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The Telephone Conversation

The price seemed reasonable, location
Indifferent. The landlady swore she lived
Off premises. Nothing remained
But self- confession “Madam, I warned,
“I hate a wasted journey- I am African.”
Silence. Silenced transmission of
Pressurised good – breeding. Voice, when it came
Lipstick-coated, long gold-rolled
Cigarette- holder pipped. Caught I was foully
“HOW DARK?...... I had not misheard……
“ARE YOU LIGHT OR VERY DARK?” Button B, Button A, stench
Of rancid breath of public hide-and –speak
Red booth. Red pillar box. Red double-tiered
Omnibus squelching tar. It was real. Shamed
By ill-mannered silence, surrender
Pushed dumbfounded to beg simplification.
Considerate she was, varying the emphasis-
ARE YOU DARK? OR VERY LIGHT?" Revelation came
“You mean –like plain or milk chocolate?”
Her assent was clinical, crushing in its light
Impersonality, Rapidly, wave length adjusted,
I chose “West African sepia”- and as afterthought,
“Down in my passport.” Silence for spectroscopic
Flight of fancy, till truthfulness clanged her accent
Hard on the mouthpiece. “WHAT IS THAT?” conceding
“DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT IS” “Like brunette.”
THAT’S DARK, ISN’T IT?” Not altogether,
Facially, I am a brunette, but Madam you should see
The rest of me. Palm of my hand, soles of my feet
Are a peroxide blonde. Friction caused
Foolishly, Madam – by sitting down, has turned
My bottom raven black- One moment – sensing
Her receiver rearing on the thunderclap
About my ears- “Madam” I pleaded “wouldn’t you rather
See for yourself?”

Wole Soyinka

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By Blogger Mshairi at 2:14 pm

I love the way Wole Soyinka writes and I really wish I could write like him!    

By Blogger Nyakehu at 2:51 pm

You know Mshairi, the way Wole Soyinka writes is a style maybe all of his own. You have another way that is even more engaging. I had to read Wole three times to get what he is saying. Now say if I suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder I would have switched off at the second reading. It should'nt be this hard. With your poetry, it is like honey sliding down the throat, it easy, mind you l am not saying it is simple, but the hook is an easy one, that is engaging.    

By Blogger Mshairi at 11:03 am

Nyakehu, thanks for the compliments! You should try and read Wole Soyinks's Ake - brilliant book    

By Blogger becca at 11:33 pm

that poem is truly amazing. the sarcastic dialogue adds humour to a subject that is otherwise not.    

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By Blogger Roberto Iza Valdes at 1:53 pm

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.    

By Blogger Roberto Iza Valdes at 1:53 pm

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.    

By Anonymous Anonymous at 12:00 am

I had read the telephone conversation some 2 or 3 years ago. An interesting conversation brought him up again...resulting in a frantic search for the poem itself. Sadly, didn't find one website with the entire poem itself. Its disheartening to note that such beauty of expression hasn't been recorded by major poetry websites. Of course, thanks to such members of the blogging world as you, he lives among us. Thanks for putting the poem up on the blog. Saved me some sleepless nights!    

By Blogger Roberto Iza at 1:55 am

Brings Janis Ian to mind.    

By Blogger Juno-Regina at 3:18 am

This comment has been removed by the author.    

By Anonymous Anonymous at 1:11 pm

I came across this poeM for the firsT time at about age 13, at boarding school in Nigeria. I had to memorise it, and recite it alongside 20-odd other kids infront of an audience of the whole school plus our parents and teachers. For weeks, I lived and breathed it-I had to get the right emphasis on the right words, the right accents, the right expressions, I studied it to win a competition. 18 years later, I discover it again with nostalgia, but the accents and the emphasis don't matter anymore. The meaning is brought home to me full-on, and I love it even more. I have tried to memorise it again, my aging brain doesn't quite permit, but I keep a copy of it and everytime I read it I am amazed at how far the person of colour has come in the western world. AND THEN I SMILE...    

By Anonymous Anonymous at 4:21 am

I am from India. In India we had to study this poem by Wole Soyinka. We all loved the peom. It's a great one. I enjoyed it. The way he presents the truth of racial discrimination in the name of skin colour, using humour tells the greatness of the poet and his wonderful style.    

By Anonymous Anonymous at 12:10 pm

hello
when did soyinka write thelephone conversation?    

By Anonymous Anonymous at 5:58 am

Hai, I need to do an analysis on this poem. Plz help me coz i'm really blur right now.Is there any sybolism,personafication, apostrophe,simile,mataphor in this poem?    

By Anonymous Jessica at 3:51 pm

'Wole Soyinka' has a truely amazing way of puting what he has to say in a certain way so that people will listen to his words.    

By Anonymous Anonymous at 10:41 pm

hello i must ride a summary about this poem can anybody help me??? please    

By Anonymous Anonymous at 10:43 pm

if anyone help me to ride a summary please send me a mail mran@gmx.net    

By Anonymous Anonymous at 10:44 pm

oh sorry i would like to say write and not ride.. :-) i am not so good in english    

By Blogger Hayley at 6:52 pm

This really helped me, seeing as I never finished writing this poem down, and I could not find the book I had read it in again.    

By Blogger Lynn at 1:21 pm

its surely a nice poem on racism supported by the vivid piture that Wole Soyinka creates in the readers' minds by presenting his poem in a free verse conversation style
it is a nice approach in illustrating the racism in the Old English times.

i hope that it helps some people up there. This short commentary is not really good since I'm only a Year 10 student.
I will be having this poem for my English exam =)    

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