Niyi Osundare: “Àlùpàyídà” / “Metamorphosis”


Niyi Osundare 

Àlùpàyídà / Metamorphosis


I stay very long in the river

And I become a fish

With a head made of coral

And fins which tame the distance

Of billowing depths


I stay very long in the fish

And I become a mountain

With a mist-cradled crest

And feet carpeted by grass

Which sweetens dawnbreath with jasmine magic


I stay very long on the mountain

And I become a bird

With a net of polyglot straw

And songs which stir the ears

Of slumbering forests


I stay very long with the bird

And I become a road

With long dusty eyes

And limbs twining through the bramble

Like precocious pythons


I stay very long on the road

And I become a cigarette

Lighted both ends by powerful geysers,

Ash-winged firefly on nights

Of muffled darkness


I stay very long with the cigarette

And I become a clown

With a wide, painted face

And a belly stuffed to the brim

With rippling laughters


I stay very long with the clown

And I become a sage

With a twinkling beard

And fables which ply the yarn

Of grizzled memories


I stay very long in s-i-l-e-n-c-e

I become a Word.




Àlùpàyídà = the Yoruba word for Metamorphosis



Niyi Osundare was born in Ikere-Ekiti, Nigeria, in 1947.

He is a poet, dramatist, and university professor,

now teaching in the USA.

Writing under successive dictatorial governments in Nigeria,

Osundare has always been passionate about free speech and

is political as a poet, knowing how very necessary that is in the

contemporary African context.  “To utter is to alter” is his belief;

we must use the power of words.