What does Christopher Okigbo mean by the phrase "lovely fragments"?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Christopher Okigbo’s poem titled “The Passage” Okigbo seems to recall the funeral of his own mother, Anna, who died when Okigbo was a young boy:

SILENT FACES at crossroads:
Festivity in black…
Faces of black like long black 
column of ants,
behind the bell tower,
into the hot garden
where all roads meet:
festivity in black…
O Anna at the knobs of the panel oblong,
hear us at crossroads at the great hinges
where the players of loft pipe organs
rehearse old lovely fragments, alone-

In this passage, the phrase “old lovely fragments” seems to refer to fragments of melody, specifically hymns or other music appropriate to a funeral in a church. The phrase is appropriate in a poem that is itself made up of various “fragments” – various images that can seem isolated, disconnected, and fragmentary. They are united not in a strictly logical or rational way but instead are juxtaposed in the kinds of “collages” often associated with Okigbo’s poetry.  Later in the same poem, for instance, the speaker says that

… we are listening in cornfields
Among the wind players,
Listening to the wind leaning over
Its loveliest fragment…

The logical, rational connection between this passage and the one quoted above is not immediately clear. In this sense, the passages seem fragments (especially the second one). Any connection drawn between them must depend very much on intuition and imagination. Perhaps Okigbo means to imply that his own mother, now dead, is the “loveliest fragment” – a fragment in the sense that she is now cut off from the living.  In any case, the earlier phrase “lovely fragments” seems definitely to refer to fragments of music.


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