IKORE: By Dami Ajayi

Ikore is the Yoruba word for harvest. An appropriate title for this hybrid piece celebrating labour in its
different incarnations. I pay tribute to my ancestors, subsistent farmers in the nodal town of Igbara-
Oke. My tribute then extends affectionately (I hope) to precariats in trades that often deplete their
goodwill and threaten their humanity. I have an axe to grind with flashy Pentecostal pastors without
the foresight of their ancestors, and I reckoned with my Sisyphean fate as a privileged victim of
migration and late-stage capitalism.

Last night, I dreamt of my ancestors on their farm, wearing work rags, Ifamilehin & his clan tending the land; I was with them, wearing my rags too, loosening earth with my hoe, breaking into sweat that wetted the humid soil.

Awake and I am thinking about harvest; I resist its Germanic origin, push through its posh mouthful of double-agent consonants & fall through to the Yoruba word, ikore. You should have seen the vast verdant farms & forests where my ancestors shot crops and nurtured game and marked their civilisation with the music of metal beating the ground and the choreography of purposeful shuffle & the economics of procreation skewed toward a patriarch’s pleasure. Harvest is a multiplex word, but I resist its gesture toward gathering, dodging bazaars, souks, even Samarkand & other oil-lamp-lit night markets patronised by non-human humanoids whose true form thoroughly distracts a poem from its course, resist the economics of demand & supply of perishable produce, harvest does not sound nifty on a farm riddled with weevils, blight & other plagues that gesture toward famine.

What is harvest without a market?

I watch the telecast of a Pentecostal pastor in a purple pinstripe three-piece breaking the Word with his red anvil of a tongue on a ring-fenced bench of scattered teeth after the solemn call to the altar, the prequel to the call for tithe—bring a tenth of your harvest to the House of the Lord, Halleluyah, somebody, & watch what becomes of the untaxed rest, watch what grows out of the growl punctuated by discordant Hammond piano tunes. Pastor Purple, white handkerchief in hand, proclaimed platitudes into the new year tagged “Our Year of Bountiful Harvest” but knew nothing about the zoonotic virus that would quake the world, bring it to its knees like the ageing lady on Commercial Avenue fishing out a gold earring from the gutter floating with lottery stubs & used condoms; skirt riding up her troubled thighs, she is in earshot of the 90s R&B music spewing out of a snack bar where revellers and idlers kill time on Friday afternoons.

Friday is a prospective harvest period in flesh trading; a sex worker needs her hint of beauty, her hint of luck, & her hint of God; she requires a retainer with the well-mannered misogynist yellow cab driver, a flawed hero, balling the night, always one call away. Short of the horizontal facial marks, Baba Oni Taxi could be Ifamilehin poised with a Dane gun & lips full of Ogun’s panegyrics baiting a duiker. He shoots his target as I hit mine for a paltry weekly HSBC alert. He drags his kill home, and displays it in the courtyard; this meat, a propitiation for the gods, this meat, nourishment for his clan, while I sit in a swivel chair in a clinic in West London, listening to Cesária Évora, writing letters to colleagues about mutual patients.

Dami Ajayi is a Nigerian psychiatrist, poet and essayist. His most recent book is the volume
of poems, Affection & Other Accidents.