Moon in the Bucket
Look out there
in the bucket
the rusty bucket
with water unclean
A luminous plate is floating –
the Moon, dancing to the gentle night wind
Look! all you who shout across the wall
with a million hates. Look at the dancing moon
It is peace unsoiled by the murk
and dirt of this bucket war.
"This bucket war" – the bucket, like the wall and the hates shouted across it, is made by people; it is old, beat up, rusty so that the water is rendered useless, meaning the bucket itself is useless, though no one has thrown it out; it is a place of murk and dirt; it is constricted, yet it contains its own rebuke in the form of a reflection of the moon. That is what the bucket war is like. The moon is luminous, it is dancing, or rather its reflection is dancing as the gentle night wind ripples the water dirtied by the bucket. The water, the moon, and the night wind are from the natural world, interacting with yet so much larger than the rusty bucket and the war. Excluding the title, this brief poem has only 57 words, yet five of them are look, the artist's ultimate injunction: look at what is there, not what you think is there; look, observe, notice, pay attention.
Gabriel Okara is a twentieth-century Nigerian poet. I took this poem from The Penguin Book of Modern African Poetry.