Lumumba’s Gold Tooth

on August 9, 2022
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   And in the casket came a tooth,
                 Burden of four pallbearers

There is a heavy weight to this tooth
     Extracted in cruel colonial jest from the jaw 
Of an assassinated patriot, like priceless coltan 
     From Katanga’s bleeding bowels
Belgium’s burden
     Congo’s catastrophe
Sixty years, memento of the King’s colonial guard 
     Now glittering trophy in the age of calculated diplomacy

Once member of the parliament
     Of a mouth that dared to speak 
When silence was safe (and profitable)
     And the King owned the natives

And all they owned, this tell-tale tooth
     Invokes the ghosts of 
Murdered millions, stubborn scars 
     And other blessings of the Civilizing Mission
There is a heavy weight to this tooth
     Its lavishly upholstered casket
Its fit-and-proper pallbearers 
      Their mock-heroic enactments

Erie requiem in a city 
     Once named for Leopold
When the Cold War was hot 
     The Warriors blind with murderous impunity 
Drumrolls, triumphal trumpets
     Thunderous anthems 
A flotilla of flags
     From the visiting King, a proclamation of “profound regret”. . . 
Will Mrs Lumumba now open this casket
     And kiss her loving husband?

Niyi Osundare is a leading African poet, dramatist, critic, essayist, and media columnist. He has authored 18 books of poetry, two books of selected poems with several literary laurels to his credits.