Wednesday, August 19, 2009

ogbe-irosun (22)


african tankas
came down from ọrun (heaven)
to practice ifa
just as he did in ọrun
with sympathy & kindness.

he read for the poor
& saved them from affliction
without demanding
payment or compensation.
ọrun’s awos were angry.

to ọrun’s awos
(diviners), he gave away
his benevolence
to ungrateful humanity;
kept much revenue from them.

they conspired to teach
him a lesson; would humble him,
& bring him back to
ọrun in disgrace. o woe
betide ogbe-irosun!

but gifted with grace
was ogbe-irosun. he
called his own earthly
awos to divine for him.
they advised him to offer

a goat to eşu,
(a fat he-goat, the proper
ebo). a rabbit
to the elders of the night
& a cock to his ori.

he should then prepare
a bell with the relevant
leaves to hang on his
ifa shrine. he did all that
he was directed to do.

& his enemies
plotted & planned, seeking out
igbese, who is
indebtedness, àrùn who
is disease & iku, death.

they approached the three
ajogun, asking each to bring
back to ọrun. but the three
grim agents of destruction

refused to do so.
“ogbe-irosun, so full
of grace, would surely
recognize us all,” they said.
“i will go,” iku replied,

“if money precedes
me.” “i will go,” àrùn said,
“if a wife is sent,
a beautiful girl to go
before me.” “& i will go”

said igbese, “if u
send to him many children.”
they all thought to hide
behind these wonderful gifts;
these things he did not possess.

was destitute on àiyé
(earth); had no helpmeet,
nor children to comfort him.
was he ripe for temptation?

his enemies sent
sùúrù, patience, daughter of
to be their eyes. she was to
watch him, inform them when he grew

too weak to resist
the ominous visitors.
got unexpected help from
this eldest, ugliest child

of the òrìşà
of wealth. sùúrù who is called
adetutu, was
required by heaven’s mandate
to perform a vital task;

to regularly
visit & accommodate
the guardian
spirits of all & sundry
inhabitants of àiyé.

chief of the white cloth,
ọbatala, guardian
spirit & owner
of ogbe-irosun’s head,
beseeched adetutu

to protect his ward
on àiyé & prepare him
against the approach
of all eminent dangers.
she agreed to protect him

because he had been so
kind to àiyé’s poor people.
with that covenant,
adetutu left ọrun for
ogbe-irosun’s small house.

consulted his diviners.
his awos advised
him to receive sùúrù when
she appeared at his front door

& sacrifice a
he-goat, again to eşu,
with three stout cudgels.
& after that offering.
ọbatala caused his ward

to sleep & to dream.
in that dream money boldly
came to his front door.
the bell on his ifa shrine
began to ring & woke him up.

he saw money piled
at his door. he saw iku
hiding behind it.
but sùúrù was ever there
to keep him calm & steadfast.

summoned the courage to close
his eyes, to rebuke
money. ordered it away
before he opened his eyes.

“i would receive u,
money, with open arms, but death
is trailing behind u.
begone! i’d rather be poor
& alive than rich & dead.

money ran away.
iku followed close behind,
exposed, recognized.
thus did they return to ọrun,
shamed & humiliated.

a few nights later
ogbe-irosun did dream
again & the bell
on his shrine did ring again.
he awoke to find a bride

& noxious àrùn
at his door. so beautiful
the bride, so morbid,
goulish àrùn, still he needed
faithful sùúrù to calm him.

“i would receive u,
woman, with open arms, but dread
àrùn does shadow
u. begone! i choose lonely
& well to married & sick.

in fright the woman
returned to ọrun. disease
followed her, cursing, said
she knew ogbe-irosun
would surely recognize her.

then came igbese
with children leading the way.
obatala caused
ogbe-irosun to dream
again; sounded the alarm.

woke up to find small children
playing in his yard.
his heart melted. he wanted
children more than anything else.
but steadfast sùúrù whispered

courage, forbearance.
“ i would receive u,” he said,
but for igbese
hiding behind u. u bring
to my house indebtedness.

begone this instant!”
the children fled the force of
his rebuke, to ọrun
they returned with igbese
following lamely behind,

bemoaning the fact
that ogbe-irosun had
recognized him, just
like he said he would. so much
for plotting & conspiracies!

when they rendezvoused
in orun, money complained,
embarrassed about
being rejected for the
first time by anyone, said:

“it’s yr fault, iku!
i could have surely been with
a wise man but for
u, who might have handled me
with care & circumspection!

the woman also
felt disgraced. “but for àrùn
i would be married
to a husband who would love
& take proper care of me.”

“& what about us,”
the children cried. “ if not for
igbese we would
have a loving father who
would raise us in fine fashion.

“our elder sister,”
money cried, “who took care of
us here in ọrun
is already living in his
house. i am going back there!”

“i am going too,”
cried the would be bride. “us too,”
cried all the children.
they all returned to the house
of ogbe-irosun &

he received them all
happily. sùúrù made her
happy home with him.
he married many wives &
raised many, many children.

to ọbatala
he made ebo. he thanked his
awos, made a feast;
sang & danced his gratitude;
sang & danced his wonderment!

© Joseph McNair; 2009

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