Abiku by Wole Soyinka
In vain your bangles cast
Charmed circles at my feet;
I am Abiku, calling for the first
And the repeated time.
Must I weep for goats and cowries
For palm oil and the sprinkled ash?
Yams do not sprout in amulets
To earth Abiku’s limbs.
So when the snail is burnt in his shell
Whet the heated fragments, brand me
Deeply on the breast. You must know him
When Abiku calls again.
I am the squirrel teeth, cracked
The riddle of the palm. Remember
This, and dig me deeper still into
The god’s swollen foot.
Once and the repeated time, ageless
Though I puke. And when you pour
Libations, each finger points me near
The way I came, where
The ground is wet with mourning
White dew suckles flesh-birds
Evening befriends the spider, trapping
Flies in wind-froth;
Night, and Abiku sucks the oil
From lamps. Mother! I’ll be the
Supplicant snake coiled on the doorstep
Yours the killing cry.
The ripes fruit was saddest;
Where I crept, the warmth was cloying.
In the silence of webs, Abiku moans, shaping
Mounds from the yolk.
ABIKU by J.P. Clark
Coming and going these several seasons,
Do stay out on the baobab tree,
Follow where you please your kindred spirits
If indoors is not enough for you.
True, it leaks through the thatch
When floods brim the banks,
And the bats and the owls
Often tear in at night through the eaves,
And at harmattan, the bamboo walls
Are ready tinder for the fire
That dries the fresh fish up on the rack.
Still, it’s been the healthy stock
To several fingers, to many more will be
Who reach to the sun.
No longer then bestride the threshold
But step in and stay
For good. We know the knife scars
Serrating down your back and front
Like beak of the sword-fish,
And both your ears, notched
As a bondsman to this house,
Are all relics of your first comings.
Then step in, step in and stay
For her body is tired,
Tired, her milk going sour
Where many more mouths gladden the heart.
The word Abiku is Yoruba for a spirit child. It refers to a child who must die and repeatedly be reborn again and again.
Abiku is a Yoruba word that can be translated as “predestined to death”. It is from (abi) “that which possesses” and (iku) “death”