DARK WATERS of the beginning.
  Rays, violet and short
  piercing the gloom,
Foreshadow the rain that is dreamed of.
  On far side a rainbow
  arched like boa bent to kill
foreshadows the rain that is dreamed of.
  Me to the orangery
  solitude invites,
  a wagtail, to tell
  the tangled-wood-tale;
  a sunbird, to mourn
  a mother on a spray.
  Rain and sun in single combat;
    on one leg standing
    in silence at the passage
  the young bird at the passage.

Christopher Okigbo [Wikipedia]

(The version in Labyrinths, available here, is slightly different.)


  1. !!!!
    Collected Poems (Hardcover)
    ~ Christopher Okigbo
    Available from these sellers.
    4 used from $157.31

  2. Yikes! I picked up my copy of Labyrinths (Africana, 1971) at the Yale Co-op on June 1, 1979, for a couple of bucks; I still remember the excitement I felt on opening the slim volume by an author I’d never heard of and reading the confident modernist verse that is still the best English-language poetry from Africa I know of. Okigbo should be much better known than he is.

  3. You just described my reaction to this poem. Hence the disappointing Amazon search…
    I’ll keep my eye out at Half-Priced Books.

  4. Love:
    a wagtail, to tell
    the tangled-wood-tale

  5. The whole book is like that. Come on, publishers, reprint it!

  6. Seriously. Bookfinder’s only hit is a hundred and fifteen bucks!

  7. They’ve got the collected pomes for $83.

  8. I wonder if the rights have slipped into limbo, so that nobody can legally reprint them, or if the current holders of the rights has unreasonably high expectations of their value, so that nobody can afford to reprint them? (Okigbo died in the Biafra War, over four decades ago.)

  9. How awful.

  10. You can now get Labyrinths & Path of Thunder (in paperback) for a very reasonable $14.95.

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