Ikorodu Road - A Poem



Alright, so here is one of these snippets that I stumbled across in the course of flicking through, in this case, Nigeria Magazine, in the search of articles and images that may be relevant to the research project I'm currently working on. It is by Vera Norman and was published in Nigeria Magazine. September 1964. No. 81. 236. I quite like it. 


P.S. Ikorodu Road, if you don't happen to be familiar with the transport networks of southern Nigeria, is a major express way connecting Lagos mainland to Ikorodu. It's important enough to have a Wikipedia page of its own

Ikorodu Road

Glaring white eyes their light
Reproduced and glancing off our own
As they race towards us
Leaping a slight rise or bending corner.
Ahead a mirage as light beats down on vapour
Like a fantastic sunburst prismatic upon sea.
The great expanse of nubian [sic] sky
Thrown down upon us by the heavy foliage
Of towering trees and plumage of the palms
Groping upwards with long arms.
The dark night illumined intermittently
By tropic flashes of white light
Following a season's storm.
But far more fearful than black skies
And the fast moving, glaring eyes
Now floating up before us a weird scene.
Ghost upon ghost, rising, weaving,
Beckoning, breaking into a vat host,
Armies of ectoplasm, where sudden rain
Recently fell on dry road.
Where is this fearful place,
Enchanted wood or childish fantasy?
But no, it is reality
As any drive will show at intervals,
The metal scars of numerous crashed cars
Victims of both day and night
Upended or on banks. 


To be honest, what fascinates me here, is Norman's description of the experience of travelling by road – some of which I can relate to a trip late last week here in Germany. It was dark and it was raining. We were travelling on one of the local highways from a family birthday back home to the small town where I am currently staying. This feels familiar:

Glaring white eyes their light
Reproduced and glancing off our own
As they race towards us
Leaping a slight rise or bending corner.

I admit that I am a bit traumatised by a recent accident. So, driving in the dark is a bit scary now. Even on German highways where there is a division between my lane and the one in which the 'glaring white eyes' of the cars that 'race towards us.' The later parts of the poem, however, are more reminiscent of experiences I have had travelling on Nigerian roads:

Now floating up before us a weird scene.
Ghost upon ghost, rising, weaving,
Beckoning, breaking into a vat host,
Armies of ectoplasm, where sudden rain
Recently fell on dry road.
As any drive will show at intervals,
The metal scars of numerous crashed cars
Victims of both day and night
Upended or on banks. 

It reflects on the dangers of long-distance travel on Nigerian roads. I remember seeing the wrecks of burnt out cars along on the road side when I travelled in shared 'bush' taxies. I travelled quite a bit but nothing comparable to the time that commercial drivers will spend on the road. So, I wonder, to which extent this is also a good illustration of the dangers that the drivers of those painted lorries experience – and whether there is a way in which I can work this poem into the project I am currently working on. I want it to be less academically dry, after all, more fun. 


Oh well, let's see.

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