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Poetry: Once Upon a Time

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This is a poem by legendary Nigerian Poet, Gabriel Okara. He is one of Africa’s most renowned and established voices of the 20th century.Like i said in my profile,i love to share everything i find fascinating here on my blog,so i want to share a poem i read with you guys. Some of you may not be able to understand and thus not relate to it, and some of you can relate . All in all i just want you guys to enjoy it. The poem expresses concern for the influence of the Western world on the  African custom,however that wasn’t what i got from reading the poem .

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, son,
they used to laugh with their hearts
and laugh with their eyes:
but now they only laugh with their teeth,
while their ice-block-cold eyes
search behind my shadow.

There was a time indeed
they used to shake hands with their hearts:
but that’s gone, son.
Now they shake hands without hearts
while their left hands search
my empty pockets.
‘Feel at home!’ ‘Come again’:
they say, and when I come
again and feel
at home, once, twice,
there will be no thrice-
for then I find doors shut on me.
So I have learned many things, son.
I have learned to wear many faces
like dresses – homeface,
officeface, streetface, hostface,
cocktailface, with all their conforming smiles
like a fixed portrait smile.
And I have learned too
to laugh with only my teeth
and shake hands without my heart.
I have also learned to say,’Goodbye’,
when I mean ‘Good-riddance’:
to say ‘Glad to meet you’,
without being glad; and to say ‘It’s been
nice talking to you’, after being bored.
But believe me, son.
I want to be what I used to be
when I was like you. I want
to unlearn all these muting things.
Most of all, I want to relearn
how to laugh, for my laugh in the mirror
shows only my teeth like a snake’s bare fangs!
So show me, son,
how to laugh; show me how
I used to laugh and smile
once upon a time when I was like you.
Gabriel Okara
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2 Comments

  1. Boomie Bol says:

    Thanks or sharing this

  2. Beautiful, powerful and poignant poem and so true to life. Of hyposcrisy behind teh smile and handshake. Thank you. Following your blog, Audrina

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