‘Wife Batterer’s Blues’is a thirty line, six stanza poem written by Niyi Osundare. The poem’s focus is on one of the crudest and brutish acts perpetrated by men in the modern society: wife battering.
Stylistically, as characteristic of Osundare, the poem starts on a note of ‘suspense-creating’ strings of rhetorical questions asking the wife batterer if has ‘joined the WAS…’?
You wonder what “WAS” is? ‘The Wife-Appreciation Society’
In the following two stanzas, the poet employs the apt metaphor of a ‘gallant boxer’ to depict the bestial act of the wife batterer:
You punch her face
And bloody her eye
Haba! You punch her face
And bloody her eye
Therein resides your pleasure
Source of your brutish high
In his typical moralising poetic style, Osundare uses the concluding two stanzas to call the attention of the wife batterer to the show of shame he has put up for the children’s traumatic delight and thereby advises him ‘tame’ his ‘rage’; to argue with his ‘brain, not (his) fist’ and ‘Turn over now to the civil page’.
What better poetic way can one express the phenomenon of wife battering? With a whimsical blend of sound and sense, Osundare exposes and lambasts the brutishness of wife battering. He metaphorically and sarcastically paints the wife batterer as a confused ‘gallant boxer’ who sees his wife as his opponent in the ring; onomatopoeically portrays him as a ‘Caddish coward’; and with a powerful animal imagery, paints him as someone that reasons with ‘fist’ instead of ‘brain’. Thus, the poet rhythmically portrays the personality of a wife batterer as the one that stinks and is dangerous for the health of a ‘human’ society.
‘Wife Batterer’s Blues’ is indeed a poetic masterpiece recommended for wife batterers—and for every man, for every man is a potential wife batterer—to read and digest and ‘turn over now to the civil page.’
Note: ‘Wife Batterer’s Blues’ is part of the Random Blues series featured on Nigerian Tribune and later published as a collection in 2011. You can read other poems in the series here.