[poetry] Olumirin Waterfalls

I first wrote this poem in late 2002, after visiting the Olumirin Waterfalls in Erin-Ijesa, Osun State, SW Nigeria. The poem was inspired by the waterfalls. It later appeared in my collection of poetry, Listen to the geckos singing from a balcony (published 2003/4).

There are said to be seven layers of cascading water. Apparently not very many people successfully climb all the way to the top. (I haven’t managed to).

There’s also supposed to be a story, about some irreverant white visitor who paid with his life. For the life of me I can’t recall what he was supposed to have done.

I visited the waterfalls for the second time ever, yesterday, Sunday January 6, 2013. See my account of that most recent trip here

This second visit inspired me to revisit the poem. First I dug it out, then I gave it a minor revising.


Here we go:




By Tolu Ogunlesi


There are seven waterfalls

or maybe five

we must climb

past in a lifetime

no one really knows

how many


we are scared of sharing

the fate they said befell

the whiteman who now lies

like a blot between pages

of moss in the slab just

above our heads


so while our feet

are busy in the waters

paintbrushes in a toddler’s grip

hands kissing away

at the cliff’s face

minds stay counting

maybe up to four

or five, many not even that far

wondering if we have passed

the point they said not to pass


then the drowning

gasping splashing dread

and we begin

a hurried descent

past fragile branches

of harried bones, feet sinking

into ancient undergrowth

of whitened hair


and we drop into the depths

of the pool we set out from

fingers empty ‘cos we need

both hands to break

a series of six-

foot falls.


(c) tolu ogunlesi 2002


3 thoughts on “[poetry] Olumirin Waterfalls

  1. I have been there and it was in the 90s. I was scared to climb the mountain but made it to the top. There was a guide there although I went with friends. The waterfalls are amazing.

  2. Hi Tolu, met you once when you came to our office in Oregun, Ikeja (NN24TV). Can I send you a poem to critique – just one please? One more thing, can I lay my corporate comms problems before you?

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