,
I want to enter.


Copyright © 2010 by Akinwumi Isola. All rights reserved.