I had heard about the heads as fables,
remote artefacts, modelled in clay,
cast in bronze and brass or pure copper.
Through art-books and monographs,
I came to know each one’s beaded decorations,
its tall neck, its cropped hair or crown.
Now they are here, as if against their will,
with a dent or a cavity where a pickaxe-
swing had first discovered them, dug
out of their silences and asked to speak
to inspecting faces like mine,
curious to break into their makers’ minds –
but these are objects with their own thoughts,
bearing their revealment in glass cases
with dignity and patience,
so long entombed, so long unseen.
The 14th century ‘heads of Ife’, discovered by workers in 1938
when they broke through into an underground store, were exhibited at the
British Museum in 2010.
Derek Sellen lives in Canterbury and is a member of SaveAs Writers. He has recently published a collection of poems inspired by Spanish art, The Other Guernica, with Cultured Llama Publishing. His work has been recognised in many competitions, including first prizes in Poets Meet Politics 2014, O’Bheal 2015 and Poetry Pulse 2017. Some of his work can be seen at http://www.poetrykit.org/CITN/citn%20164.htm