The Nation

Poetry

Late December in Abidjan

 

The city, awake and brooding, is its own thing.
I walk along Abobo, on the road everything leads
to God, even the air. I watch men spread prayer
mats, each of them full of colors like little islands.
The earth, holy in all its resurrections, moves forward,
carrying us in its silence. Away from the men,
a child leaning on a cement block tosses a ball into air
as if to say, even here, even here, I am still tender.
Yet, there is the shadow of life; the branches of trees,
leaves brittle and dry, leaning toward an unpaved road.
Loudspeakers blaring the latest song from Tanzania.
In the dance of things, the elation of life, the streets
are adorned with banners of salvation, all held together
by puppets on the outside of heaven’s café. I walk
through it all, even across the carcass of a slain lamb
where a blind man led by a school boy fills his plate
with meat, saying to the world, I have travelled
through terror. Survival repeats itself again and again,
knocking on the door of every city. And before me,
a man with a stick leads a herd of Baoule cattle.
O mouth of the approaching night, we who the world
has ushered into the wildness of life are before you.
From the darkness a muezzin call. I do not understand
Arabic, but all I hear are these words, the sweet voice
of God is calling you into the private moment of the sea,
it is saying, sit, repeat your life. Like the waves
you will be led into the miracle of existence, surfing
over the small quiet heart of the world, rushing back
to where it all begins, to a slain lamb, whose ribcage empty
of meat, must begin to ascend through grace.

Romeo Oriogun