c. 1970 | Nigeria

The Only God That Counts

The things we do for food.

Hunger makes a person lie down—
he has water in his knees.
Hunger makes a person lie down
and count the rafters in his roof.
When the Muslim is not hungry he says,
We are forbidden to eat monkey.
When he is hungry he eats a baboon.
Hunger will drive the Muslim woman from the harem
out into the street,
Hunger will persuade the priest
to steal from his own shrine.
“I have eaten yesterday”
does not concern hunger.
There is no god like one’s stomach:
we must sacrifice to it every day.

Used with permission of Bayreuth African Studies.

About This Text

From Yoruba Poetry. One of the three largest ethnic groups of Nigeria, numbering more than twenty million, the Yoruba are mainly concentrated in the nation’s southwest. Their traditional religion involves a vast hierarchy of deities, among them a creator and around four hundred other lesser gods and spirits.