(The Brave Bookman at 90)

 

Migrant bird with a plural plumage

You have crossed many oceans

And nested your eggs in trees

Too tall for the breaking wind

 

Those eggs touched the ground

And books were born

In them were ideas which unchain the mind,

Wisdom which tames the terror of hidden things

 

In the universe of your being

Is a compass with a thousand points

Your Northern needle being so steady

You have never lost your way around the Light

 

From the hilly heights of Tanganyika

To the copper plains of Zambia

Those restless feathers powered north where,

Europe-born, you dug your feet deep into the Nigerian soil

 

From Evans Brothers to Sunshine House to Safari Fare

The Book remains the priest of your passion

The temple of your trust where the altar

Glows from the lyric of a thousand lamps

 

From that busy haven in Kingston upon Thames

To Cambridge-Okigbo House in Ibadan, the world’s best books

Live between your covers, ennobled

By your ageless energy, your relentless enterprise

 

Seasons come, seasons go

Passing moons unfurl your feathers

Wherever your feet have touched the ground

A city of Light has risen and bloomed

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, dear Publisher!

 

Niyi Osundare is one of Africa’s foremost poets and a Distinguished Professor of the University of New Orleans (UNO), where he teaches in the English Department.