Bola Opaleke is annoyed that the gods play poker with our destinies.
Puritan XXIII contributor Bola Opaleke talks about colonial exploitation and the importance of children administering “a kick to the butt” in this note regarding his poem “A Dirge For Yesterday.”
The west seemed to have carried the burden of freedom around the world on her thin shoulders for so long she now looked enslaved herself. From the crumbling villages in the thick forests of Africa to the astonishing high rise buildings of Europe, the same story resonates—the polluted air of corruption filled our tired lungs. Still, we have to wake up everyday gazing upward to sunshine, to the gods that have so far enjoyed playing “poker” with our destinies (if ever there was one).
The poem was inspired by the unending stories of political maneuverings of the ruling class and the constant diplomatic dribbling of nations who often sacrifice the helpless souls of unsuspecting citizens to achieve one “national interest” or another. To me, the everyday happenings within the modern day democracy is not too different from the “ancient” tales of slavery. From Africa to Asia, the Americas to Middle East, the “messiah” who held the whip now holds the gun but the story remain unchanged.
We run from pillar to post, from a past we would love to forget to a future we would love to never embrace. We crave freedom…one preached by them. But there was nothing in our world that was free, there still is nothing in their world that is free! The poem was both an exploration into yesterday and a peep into tomorrow, how little the world has changed, how the little man still struggles, how he still climb trees to see “Jesus.” The position of a continent like Africa in the league of nations was (and still is) so controversial that one wonders how many more “Berlin Conferences” were held every year, albeit secretly. Or not so secretly after all—independence has been “slapped” to our muddy faces and our very kinsmen “appointed” to polish it to a deceptive glow.
The poem is about my sentiment for a dying world where children wake their parents up from bed with a kick to the butt.
Bola Opaleke was born in Ede, a village on the banks of River Osun, in the western part of Nigeria. He graduated from Obafemi Awolowo University (Formerly University of Ife) in western Nigeria with honours in Environmental Planning. Bola relocated to Canada in 2011. A number of his poems and essays have appeared in a few print and e-magazines like FIVE Poetry Magazine, Miracle E-zine, Poetry Pacific, Drunk Monkeys, a League of Canadian Poets feature, the University of Saskatchewan’s St. Peters College annual anthology (the Society Vol. 10, 2013), UK Poetry Library, and others. In August 2012, his first book of poetry, A Note from Hell, was published by an American publisher. In almost all of his work, the abject poverty of Africa, its eroded societal values and culture, and the political manoeuvring of the ruling class feature prominently.