Wole Soyinka was the first african writer to receive the Nobel prize in literature in 1986. Born in Nigeria in 1934, Wole Soyinka is a fecund dramatic writer.
Amidst his well known plays : ’A Danse of the Forests’ 1960, ’The Swamp Dwellers 1958, The Trials of Brother Jero’ 1959, ’The Road’ 1965 or the last one ’King Baadu’ 2001.
Wole Soyinka is also a writer of novels, ’The Interpreters’ 1964, ’The Man Died, ’Saison of Anomy’ 1972
[published in RN 04 in March 1992, original text written in English-Nigeria]
Submissive to the year’s contraints
The poet tries again the optician’s expertise.
The placard test begins. One eye
Obeys all semiotic tests. The other
Blurs the dots, rapes simple’rithmetic -
The mind can only total what it separates -
But spots the gnat slow-crawling on the lens’eye.
Next, the literacy test - “We’ll try this board
Shall we ? Start with the topmost line.”
The errant eye discerns, at best,
A charming alphabestiary. “K”
Flaunts wings, “R” wags a furry taill,
“H” sprouts corns, “F” is unicorn.
Rabbit ears adorn the simple “U” while udders
Droop from “W”. “C” has long closed ranks -
He thinks of flawed “O” rings - “Am I
Doomed to crash from vaulting vision ?”
The left eye, boastful, reads in sync.
The micro-printing on the bottom line
But find the page, close held,
A mindless hieroglyphic smear !
The doctor frowns, tugs at his lower lip.
His scrutiny suggests a catch -
“They are BOTH your eyes ?
I know of no eye-transplant in entirety
His sigh is terminal ; he tells the poet
What other clinics had long diagnosed -
“Short-sighted in one eye, long in the other.”
The poet waits, the explosion came on cue -
“But not within the limits we call natural !
A little difference, that’s the norm, but this !
These sir, belong to different pairs of eyes.”
Shrunken shanks, hoary head
Will I look cute in monocles ?
The poet plants, he hopes, a veto on
The optican’s line of thought.
“I hate bi-focals !” The doctor’s laugh
Is bitter. “Your case sir, goes beyond
Bi-focal remedy. Christ ! You think I spend
Three hours one every client ? With eyes like yours
No one could stay in business. A squint
Would make some sense, because your eyes sir,
Are at war with one another. They harmonise
At certain magic intervals - don’t ask me how !
They are your eyes, not mine - or so you claim.”
A sharp, derisive snort affirms the doubt.
Magic intervals ? The patient feels consoled,
No longer isolated as a visual freak.
“That sound poetic” he reflects - “Harmonise
At magic intervals ? All other clinics
Diagnose a bane. None, till now,
Has found a virtue in my visual cross.
You make it sound akin to poetic vision.
The doctor’s voice is strained. My cross sir,
Is to find the right prescription for your sight
Myopia, astigmatism - those modes of vision
Fill me register. There is NO poetic vision !”
The buzzer from front desk recalls him
To his waiting clients. His shoulders sag.
“come back tomorrow. I may summon
A second opinion. The receptionist will find
A vacant slot, I hope. A slot ? Best make it
Three. Or five. Maybe we should allot
One entire morning to your case. Yes,
A second opinion. Two heads are better than one.”
His laugh, the patient thinks, sounds faintly
Manic. “Ha ha... two heads... ha, in your case
How true ! Four eyes, the perfect answer...
Sixteen combinations - that should cover
All your magic intervals.”
Behind the doctor’s antiseptic stare
The patient reads experimental lust
And flees the clinic, never return.
Today he roams the streets, surviving
On his own prescription :
One eye-patch woven of gossamer skeins
Images of New Clothes for the Emperor.
And for the other eye, a conjured prism, herding
Riots of signals into a parsimonious
Lyric impetus, spaced, at magic intervals.
[in 'Mandela's Earth and other poems', Ibadan Publisher, Nigeria]