The True Prison | Ken Saro Wiwa

It is not the leaking roof
Nor the singing mosquitoes
In the damp, wretched cell
It is not the clank of the key
As the warden locks you in
It is not the measly rations
Unfit for beast or man
Nor yet the emptiness of day
Dipping into the blankness of night
It is not
It is not
It is not

It is the lies that have been drummed
Into your ears for a generation
It is the security agent running amok
Executing callous calamitous orders
In exchange for a wretched meal a day
The magistrate writing into her book
A punishment she knows is undeserved
The moral decrepitude
The mental ineptitude
The meat of dictators
Cowardice masking as obedience
Lurking in our denigrated souls
It is fear damping trousers
That we dare not wash
It is this
It is this
It is this
Dear friend, turns our free world
Into a dreary prison

Malawi: Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Pipe Still Puffing (Ten Years On) | Jack Mapanje

Yesterday, I stopped at another
Shell petrol station and recalled how
you’d have loved to puff from your pipe
there, for your Ogoni people and land;
I did not, of course, stop to fill up with
petrol, definitely not! I stopped merely
to have a good pee, as promised I would
when they got you executed. Today, I
thought, well, why don’t we treasure
the moment we once shared?

 

Jack Mapanje (b. 1944, Malawi), currently Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, is the author of 4 collections of poetry, the editor of several more, and the recipient of awards including the Rotterdam Poetry International Award and the African Literature Association (USA) Fonlon-Nichols Award.