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Who is Wole Soyinka
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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
Pressurized 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
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'S THAT?" conceding
"DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT IS." "Like brunette."
"THAT'S DARK, ISN'T IT?" "Not altogether.
Facially, I am brunette, but, madam, you should see
The rest of me. Palm of my hand, soles of my feet
Are a peroxide blond. Friction, caused--
Foolishly, madam--by sitting down, has turned
My bottom raven black--One moment, madam!"--sensing
Her receiver rearing on the thunderclap
About my ears--"Madam," I pleaded, "wouldn't you rather
See for yourself?"


My Analysis:


In ‘Telephone Conversation’, the poet conveys his disappointment and anger about being discriminated by the Caucasian unfairly just because he is an African, by portraying the telephone conversation between himself and the British landlady.

 The speaker of the poem, a dark West African man searching for a new apartment. Instead of discussing price, location, amenities, and other information significant to the apartment, they discussed the speaker's skin color.




Grey, to the low grass cropping

Slung, wet-lichened, wisps from such

Smoke heaviness, elusive of thin blades

Curl inward to the earth, breed

The grey hours,

And days, and years, for do not

The wise grey temples we must build

To febrile years, here begin, not

In tears and ashes, but on the sad mocking

Threads, complusive of the hour?


In the desert wildness, when, lone cactus,

Cannibal was his love - even amidst the

Crag and gorge, the leap and night-tremors

Even as the potsherd stayed and the sandstorm

Fell - intimations came.


In the whorled centre of the storm, a threnody

But not from this. For that far companion,

Made sudden stranger when the wind slacked

And the centre fell, grief. And the stricken

Potsherd lay, disconsolate - intimations then


But not from these. He knew only

Sudden seizure. And time conquest

Bound him helpless to each grey essence.

Artist-Poet-Activist-Dramatist-Author-NobelPrize Winner