Can you cook soup? Then you can write poetry already.
Fetch a great, big pot of water. Throw in the head of goat or any bony joint of your choice for your stock. Chop and chuck in your onions and garlic, grate and grind in your seeds and your nuts and your pods, pour in your oil of the palm to taste. What next? Toss in your tubers and thickeners. Done? Set the fire on simmer. Haste and heat is what kills the flavour. Go, get a life, for an hour or five, while the watery prose slowly steams away. Cooking for the clan takes time. Get busy. Teach your neighbour’s son to stitch. Colour your street by painting your fence. Poetry is life and life is poetry. Don’t die till someone owes you her voice, his ability to whistle, to ride a bicycle. Just don’t let that soup burn, okay? Vegetables. A galaxy to choose from. Select fresh leaves from your book of life. Chop them thick, spread generously. Smell that aroma? Nothing like experience! Now, you will find three quarters of your pot vaporized. Nothing to mourn, dear cook, distillation is truth. Spice time. Mix, blend. Be particular, finicky. Revision is the yeast of great poetry. Now taste a spoon and see. This concatenated concentration of tenderized words is poetry. Every single line is suffused with the innermost flavours from the unreachable heart of your stock-making bones. The memory of every sacrificial ingredient resuscitates on your tongue. There is no spoon of soup not indebted to the pinch of salt, to the knob of ginger. You know your poem is done when the aroma plucks neighbouring kids from the branches of their mango trees. Wash their hands and faces, seat them silently, for a noisy room cannot truly feel poetry. Do not perform for philistines. Now serve your poem on a pristine plate, stanza by delectable stanza. Does that special herb grow in your province alone? Grind, garnish it onto the plate, for that signature taste. Spoon by potent spoon, decant every last serving of soup. If you have done a good job, dear cook, those kids will lick up every stain from their plates, and be hungry still. But you will be empty. For the poet gives everything. Almost. See those great big bones at the bottom of the pot, those empty eye sockets of intransigent goat glaring balefully at you? That’s bad governance right there alright, resisting good poetry from time immemorial.
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