"Alasti Keiser (The Naked Emperor)" by Edward von Lõngus. Photo: Ivo Kruusamägi / Wikimedia Commons / cropped from original / CC BY-SA 4.0, licence linked at bottom of article

A poem by Tayo Aluko

We made our homes in the belly of The Beast
The Beast that devoured our ancestors
and spat them out on the other side of the globe
that stole our gold and rubber
our skills and knowledge
our art and music,
our history

It gorged, and fattened itself,
dressed in unmissable finery
and declared itself proudly
The Empire,
It saw its greatness in our puzzled eyes
as we stared up the barrel of a gun
from every corner of the earth

Its guns were needed still (we were told)
to protect us from the socialists and communists
Capitalism, our enslaver for centuries
would liberate us
one day

It bought our rulers
and continued the quiet theft
of our humanity and our dignity
as it planted poison and bombs
where once there was rice and diamonds

And then the virus came
silent, swift and deadly
we answered the call to the frontline
to confront this invisible enemy
we asked simply for gloves, masks, visors and gowns

As we fell, one by one
we finally began to see
that what the gentle ones had been whispering loudly
had been true all along:
We’d been feeding
on The Beast’s excrement
unmindful of the fact
that The Empire
no clothes

Tayo Aluko’s project: Mapping “Greatness”

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