Wednesday, 14 November 2018

No coffin, no grave - Jared Angira

He was buried without a coffin
without a grave
the scavengers performed the post-mortem
in the open mortuary
without sterilized knives
in front of the night club

stuttering rifles put up
the gun salute of the day
that was a state burial anyway
the car knelt
the red plate wept, wrapped itself in blood its master’s

the diary revealed to the sea
the rain anchored there at last
isn’t our flag red, black, and white?
so he wrapped himself well

who could signal yellow
when we had to leave politics to the experts
and brood on books
brood on hunger
and schoolgirls
grumble under the black pot
sleep under torn mosquito net
and let lice lick our intestines
the lord of the bar, money speaks madam
woman magnet, money speaks madam
we only cover the stinking darkness
of the cave of our mouths
and ask our father who is in hell to judge him
the quick and the good

Well, his dairy, submarine of the Third World War
showed he wished
to be buried in a gold-laden coffin
like a VIP
under the jacaranda tree beside his palace
a shelter for his grave
and much beer for the funeral party

anyway one noisy pupil suggested we bring
tractors and plough the land.

Jared Angira (born 1947)  Kenya
Source: African Soulja


  1. Replies
    1. Hi. Thanks for the question. In my view this poem is a political protest against bad leadership.

      The opening verse tells us that the person has died without ceremony, out in the open, near a night club (where, presumably, he was heading to, to have some fun).

      The second verse indicates that he was driving there in his car and was shot.

      In the next verse the poet links the death with the Kenyan flag (its colours being red, white, black and yellow). Red = blood, white & black = colonial whites and native blacks.

      Yellow is missing so the poet picks this up in the next verse where he opens with a statement about the yellow (cowardliness, but also the colour of gold) of the politician who ignores the real problems of his people (e.g. "sleep under torn mosquito net / and let lice lick our intestines") and instead lords it up with the rich: "woman magnet, money speaks madam".

      The next verse tells us that the politician had ideas about how important he should be, as his funeral would be "buried in a gold-laden coffin / like a VIP", and that he would also be very rich "under the jacaranda tree beside his palace".

      The last verse is highly ironic because it suggests the politician's remains are ploughed into the land (in which case he is finally doing some good!).

      Nowhere in the poem does the poet directly say the dead person is a man or a politician, but this can be inferred from the poem overall, and especially from the flag imagery. Also the opening part of the poem - where he is going to a night club for some fun - gives us a quick snapshot of his character, which is later revealed to be more interested in money than the state of the people.

      I hope that helps.

  2. The above explanation is quite to the point, only that I think that in the third stanza, the persona and the citizens of the country could not sense yellow, that's could sense any foul play in the death of the leader, since political issues were only to be dealt with by experts ( those already in politics)

  3. Please I need more clarification on the poem,I have the exams tommorow


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