Procession I — Hanging Day

Hanging day.
A hollow earth
Echoes footsteps of the grave procession.
Walls in sunspots
Lean to shadow of the shortening morn.

Behind an eyepatch lushly blue.
The wall of prayer has taken refuge
In a piece of blindness, closed.
Its grey recessive deeps.
Fretful limbs.

And glances that would sometimes
Conjure up a drawbridge
Raised but never lowered between
Their gathering and my sway

Withdraw, as all the living world
Belie their absence in a feel of eyes
Barred and secret in the empty home.
Of shuttered windows, i know the heart.
Has journeyed far from present.

Tread. Drop. Dread Drop. Dead.

What may I tell you? What reveal?
I who before them peered unseen
Who stood one-legged on the untrodden
Verge — lest I should not return.

That I received them? That I wheeled above and flew beneath them.
And brought him on his way.
And came to mine, even to the edge
Of the unspeakable encirclement?
What may I tell you of the five
Bell-ringers on the ropes to chimes.
Of silence?
What tell you of rigours of the law?
From watchtowers on stunned walls.
Raised to stay a siege of darkness
What whisper to their football thunders.
Vanishing to shrouds of sunlight?

Let not man speak of justice, guilt
Far away, blood-stained in their
Tens of thousands, hands that damned.
These wretches to the pit triumph
But here, alone the solitary deed.

— Wole Soyinka

Akinwande Oluwole (Wole) Soyinka was arrested during the civil war between the secessionist Biafran state and the Nigerian federal government. Charged with conspiring with the Biafrans, Soyinka was condemned to prison, where he spent 22 months in solitary confinement. He was released during a period of amnesty after the end of the civil war in 1969. Procession I – Hanging Day is part one of a two-part poem written during his imprisonment.