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It Is After All English Tea, A Most Suitable Vehicle

Femi Oyebode

It is after all english tea, a most suitable vehicle

For poison to work its way into the story.

There he was sitting on the deck of the floating barracoon

Thinking of his childhood trek in a coffle from upcountry

Dragged to the coast, the god forsaken creeks, a mere boy

Now a feared man, not disposed to the push and throw

The turn from servile to the rush of delta foam and power

Standing in the way of Liverpool, the pool that against

The Niger was a trickle of spittle, a Mersey that mercifully

Was distant and unknown on this vast coast that also

Hardly knew itself, unregistered beyond the sleepy undulations of mind

Yet, wakening from the malarial slumber that had outlasted

Even the torpor and languor of wilderness. He was now sitting

In the slope of the deck, rolling with waves, on a Sapele

Unarmed armchair, sipping the poisoned tea,

Courtesy of the English hospitality of decent deceit.

Did he slump over, did he scream realising that he was undone?

Did he retreat in the face of defeat, to his bed of death?


Femi Oyebode studied medicine at the University of Ibadan, graduating with distinction in 1977. He trained as a psychiatrist in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and has been Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Birmingham since 1999. His books include Mindreadings: literature and psychiatry, Sims’ Symptoms in the Mind- textbook of descriptive psychopathology 4-7th editions (translated into Arabic, Estonian, Italian, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, & Spanish), Madness at the Theatre, and Psychopathology of Rare and Unusual Syndromes. His volumes of poetry include Naked to Your Softness & other dreams, Wednesday is a Colour, Forest of Transformations, Master of the Leopard Hunt, and others. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 2016 and the Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (the highest honour of the RCPsych) in 2019



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