“Moonchild, your glow was too bright for my eyes made dull by the sorrows of this world”
“What are my eyes worth if they don’t lay upon you?” ~ Amir Sulaiman
“I am a traveller between the womb of a woman and the womb of the earth” ~ Amir Sulaiman
“Of course fear makes men do strange things. Of course fear makes men strange fruit” ~ Amir Sulaiman
“If under the night you get caught in the cold
With the hundreds of lights that were torn from the mold
And can’t muster the might to find morsels of code
Know the honey in life is sourced in the soul” ~Tariq Touré
Freedom sears through
The last third of the night
A glimpse of a palpable dream
“The harvest was good this year” Nneka murmurs to her sleeping son. The silhouette of a bird, wings outstretched sails across the curtains as Nneka gets up to extinguish the kerosene lamp. Her nails are chewed and years of worry have peeled the surrounding area to reveal sore pink flesh.
She treads out of her son’s room, silently passing through the wooden beaded partition. The sky smells of trepidation and holds the gargling trembling tension that precedes lightening. The air is murmuring with expectation.
Nneka steps out and walks. She passes the house of the chief, passes the house of her paternal uncle until she reaches the furthest house at the edge of the clearing. Nneka walks to the end of the clearing where the bush begins. She kneels by three unmarked mounds and raises her hands skyward.
“Ya Allah cure him”
The next morning Nneka is found serene, head bowed, in the same position. Cool rain has collected in her palms.
Karim sits on the edge of the curb
Coughing up the tail end
Of last winter
Red sand clouds have billowed
Into the old man’s lungs
and tinted his spit
His back lies against
the brick storefront
Of an olive vendor.
The sky tells him that it is
The curious hour after fajr has ended
And before the sleeping city
The smell of baking bread
Wafts through the narrow ally
Rising to meet the makeshift thatched roof of the souk
Occasionally the morning silence
Is broken by the sound of a woman
Kneading mnsemn next door
A stray dog quickly scampers past
Side hugging the wall
On this new morning Karim looks
At his weathered hands
His fingernails framed with black dirt
His palms calloused and yellow.
Each line tells a story of
A bygone time.
He unfurls his fingers
and outstretches his palm
Nana balances the radio atop her head.
Gently, intuitive feet shuffle stones from the path and tentatively feel for potholes in the red road.
Simultaneously slender henna dipped fingers turn the dial, different stations screeching and scratching out of the speaker.
‘This is BBC world service reporting live at…’
The fabric of Nana’s orange mulfa dances with the wind. Dipping, diving and coasting like a circling bird of paradise.
‘… Mopti region in central Mali reports gunmen shooting over 150 Fulani herders’
A layer of red dust has settled on the radio such that it is impossible to discern the original colour.
Once the fingertips have done all they could do with the dial, a station is decided.
‘Fama yé demisein bèyé fama yé massakèba
Fama yé demisein bèyé fama yé massakèba’
Blood spill is not news for Nana, blood spill is like pothole on red road.
conscious air softly bellows a frequency
that observes my still prayer
a moment of haqq:
nothing and everything holds me upright
and the earth is my prayer mat
and creation moves with me and unfolds around me.
and He is certainly the most High.
I nod too much and my face is
Is this a smile or a grimace?
My frozen face is twitching
to relax back into neutral.
She tells me about Marrakech
and her French textbooks from her school days where she learned about La Rochelle.
La Rochelle means to me another base
that we have settled into.
Driving through Tangier and Marseille,
bleeding our sanguine souls
into a mould that will
never hold our shape.
La Rochelle is where
Mami seasons her Tagine
in a greying high rise flat,
where she stacks duvet covers
in clear plastic zip bags
and where she shops for dried mint leaves
at the local market.
What does it feel like to live in a country
that was made for your wide nose and stung lips?
Where iron skies reflect your character
and the diction knocks you back into last week?
She is sweet when she talks,
kind, sincere even.
But I’m struggling to hear her
from behind these antennae.
‘Yes, yes’ I nod to another.
‘Of course’ I smile at another.
All the while antennas coil around
this disappearing smoke.
Uncle Jeff tells me about a place
that I will love at first sight.
Ghana is opportunity he says.
‘You can start anything there’.
‘You have to go’
Ms Addo chimes in
from the migrant support centre.
And so I dream
of forgoing the ‘otherness’ I will feel in Ghana,
of dissolving the coiling mass around my body
under the glaring sun
and releasing this bated breath.