Ode to a Nigerian Prince


A formal, often ceremonious lyric poem that addresses and often celebrates a person, place, thing, or idea. Its stanza forms vary.  https://www.poetryfoundation.org

You, tired prince in plastic sandals
A table in a room, a chair
A foreign land
Bereft of incense, street scenes, color,
Instead a chair, a table, couch, down the street a KFC,
Cheap fluorescent ring or bar that buzzes, pops, assailed by moths
A laptop wired to link your world,
Oh weary prince with yellowed eyes,
To mine: a housewife, novice writer, decent lighting, central air
NPR, a custom workspace
in a corner of the new kitchen

As you read this, I don’t want you to feel sorry for me
Because, I believe,
Everyone will die someday.

You could be anywhere

I have not particularly lived my life so well, as I have never really cared

You could be anyone

Permit me to inform you of my desire

You could tell me anything.

Which one should I use, you wonder, fingers poised above the keys
What killed my wealthy father this time?
(and if by chance you hate your father, what fun these tales must be to write
Car accident: they lost there lives?
Esophageal Cancer?

My father was a cocoa merchant
Poisoned in a plan gone wrong
Treachery! His trusted partners!
Discussing on a business deal.

(You stop, consider;
Is ‘on’ correct there?
Google Translate, it will tell you:
Leave it in or take it out.
Fucking English, so complicated)

Abidjan, in the Ivory Coast
Is where he drew his final breath
Secretly called me on his bedside
Suspense account, a local bank
A simple and sincere business

It would be nicer, don’t you think,
Were your fingers stained with ink?
Scratching with a reed or feather
Dipped into a little pot
A scroll, or parchment,
A woven ribbon, wax to seal,
Leather pouch in which to send it, hand to hand, across Africa,
To a packet boat, perhaps,
To sail across and land here on my desk?

These bytes and keystrokes, digital packets,
Not much romance there, for sure.
You strain after the exotic, a tool to entice,
A compelling narrative
But some things only work the old-fashioned way.
You sense instinctively, I think,
That you have to up your game.

I prayed over it
This letter, not intended to cause any embarrassment
But just to contact your esteem
The knowledge of your high repute

There you go. Flattery. Never fails.
Now, follow with a plea.

Please, my dear, I repose great confidence in you
Please, I need your assistance to make this happen
Please, do not undermine it

Next, appeal to mutual interests:
It will,
Be a source of upliftment to you,

Finally, appeal to my desire for risk, as I languish here in leisure, desperate for a story:
You have absolutely nothing to loose in assisting us,
You have so much to gain.

I mean, why not!
What could possibly go wrong?
And isn’t it, when I’m honest with myself, the fact that something could go wrong that
Tempts me for a second?
Crash and burn this life
My husband’s money
My children’s college
(none of this is really mine)
That jerk of the steering wheel while crossing the bridge
That moment at the edge of a cliff
What if I did?

You need a cast of characters, you need a set of actual names:
A Jewish businessman, Mark Rissar
The then head of state General Sani Abacha
A Lebanese banker, Chagoury,
Junior brother
(did you mean younger?) Ahmad
The present civilian administration of
Chief Olusegun Obajanso

And you’re good with details, I’ll give you that:
Bearer Bonds and Treasury Bills
Certificate of deposit
Promissory notes
My family’s cash lodgement
(I’ve not heard that one; a term of art?)
A security firm abroad
The Federal Government Of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation
A Foreign Firm in the
Petroleum Trust Fund
Which I have these information in my custody now.

And this, perhaps the best of all, so vivid we can nearly see it, feel it, chilly, in our hands:
A metal box consignment with Security Deposit Number 009GM

And here we are, the buried lede, the crux of the matter, the big reveal:
(you’ll want to drop that last zero, by the way; you don’t want errors tarnishing your authority)
60 percent
30 percent
Invoiced to the tune of

I’ve been told I’m lost in details,
Overly enamored of description.
It derails the story, bogs it down
My reader grows impatient
I’m impressed with how you pull it off

Perhaps it helps to have a goal in mind,
A proposed exchange
An attempt to forge connection between the reader and the art:

    [You must be the signatory]

Here is the difference between us, prince:
You know why you write
Rhetorical purpose
It always eludes me
Wanting to be heard is not enough.
In this way, I suppose,
I mean, I suppose you could look at it this way
You are more honest than I am
Your motives more pure, if base,
For of course there are such things, marriages of opposites
Strange bedfellows
Like you and me, prince: two different kinds of parasite.

And time is of the essence here
I’m a mere civil servant
Who needs this money out
Before the newly democratically elected government ever think of making enquiries as
 regards the various activities of the past military government.

Kindly contact me above
So that we can swing into action
As time is not on our part.
Yours Faithfully

Mine faithfully,
Mohammed Abbas, weary prince,
Thanks for writing
Take my money
I will take your words.

[all misspellings are verbatim]

©Melinda Rooney, 2017