Cooing & Longing


A bird perched on the fence for a minute—

its cooing brought me out of the house.

There was so much color on its feathers.


Its beak didn’t jut forward but bent downward

like in most of birds of prey, but this one didn’t prey.


I couldn’t feed it so it left sooner

than it used to when you were here, no grains

to litter the compound with, but then

there was no kind of fodder in the house.


It was the kind of bird that knew its beauty—

perhaps a special thing for its species.


I had thought it would cut me some slack,

but, like you, it didn’t, fleeing on instinct;

like you, it left a trail of leaves in its wake.



I remember the first dry season I spent

in that house you lived in until you died.

Harmattan almost bent you double,

dragging in its dusty perfume across miles

and into every room, sparing nothing

so much so I never knew I would ever

be so expectant of rain; even the birds,

the animals were having a hard time

of all the charade that was the weather.

Even the wooden shelves cried as they cracked,

their grains warping into undulant hills.

I was addicted to the city life.

I tried to hide my feelings because

somehow the weather benefitted you.

You had never so stood at the window

with such longing, in your eyes, to be outside.

I looked into your clear brown eyes and tried

to will the young agile person I knew

who would walk miles with me merely to see

what the landscape was like at the moment

because, for you, no one stepped into

the same landscape twice, for you the wind

was always changing something, eroding

either the soil, or the trees of their leaves,

the rain would always wash something away;

even the cities could not escape this.

It was like a process of aging.

Sometimes the wind brought more than dust

and its empty smell: now a sweet smell

but one which you doubted: maybe it was

the smell of bodies carried over miles,

maybe the dust was part of their bodies.

I knew it couldn’t be real yet I let

myself to imagine it, as scary

as it was, for didn’t we hear about how

the rivers, though how dried up they were,

still vomited tumescent bodies

from their silvery bellies, about how

the beggars didn’t wake up in the streets,

their stiff bodies curled up like balls of wool?

I tried to find things to love in this place

but couldn’t, rather reasons to leave

were monthly stacking. Minna was almost

like this and each day the people I stayed with

tried to convince me to cut the place some slack,

I took a piece of my clothing and quietly

folded it and threw it in my traveling bag

until one night I realized it was full.