a post showing Moyo OKediji art piece

Captive No More (Part VII)

Captive No More (Part VII)


The mighty and resplendent Iya Iroko

tree had remained rooted

to the same spot

near the Oba river

for three hundred and sixty-four seasons

watching the ways of humans

from the viewpoint of a plant

under which folks sat

to rest, to trade, to love

and frequently to battle,

without care for human life

to hurt, to maim, to kill

while she provided them shelter,

food and often healing herbs

which they took without asking

and which she gave without grudging.

Under her watchful eyes

Iya Iroko had witnessed

many civilizations with promise high,

rise, fall, tumultuously pass away

while cities swelled and evaporated

as mighty monarchs steamed and vaporized.


Like babies, warriors had sobbed

under her canopy of leaves,

where valiant women stood firm

below the branches of her foliage

from one generation to another

passing down their cultural batons,

as change became most abiding

above deities, divinities and gods,

beyond and exceeding any idol

that people worshipped, hugged or hailed.

Fateful was that afternoon

when weary and teary-eyed

Iya Iroko bent her head and watched

a chain of mere toddlers

pulled by a gang of four men

paused under her umbrella

to rest and fuel

before proceeding on their journey

through a path forking the river

that fed the roots under her aged trunk.

She saw them coming

miles before they reached her shade,

as other roots below the ground

were relaying the message

of the oncoming train

where the plants reached out

and touched each other

forming unbounded networks

of streaming communication without borders

outside the ken of human eyes

no sooner than the human carriage

left the city of Oyo

entering the forest banks

heading toward the Oba river.


It was the first Apa tree,

a male stalwart that had seen many wars,

that began to shed tears

upon setting his hoary eyes

on these motherless babies

led like a body of cows

driven with hidings of whips

without caution or heed

for the tender fleshes of skin

that the switches tore

off the skinny bodies

of the wobbling infants.

Cursing the blades of sharp grasses

cutting the legs of these infants

the old Apa tree warned other plants

to handle the train with care

for the sake of these children

who must break through thorny bushes,

kept off the beaten paths

to hide them from human views.

Soon afterward as the rainstorms fell,

other trees began to wail

unable to protect these babies

from the howling winds

that were bending supple branches,

and tearing the hair off the plants.


Iya Iroko, watched the drama

her head fifty feet from the ground

and her limbs buried deep

fifty feet below the surface

wondering what to do

to avenge the callous ways

of these wicked felons

filing in a train of blood

toward her majestic presence

where she reigned undisputed,

the oldest and wisest plant

in that county of green residents.

Suddenly, as she scratched her head

an idea from nowhere came,

the very moment she saw

a heavily pregnant woman

chained to the rear of the caravan

hardly able to walk–

Iya Iroko waited with patience and vengeance

ticking off the seconds

as this caravan of hate

filed its march of death

within the radial periphery

of her hundred-yard roots:

she was going to teach them a lesson,

she made up her mind,

which they would never forget

if any of these villains

survived her trap

wherever they tramped.

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