Wednesday, 19 November 2008

A debt to Uppsala...

As I prepare to leave (these days I somehow manage to start every sentence of mine with that phrase), I think I ought to give something back to Uppsala for all generous love it has given to me, and for the sun and snow it has so selfishly withheld.

Perhaps I will have to return to Lagos first, to put enough distance betwixt myself and this lovely city that has been home for 3 months, before I can attempt to embark on any such creative 'philanthropy'...

While I muse over what Uppsala has meant to me, and while I pray desperately that I shall not have to pay for overweight luggage at the airport when I leave in a little over a week from now, I will share a poem... my gift to Paris after a (forced) 24 hour sojourn there in February 2005...

* 'forced' because Paris was not meant to host me... I was there only to catch a connecting flight to Lagos. I ended up missing the flight, ended up having to spend a night...


You look at one another with
measured smiles, pursed lips
or Absolute Hesitations

and speak with your eyes
above the din of your skins
in conversations of many frequencies.

there's the disappointment
that comes when French falls
through the teeth of a kinsman

and you think –
another nigger down.
And there's the Enlightenment

of discovering
that not every black man is
from the country

you left behind.
you glance at one another
in rituals of Suspicion

wondering who's legal
and who smells
of impending deportation

Paris is the City
where you speak the slowest,
like a stammerer,

to avoid tangling your tongue.
the City where
you find your way

around the fastest
despite their speaking
in tongues.

Tolu Ogunlesi (c) 2006

Originally published in Sentinel Poetry #49 (4th Anniversary Issue), here

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