The price seemed reasonable, location
Indifferent. The landlady swore she lived
Off premises. Nothing remained
But self-confession. “Madam,” I warned,
“I hate a wasted journey—I am African.”
Silence. Silenced transmission of
Pressurized good-breeding. Voice, when it came,
Lipstick coated, long gold rolled
Cigarette-holder pipped. Caught I was foully.
“HOW DARK?” . . . I had not misheard . . . “ARE YOU LIGHT
OR VERY DARK?” Button B, Button A.* Stench
Of rancid breath of public hide-and-speak.
Red booth. Red pillar box. Red double-tiered
Omnibus squelching tar. It was real! Shamed
By ill-mannered silence, surrender
Pushed dumbfounded to beg simplification.
Considerate she was, varying the emphasis–
“ARE YOU DARK? OR VERY LIGHT?” Revelation came.
“You mean–like plain or milk chocolate?”
Her assent was clinical, crushing in its light
Impersonality. Rapidly, wave-length adjusted,
I chose. “West African sepia”–and as afterthought,
“Down in my passport.” Silence for spectroscopic
Flight of fancy, till truthfulness clanged her accent
Hard on the mouthpiece. “WHAT’S THAT?” conceding
“DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT IS.” “Like brunette.”
“THAT’S DARK, ISN’T IT?” “Not altogether.
Facially, I am brunette, but, madam, you should see
The rest of me. Palm of my hand, soles of my feet
Are a peroxide blond. Friction, caused–
Foolishly, madam–by sitting down, has turned
My bottom raven black–One moment, madam!”–sensing
Her receiver rearing on the thunderclap
About my ears–“Madam,” I pleaded, “wouldn’t you rather
See for yourself?”
Poem Telephone Conversation by Wole Soyinka
Q1. This poem is full of colours not just that of skin, what do you think these colours signify?
Firstly, repetition was used in the poem: “Red booth. Red pillar box. Red double-tiered Omnibus squelching tar.” I think the repetition of “Red” signifies the anger the persona was filling up within him. He feels upset being discriminated as the landlady was asking him for his skin colour which implies that she does not want to rent her flat to a person with dark-coloured skin.
Next, the description of skin colour was described with the metaphor ” plain or milk chocolate” tells us the skin colour of the persona. The colours dark or light was used to describe the skin colour of the persona and we can tell that the landlady was being a bit discriminating against dark-coloured skin people given her tone.
Lastly, the persona said that she has brown-coloured hair (brunette) but she her palms, soles, are all peroxide blond which was caused by friction. The landlady decides not to rent the flat to the persona as the persona hears a thunderclap about his ears, which means that the landlady had already hung up the call.
Q2.What does the dialogue in this poem reveal about these two characters?
The dialogues in this poem reveals that the persona is a African with dark-coloured skin whereas the landlady was described as a white person who discriminates the dark people.
Q3. The poet dramatises a battle, who wins finally and why?
I think the persona wins finally as the landlady feels that she had no reasons to argue with the persona and so she hung up the call.