Tuesday, June 19, 2012

An African Elegy

By Ben Okri

We are the miracles that God made
To taste the bitter fruit of Time.
We are precious.
And one day our suffering
Will turn into the wonders of the earth.

There are things that burn me now
Which turn golden when I am happy.
Do you see the mystery of our pain?
That we bear the poverty
And are able to sing and dream sweet things.

And that we never curse the air when it is warm
Or the fruit when it tastes so good
Or the lights that bounce gently on the waters?
We bless the things even in our pain.
We bless them in silence.

That is why our music is so sweet.
It makes the air remember.
There are secret miracles at work
That only Time will bring forth.
I too have heard the dead singing.

And they tell me that
This life is good
They tell me to live it gently
With fire, and always with hope.
There is wonder here

And there is surprise
In everything the unseen moves.
The ocean is full of songs.
The sky is not an enemy.
Destiny is our friend.

Ben Okri  (born 15 March 1959) is a Nigerian poet and novelist. Okri is considered one of the foremost African authors in the post-modern and post-colonial traditions and has been compared favorably with authors like Salman Rushdie and Gabriel García Márquez.
Having grown up, and experienced lifetime in Africa first-palm, Ben Okri gives his reader a glimpse at the beauty of optimism and lifetime in the vast culture, in his poem "An African Elegy". Okri wrote this piece in the early 1990's, as a reflection of his experiences that occurred during his childhood in Africa.In this poem, the speaker is saying that even though we may not understand the reason for suffering and death, we should be optimistic that this mystery, like many other of life's mysteries, will one day be revealed to us; the only thing we can do now is appreciate life, with all its inherent mysteries. When describing this aspect of life in the penultimate stanza and the first two lines of the last stanze, he says "There is wonder here. / And there is surprise / In everything the unseen moves."

Ultimately, this poem seems to be an assertion in God's overall plan for humankind, despite the fact that we may not fully understand that plan. Rather than fear that plan, the speaker believes that "Destiny is our friend" and that 
we should embrace it.)


  1. thank you that was very helpful

  2. I have read and reread this poem and shared it with my daughters; they live far away and I often record a poem for them as a message. So moving and so beautiful. Thank you for featuring it.