Under the burning sky we toiled that day

Night embraced day and the sky grew gray

We’ve worked all day but we didn’t halt

For if stumps are not cleared by first light

Our taskmasters will not pay.

Yea, if heaps are not raised by cockcrow

Our daylong labour will be in vain

Then, from a nearby shrub, something flashed by

Startled! Yeeee, we screamed in unison;

Paramole! Paramole! Paramole1!

In sheer mayhem, folks scrammed, I stood put

Armed with machete, I invoked my torch

Scrutinized the rustling of leaves nearby

Alas! Its no paramole! It’s an aged Alagemo2

Bellowed on others, and together we chanted in folksongs

“Oh Agemo, man of many colours”
On the leaves, you are green
On the earth, you are brown
Oh Agemo, man of many colours
The rainbow clad itself in seven colours
Will you lend it one more? Will you?
The zebra, stripes itself with two, just two
Will you lend it one more? Will you?
Me too! I have one black skin
Will you lend me one, and make me yellow
Yea, make me yellow, turn me to an eebo3

Wantonly, we chanted

Till the night wore thick black blankets

Folks left for home, I refrained

Then I probed Alagemo;

Oh Alagemo why do you switch colours?

Is that a ruse to outdo oluode’s fiery shots?

To escape  haunting claws of death?

Please indulge me Alagemo

Please i beg of you,

One more question, or two!

Iya Agba said you have zillions of colours

Is it true?

Or you are just a skilful magician;

Amusing the wild with colour tricks?

Mounting Questions upon questions I was
when he answered in rhetorics

“Don’t you pity an old thing? ”

“For fortnights now, i haven’t fed”

“I lay here in ambush for straying millipedes”

“And you juveniles killed my muse”

“Why ask what I don’t know? ”

“Why do you wear multicoloured aso-oke4 to nuptials? ”

“And clad in black ofi to funerals? ”

“Counts of colours I have in me, only Osa-Oke5 knows

“Am just a colourful omnivore of Eledua’s6 artistry”

“Ask no more and leave me with my misery”!

1 Paramole: Snake
2 Alagemo: Chameleon
3 Eebo: Whiteman
3 Oluode: Chief Hunter
4 Aso-Oke: Woven attires, worn on special functions
5 Osa – Oke: Deity in Heaven, literally; God
5. Eledua: God

14 thoughts on “Alagemo” by smartfingers (@smartfingers)

  1. I wondered if U wrote this with Ur phone cos of the numbers…Thanks for explaining.

    I like the poem. I love the local feel… Nice one bro.

  2. @smartfingers I must av told u before how I feel abt ur pieces? This, I find quite exhilarating. Especially, the irony of the fate of the Alagemo, and how we pine for that which on the inside may not be wat we really need. Thank you, bro. Check ur inbox as soon as u can….

  3. Job well done! I love the traditional feel too. Felt like I was listening to Iya Agba under a moonlit sky.

  4. Interesting poem…but I do not understand. ‘Alagemo’ means ‘masquerade’…right?

    So how come he’s feeding on millipedes…or is that a result of poverty?

    Nice one.

    1. there is a particular masquerade that goes by that name but ALAGEMO in the animal world means Chameleon. Its A.K.A. Ogaa, Agemo etc. (forgive me for not putting the marks on those names, they no teach us for school).

      1. Nice one. Well done.

  5. Great piece especially the ease with which it yields first meaning for any casual reader who can paint a vivid picture of the story and laugh at its simplicity. it is also deep enough for the mysterious thinker. it is indeed a great piece.

  6. if the poet, Ezenwa Ohaeto were to be alive, I would have said…you guys should work together!
    the traditional feel was really cool.
    hope, ur alagemo didn’t make u forget ur pay 2? lol

  7. U hav demonstrated one thing Mr Smartfingers, and that is a great grasp of Yoruba. Well done! I also thought alagemo was a masquerade. U hav taught me something new.

  8. Astounding.
    I thought the numbered words would be explained at the end.

  9. I really loved this piece. the flow made is a breeze to read and i love the message.

    the alagemo song, is that original or is it a real song? if it is original then my fear that the artistry of our ancestors was dead is slightly alleviated.

    1. Na…i fabricated it…poetic license. abi?

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