Monday, August 10, 2009

òşóòsi (10)

african tankas
one morning at dawn
while tracking a big fat quail,
wise ọrúnmìlà
appeared before the hunter,
appeared before the tracker.

“òşóòsi, hear me”
so said destiny’s owner.
“i am ever yours
to command, ọrúnmìlà,
who leads thru’ ifa’s wisdom.”

“o peerless hunter,
i am here to ask yr help;
it is not for me,”
said he who sees the future;
the husband of fair odu.

desires a fat, juicy quail,
the sweetest of birds.
i told him i would catch one.
but i have failed to do so.

please catch one for me.
not only will i bless u,
but the creator,
olódùmarè himself
will bless u for a lifetime."

“yr task is easy,”
òşóòsi cheerfully said,
“it’s as good as done.
meet me here at morning light;
i will have a quail for u.”

ela ìwòrì
disappeared. the hunter grabbed
his bow & his traps
& set out to catch a quail
fit for olódùmarè.

soon he had a hen
a-struggling in his sack.
a beautiful bird.
he sprinted home thinking of
lord ọrúnmìlà’s blessing.

& what might he ask
of great olódùmarè?
when he returned home
he put the quail in a cage
& lay down to get some rest.

unable to sleep,
he went back into the woods
to do more hunting.
as was his custom, he slept
under a favorite tree

he woke before dawn
& ran to meet at his house
witness of destiny &
presence at every birth.

ela ìwòrì
was pacing impatiently
in front of the house
“good morning, òşóòsi,” he said.
did you catch a quail for me?”

"lord ọrúnmìlà,
i have caught the grandest quail
in all creation,”
he boasted, “let me get it.
u will be pleased & amazed."

he went in the house.
he was there for quite some time
finally he came out,
ashened, with an empty cage,
no quail for the òrìşà.

“so where is the bird,”
ọrúnmìlà demanded.
“i don’t understand,”
a wretched òşóòsi said.
“it was in this very cage!”

“as well as bless u,
i can easily curse u,”
the òrìşà said,
“don’t u dare trifle with me!
u’ll beg me to let u die!”

“oh no, baba, no!
i wouldn’t dare deceive u!
sweet mother,” he cried,
“mother, come here this instant!”
oh where, he thought, is that quail!

his iya came out
saw the angry orisa;
looked on her son’s face
& saw exasperation,
she knew the look of trouble.

“did u see my quail?”
òşóòsi asked the woman.
“not at all, my son,”
which was not at all the truth.
she had indeed seen the quail,

but thought it a gift
from her thoughtful, hunter son.
she ate that fat hen
the evening before. the best
tasting bird she ever had.

she kept that secret,
fearing ọrúnmìlà’s wrath;
fearing for her life.
“i will get u another,
baba, do not be annoyed.

no one knows these woods
like me,” òşóòsi pleaded.
“come back tomorrow,
i will find a better bird
& surely bring it to u.”

ela ìwòrì
huffed, then vanished like before.
back into the woods
the hunter went, the deep woods,
to make good on his promise.

& he caught a quail
even more magnificent
than the one before.
he put the bird in his sack
& tied the sack to his waist

he slept in the woods
under his favorite tree.
& woke thru’ the night
to check on his catch. no tricks
nor mistakes would undo him.

lord ọrúnmìlà
was pleased. “this bird is worthy!
will be pleased. i will take you
straight to the creator’s house.

you can present him
with this lovely quail, yourself.
that u should do so
is meet since it was yr skill
that made this gift possible.

was delighted with the quail.
“u have made my heart
exceedingly glad,” he said.
“i will make you the greatest

among the hunters.
u are now an òrìşà,
yr tracker’s spirit
is lifted, elevated,
iba olog arare!

i praise the master
of himself & give to u
aiye’s riverbanks
iba onibebe, u
have pleased me greatly, hunter.

& ọrúnmìlà
prophesied: u along with
eşu & ogun
will find & open spirit paths.
eşu will open the path.

ogun, with his knives
will clear away obstacles.
u will ever find
the shortest, straightest pathway
to blessed good character.

they gave him such gifts;
so much praise & honor.
but the hunter burned
with a rage that would not die.
a thief had surely wronged him.

he wanted justice.
o father of creation
would you think me crass,
ungrateful if i asked but
one more thing, a boon, from u.

“and what might that be?’
asked great olódùmarè
“a thief is about
who stole my first gift to u.
please let me have my vengeance.

“please, please, great father,
let me release my arrow
in the air knowing
u will guide it unerring
straight into the base thief’s heart.”

“i won’t deny you,”
olódùmarè sadly
said, “but u ‘ll regret
asking for this awful boon.
u will be known from this day

as the dark hunter,
ode ata matase,
who never misses!
òşóòsi shot his arrow
in the air. it flew swiftly

to his mother’s breast
& through ọrúnmìlà’s eyes
watched her surely die
by his own terrible boon;
by his own murderous hand.

iba òşóòsi
iba olog arare.
iba òşóòsi
iba osolikere.
ode ata matase,

(i praise the spirit of the tracker.
i praise the master of himself
i praise the spirit of the tracker.
i praise the magician of the forest.
hunter who never misses)

© Joseph McNair; 2009