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.