Another Yoruba funeral song from Nigeria. (See also the poem ‘Slowly the Muddy Pool Becomes a River’). In ‘Slowly the Muddy Pool becomes a River’, the bereaved son appealed to a hunter not to kill the kob antelope encountered on the way to the farm, but to ‘let the dead depart in peace’. Here, the poet accepts that though the dead may be reincarnated in different form, life has to continue as normal. The dead ‘cannot receive double punishment’.
The hunter dies
and leaves his poverty to his gun
The blacksmith dies
and leaves his poverty to his anvil
The farmer dies
and leaves his poverty to his hoe
The bird dies
and leaves its poverty to its nest.
You have died
and left me abandoned in the dark.
Where are you now?
Are you the goat
eating grass round the house?
Are you the motionless lizard
on the hot mud wall?
If I tell you not to eat earthworms
it’s like asking you to go hungry.
Whatever they may eat in heaven,
partake with them.
A dead body cannot receive double punishment.
If there is not cloth to cover it,
there will always be earth to cover it.
from Black Orpheus 22 (1967)