The First Time Papa Cried

The first time Papa cried,
I stole away to laugh.
Another powerful man had been put in the ground,
After a thorough life,
Oily men dug a grave in the front chamber,
And added his golden spoils to the mix.

A portrait in the sun,
This dead man had the face of a dying plant.
21 guns thundered.
The Ogene wailed.
The drunkard raised hell.
Beggars faked death.
Girls came with Easter headscarves.
Fat women rubbed blood mud into their hair.
Thick men squeezed dusty chests.
There were questions for Chineke.
Young boys owned white shirts with a squeezed face in its rear.
The town-crier could not find his pregnant goat.
Adieu.
Aka ji mba.
Adieu.

The first time Papa cried,
I stole away to laugh.
The parish choir cried a mutilation.
The village masquerade started a dogfight.
The madwoman was heavy with a bastard child.
A dog fell in the drinking-water well.

The first time Papa cried,
I stole away to laugh.
The gospel of his manly tears,
An answer for the ages.

Did I tell you, I sipped my first palm-wine after?
Did I tell you, Kairalu let me touch her breasts?
Did I tell you, a naked woman danced in the evil forest?
And the wind stole the chief’s red cap?
And the white man fell off his motorcycle?

The first time Papa cried,
I became a man,
And the sky did not fall.

Image: Portrait of a Crying Man by Theo van Doesburg
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