Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2021  Vol. 20  No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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The sun sows color into bulbs of cloud
For reaping in our imaginations.
We negotiate how we consume this crop;
The recipes record taste and culture.

It’s easy to forget that we must ask:
What is a color in the first instance?
Where lies each color species as resource
In the less instant spectrum of capital,
Between staple and luxury effect?

When does a color lie, part lie, belie
Its precious bent in communication?

The first color of all is black, ójí.
The first color of all is white, óchá.
Those are the only colors. There are no more.

Do you ask of blue? Do you ask of the sky?
The daytime sky is white, blacker than clouds.
The ùbé fruit is black, whiter than night sky.

You insist on arguing that ùbé
Is a rich purple, never mind the blue.
Peace to you anyway, with your insistence.
What you call purple hides in the black night sky.

Bite into ripe ùbé; the earth of its flesh,
Now yours, describes the night sky to perfection,
Union inside you of above with below.

There is no red. Red is blood, óbàrà.
There is no red. Red is blood, implicit.
However, when our luxury conjures
A third color, surely the color is red,
For those cases when red is oil against
The wide-out water ions of white and black.

The song laments that there is never snow
At Christmas time in Africa. Do they know,
Those Africans, Do they know? Do we indeed?
Ask the singers whom in Africa they asked;
Within the unencompassable expanse,
The vast world within world of the continent,
Whom did they ask whether they desire snow?
Whom did they ask whether they require lament?

Were a meted spread of white to seize our ground
From its green we would take this for disease
Far worse than the accompanying cold;
Feeling our fever against colonial germ,
Is white not forest leprosy or blanch mould?

The song’s chieftain singers are white, only white
Because they have two white parents. Had they one
Black parent they would be black, as I am,
Regardless of how white. Blackness would not stem
Their song’s confusion; it joins with too much
Other confusion about the blacker world.

A hobbled horse theory blunders on in pop-sci
Implying Niger mind of black and white
Holds limited visual imagination.
Some theorists could not have heard an Igbo
Raconteur’s full flight of words. Perhaps they’d read
Achebe in English and lost his cunning.
Their ears have not earned favor from our proverbs.
They salt their stew, but cannot dream of pepper.

Shall I sing you a new song, a fresh idea:
The human eye can’t reckon a rainbow
Fine enough to illustrate the continent:
Africa, where the four-color problem
Blooms in kaleidoscope of four million.

From my home sliver of Afara green,
Green of no one word, shade of a hundred nouns,
I sow you a black seed for your white clouds.
Your entire imagination will never starve
From consuming the yield upon your plate.
Take this, my gift to ease you of lament.  

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