Telephone Conversation Poem by Wole Soyinka

Telephone Conversation

Rating: 5.0

The price seemed reasonable, location
Indifferent. The landlady swore she lived
Off premises. Nothing remained
But self-confession. 'Madam' , I warned,
'I hate a wasted journey - I am African.'
Silence. Silenced transmission of pressurized good-breeding. Voice, when it came,
Lipstick coated, long gold-rolled
Cigarette-holder pipped. Caught I was, foully.
'HOW DARK?'...I had not misheard....'ARE YOU LIGHT OR VERY DARK?' Button B. Button A. Stench
Of rancid breath of public hide-and-speak.
Red booth. Red pillar-box. Red double-tiered
Omnibus squelching tar.
It was real! Shamed
By ill-mannered silence, surrender
Pushed dumbfoundment to beg simplification.
Considerate she was, varying the emphasis-
'ARE YOU DARK? OR VERY LIGHT' Revelation came
'You mean- like plain or milk chocolate?'
Her accent was clinical, crushing in its light
Impersonality. Rapidly, wave-length adjusted
I chose. 'West African sepia'_ and as afterthought.
'Down in my passport.' Silence for spectroscopic
Flight of fancy, till truthfulness chaged her accent
Hard on the mouthpiece 'WHAT'S THAT?' conceding 'DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT IS.' 'Like brunette.'
'Not altogether.
Facially, I am brunette, but madam you should see the rest of me. Palm of my hand, soles of my feet.
Are a peroxide blonde. Friction, caused-
Foolishly madam- by sitting down, has turned
My bottom raven black- One moment madam! - sensing
Her receiver rearing on the thunderclap
About my ears- 'Madam,' I pleaded, 'wouldn't you rather
See for yourself?'

Babatunde Aremu 05 May 2014

This is one of the great poems I read in my high School days. This is an exposition of racial discrimination. Great write!

7 2 Reply
Raees 27 December 2017

Can you give me a project model about the great poet wole soyinka Or your ideas to 7025346553 my no

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Sam Madeyin 09 August 2022


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Bijay Kant Dubey 27 October 2017

In a very conversational style, talking and gossiping and sharing it, the poet divulges the things relating to race, ethnicity, colour and complexion, how do we take to ideally and practically? Things are not so as we find them. Just in an introductory mode of getting acquainted with, the poet seems to focus on colour bar which is everywhere in one or other form. The call received takes to discussion; an exchange of thoughts and ideas. The Dark Continent, the White Continent, how to explain it? why the things are dark and black, why white, who can but say it?

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Patrick Morris 08 February 2018

I remember this poem from third year in High School. I was impressed by the unusual satirical style and it's blatantly obvious message comically understated. I recognised the poet's name today when reading about Biafra's conflict with Nigeria. Discrimination will always exist in many guises, perfection is beyond humanity.

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PETERSON KIPYEGON 27 November 2019

An interesting poem......its really show how an African is from tot to the foot

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lillie 15 April 2019

this poem is really ironic because of the fact that the man has no control over the colour of his skin and yet that is what the landlady holds against him. i think that the poem is extremely emotional due to the fact of the lady's callous words towards the man and his desperate needs. a truly inspiring poem, nonetheless timeless.

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Cyprien Sessou, Italy 28 December 2018

Great Wole Soyinka! Hi wrote this poem 55 years ago. But up to nowadays, Telephone conversation is still being actually for the problem of discrimination and racism against African black people every where in the wold. Telephone conversation is become a classic poem not only for the liric style used during the dialogue with the landlady, but for the argument.

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aditya 10 October 2018

the poem and is good and gives proper lessons..

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Joshua Adeyemi 17 March 2018

came 'You mean- like plain or milk chocolate? ' Her accent was clinical, crushing in its light Impersonality. Rapidly, wave-length adjusted I chose. 'West African sepia'_ and as

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