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.

Niyi Osundare: “La palabra es un huevo” y “Comida de oído” / “The word is an egg” and “Ear food”


Niyi Osundare  (nace 1947, Nigeria)

“La palabra es un huevo” *



Mi lengua es un fuego rosado

No le permitas que prenda fuego a tus orejas

Cuando los proverbios chocan

En La calle de risas esperandos

Y momentos murmurandos sacan

Un canto fúnebre de los labios del sol atardeciente


Contaremos los dientes

De la luna

Y cantaremos coronitas

Para las estrellas desaparecidas…


La Palabra, es un huevo la Palabra:

Si se cae en el saliente

De una lengua tropezando


Se quiebra sin reunirse.




* un proverbio del idioma yoruba



Niyi Osundare  (born 1947, Nigeria)

“The word is an egg” *


My tongue is a pink fire

Don’t let it set your ears on fire

When proverbs clash

In the street of waiting laughters

And murmuring moments eke out

A dirge from the lips of the setting sun


We shall count the teeth

Of the moon

And sing little wreaths

For missing stars…


The Word, the Word

Is an egg:

If it falls on the outcrop

Of a stumbling tongue


It breaks





* a proverb from the Yoruba language



“Comida de oído”



¿Lo has visto

a quién que puede alimentar a una multitud de orejas

Con siete pescados de imaginación

y tres panes de silencio?


¿Has visto a la Palabra

que brotó una serpiente

a la sorpresa frenética de Faraón?


Caminan estas Palabras sobre el mar

Y nunca se hunden.




“Ear food”



Have you seen him

who can feed a multitude of ears

With seven fishes of fancy

And three loaves of silence?


Have you seen the Word

which  sprang a serpent

to Pharaoh’s frenetic surprise?


These Words walk on the sea

and they never sink.



Traducción del inglés al español / Translation from English into Spanish:

Alexander Best