What time of night it is
I do not know
Except that like some fish
Doped out of the deep
I have bobbed up bellywise
From stream of sleep
And no cocks crow.
It is drumming hard here
And I suppose everywhere
Droning with insistent ardour upon
Our roof thatch and shed
And thro' sheaves slit open
To lightning and rafters
I cannot quite make out overhead
Great water drops are dribbling
Falling like orange or mango
Fruits showered forth in the wind
Or perhaps I should say so
Much like beads I could in prayer tell
Them on string as they break
In wooden bowls and earthenware
Mother is busy now deploying
About our roomlet and floor.
Although it is so dark
I know her practiced step as
She moves her bins, bags and vats
Out of the run of water
That like ants gain possession
Of the floor. Do not tremble then
But turns, brothers, turn upon your side
Of the loosening mats
To where the others lie.
We have drunk tonight of a spell
Deeper than the owl's or hat's
That wet of wings may not fly
Bedraggled up on the iroko, they stand
Emptied of hearts, and
Therefore will not stir, no, not
Even at dawn for then
They must scurry in to hide.
So let us roll over on our back
And again roll to the beat
Of drumming all over the land
And under its ample soothing hand
Joined to that of the sea
We will settle to sleep of the innocent and free.
By: J.P. Clark
John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo was born at Kiagbodo in the Ijaw country in 1935.
For a while he worked as a newspaper editor, before going to Princeton University in the United States where he was a Parvin Fellow. On his return to Nigeria he became a Research Fellow at the University of lbadan. He spent ten years as editor of the highly influential literary magazine Black Orpheus. He then moved to the University of Lagos, as Professor and Head of Department. He took voluntary retirement in 1980 to allow time for his research and creative endeavours. He set up the first Repertory Theatre in the country, PEC Repertory Theatre. A poet, playwright and essayist, Clark-Bekederemo has been a prolific author. His writings include a book of critical essays, America their America, a collection of literary essays, The Example of Shakespeare, and a highly acclaimed translation of the Ozidi Saga. He has published numerous volumes of poetry including A Reed in the Tide, which is said to have been the first by a single African poet to be published internationally (rather than in an anthology.) His poetry is inspired a great deal by his cultural roots among the Ijaw people of Nigeria. Other volumes of poetry include Casualties, which came out in 1970 just after the Nigerian Civil War, A Decade of Tongues, State of the Union, and a sixth book of poems, Mandela and other poems.JP Clark remains a controversial figure in some respects, but there is no doubting his prowess as a poet. Nigerian poet and playwright; he originally published under the name of J. P. Clark. Poetry is the genre in which he is probably most successful as an artist. His poetic works are Poems (1961), a group of forty lyrics that treat heterogeneous themes; A Reed in the Tide (1965), occasional poems that focus on the poet's indigenous African background and his travel experience in America and other places; Casualties: Poems 1966-68 (1970), which illustrates the horrendous events of the Nigeria-Biafra war; A Decade of Tongues (1981), a collection of seventy-four poems, all except 'Epilogue to Casualties' (dedicated to Michael Echeruo) His poetic career spans three literary pedigrees: the apprenticeship stage of trial and experimentation, exemplified by such juvenilia as 'Darkness and Light' and 'Iddo Bridge'; the imitative stage, in which he appropriates such Western poetic conventions as the couplet measure and the sonnet sequence, exemplified in such lyrics as 'To a Fallen Soldier' and 'Of Faith', and the individualized stage, in which he attains the maturity and originality of form of such poems as 'Night Rain', 'Out of the Tower', and 'Song'. While his poetic themes centre on violence and protest (Casualties), institutional corruption (State of the Union), the beauty of nature and the landscape (A Reed in the Tide), European colonialism ('Ivbie' in Poems), and humanity's inhumanity (Mandela and Other Poems), he draws his imagery from the indigenous African background and the Western literary tradition, interweaving them to dazzling effect. Although he is fascinated by the poetic styles of Western authors, particularly G.M. Hopkins, T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, and W.H. Auden, he has cultivated an eloquent, penetrating, and descriptive voice of his own. Bekederemo's dramas include Song of a Goat (1961), a tragedy cast in the Greek classical mode in which the impotence of Zifa, the protagonist, causes his wife Ebiere and his brother Tonye to indulge in an illicit love relationship that results in suicide. As one of Africa's pre-eminent and distinguished authors, he has, since his retirement, continued to play an active role in literary affairs, a role in which he is increasingly gaining deserved international recognition. In 1991, for example, he received the Nigerian National Merit Award for literary excellence and saw publication, by Howard University, of his two definitive volumes, The Ozidi Saga and Collected Plays and Poems 1958-1988.