My Brother’s Room – Yara Abura Mi

Emmanuel's poem 'My Brother's Room'

Yara Abura Mi – My Brother’s Room For the people of llado, Maroko, Lagos State of Nigeria

My brother’ room is unlike mine,
A king’s crown is unlike a chief’s.
My brother’s room has a chair,
a writing table,
two big double beds,
a wardrobe and a side cabinet.
Twelve feet in the room’s length
and twelve feet is the room’s width.
As a pauper’s room cannot be compared with a rich man’s,
so my brother’s rooms cannot be compared with mine,
with it’s flowering garden at the front.
An armed watchman guards the gate,
and an armed policeman guards the rear.
I have a spacious living room, and my private room.
My wife has a private room, my kids their separate rooms, visitors have theirs, dogs have theirs,
and the house servants theirs.
Separate dining room, separate lounge, too.
As a pauper’s room cannot be compared with a rich man’s,
so my room cannot be compared with my brother’s.
My brother has twelve children,
two wives, with the eldest child a daughter of eighteen years old,
and the next seventeen years old.
At night, they sleep packed heads to legs,
and when the rain floods in, furniture is stacked away from the floor.
Front gardens welcome street rubbish with open arms,
and the drinking wells welcomes little fishes.
At night windows are flung open because of the heat,
buzzing mosquitos frustrate husbands advances.
And when the NEPA cuts off the electricity
darkness becomes a long-stay visitor
and body sweat turns to stink.
A pauper’s house cannot be compared with a rich man’s,
a king’s crown cannot be compared with a chief’s, say I.
When NEPA cuts off the electric supply
my generator turns on the royal light.
The rains bring growth to my garden flowers,
tap water is always as hand in my house,
and the stove smoke never blinds my wife in the kitchen.
For if the visitor is feasted by the rich
the slave will find his feast in his trade.
As a pauper’s room cannot be compared with a rich man’s,
Just as my brother’s cannot be compared with mine,
I, who will sacrifice my crown for the common good.
(from JIGI OJU OBA – the King’s mirror, 1985/86)