Civilization

Like every school boy, I was cultured to dine with fine silver;
piercing steak with polished tines and cutting with the right.

Because eating bare hands in the manner of my forebears
mirrors the manners of every other primate shooting from tree

to tree. I recite the rosary, venerate men (now saints) that look
zero like me, did nothing to better my lot, nor brought glory to

those in my backyard. Quickly I could recite by rote, accounts
of valor of the mission men and women who braved the rank

tropics and her malaria, but told mite of Crowther. And the history
tutor recounted how one man, a Scot, discovered a river that since

the founding of earth, my folks traded, plied, and bathed in. I even
learnt the queen gifted our highest mountain to her grandson—a

prize to brace familial bonds maybe. And though we’re taught equality,
I sooner learn that some animals are more equal than others, because

when asked why I’m not taught accounts of my fathers: their medicine,
wars and empires, the tutor affirmed that that’s no germane history. I

see now why I no longer speak my tongue, blank over my fathers’
days and ways; I see now that though I’m refined, I lead a lie.


Growing up in a colonized country/continent where our authenticity was replaced with the colonist’s truth informed this poem. Upon easing into manhood, it struck me, as I buried myself in the history of my people, that the colonists were able to gain control of our endless acres of land, resources and manpower by changing our narrative through the religion they introduced. Queen Victoria gifting Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya/Tanzania to her grandson Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, for example. Was it hers to gift away in the first place? Or Mungo Park, a Scot who is claimed to have discovered the river Niger in Nigeria, when generations of the natives plied and transacted on the river for thousands of years before his birth. The sheer arrogance of these acts is disturbing. Most infuriating however, is the justification of their presence with the mischievous excuse of bringing civilization to the “savages” in Africa.

Kelvin Kellman writes from Lagos-Ibadan Nigeria. He’s had works featured or forthcoming in Green Briar Review, The Blue Mountain Review, Hawaii Review, North Dakota Quarterly, and elsewhere.

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