I usually approach Layrite’s poems with some caution. I know if I read them in a hurry I will come back to the first line understanding little. In order words, the poet tries to ensconce much meaning in few words, as the craft of good poetry generally encourages. But the thing I personally like about his poems is that they encourage you by their lyricism and wittiness, to read again.
The Day after Yesterday I is a poem written in similar fashion. However, I find this to be one of his difficult poems. Notwithstanding, there is delicious meaning to be savoured, for the patient reader.
“It rained yellow yesterday
Elephants called for Lion’s ouster
We could dance through the land
In brown socks Lord Bold wore
We could disregard the weather warning
Weather men are ignorant of fun in storm.”
I tried to understand the first stanza as a whole, but it eluded me each time I read. So I had fragmented images running about in my head, trying to find their partners so to form the needed chain of comprehension. But then the knowledge that the whole poem is about the happenings of this year’s St. Valentine’s Day just passed, helped me capture some of the images the first stanza tried to evoke: people will go any length to enjoy Valentine with their sweethearts, whether the rains or bad roads or empty pockets or insecurity or timidity stand in their way. It is a day of crawling out of ones shell for most. Of doing that which would ordinarily not be done.
The first two lines have an almost surreal quality about them. We have rains pouring down in yellows and have elephants trying to ouster lions (in whose forest?). Could it be that the poet was referring to hail from the
sky, this conjuring images of doom occurring on Val’s Day? The succeeding stanzas give a clue. Seeing that the poem is about a day of love, could it be that this battle between two mighty beasts of the forest—one huge but calm and slow, the other less large but brave and fast—is one between the two greatest forces at play on this day? That is, the religious bodies (elephants) trying to ouster the corporate kings (lions)—with their ostentatious commercialization and sexualization of the day—and lead the masses back to the foundation upon which the idea of St. Valentine’s Day is built. Well, the messages are quite veiled so interpretation can be quite varied, too.
“And when we wake hung over
We can shout whazzup
It rained cessation in Lagos hours ago
Our Selasphorus sojourned upward
We ask, when did Lagos become a stop over
For the America trip to the mystery garden?”
This stanza comes through easier. I understand it to mean that we woke up after relishing the sweetness and excitement of the Day of Love, to find out that our own Selasphorus (a humming bird) of Nigerian extraction, in the person of Goldie Harvey (who the poet never knew till some hours before penning down the poem) is dead. Her “sojourn upward” is symbolic. She was flying in the air from America. She didn’t fly then to her death as the ill-fated passengers in Dana. She, instead, stopped over in Lagos (which might have seemed to be her destination) on that Day of Love to take her next flight to the “mystery garden” that has no return ticket. How sad.
“We do not know
We cannot know
Tenth of a million dogs on leash for fifty wary weeks
Turned loose on drained Nigeria
Yesterday, again by clueless guardians
Hungrier canines to join the millions kwashiorkored
Desperate hunting for cornered games and meatless bones
Have we forgotten, cannibalism is just a survival response?”
This presumably refers to graduates who have been closely watched and camped for a year on NYSC grounds, being “Turned loose on drained Nigeria” on their passing out day; a “drained Nigeria” which is still yet to be steered by visionary leaders who can create much needed jobs for the “millions kwashiorkored” and prevent the “Hungrier canines” from engaging in a cannibalistic struggle for “cornered games and meatless bones” with the already struggling millions.
So, really, this poem is a symphony of sadness; of the other side of things that happened on a day love is celebrated world-wide. In this poem, love that should bind becomes a source of friction and strife; if not on the day of celebration, then in a future that looks bleak. We see someone who brews one of the sweetest wines of love (music) causing pain in the hearts of friends and family by her involuntary flight to the “mystery garden”.
In The Day after Yesterday I, we don’t see love; we don’t feel it. The poet doesn’t allow us to. He shows us the emotions that exist outside love, on a day of love. And by that, maybe we do see and feel love?
February 16, 2013.