Travelling in the Wilderness
You can never read too much into anything.
That’s what my granny Nne Nne says.
She opens up the newspaper, and points
her poppy red fingernail at some words.
See here, she says, all words need spaces,
a buffer for safety, it’s so those conflicting
words don’t bash into each other.
And now I’m thinking of things that bash
into each other, like this bus did with that
three-legged mutt of a stray dog last week.
Bashing planets. People. Ideas. And fists.
And our bus driver bashes his plate-flat
hand on the bus’s horn to prove the point.
Nne Nne and I, we’re on the 3:10 bus that
loops around Lagos all day, a 19-minute
circular ride in and out and around town.
We’ve been on the bus for three hours …
… no particular reason other than to get
out of the house and keep on moving.
If you’re moving, you’re not a target,
Nne Nne says. Nne Nne knows stuff.
Bad men, they came into our town
last night, all khaki and smeary-faced.
Smelling of leather and oil and sweat.
Guns as big as their leg, and boots laced
up and knotted around long knives.
Red dust rolls out the back of the bus,
and I lean into Nne Nne at a sharp corner.
One day this dust will bury our town
back on itself. And I bury my thoughts
back into Nne Nne’s newspaper with its
small type and tight lines with spaces
like blank universes between the words.
Nne Nne takes my hand, she knows
the terror of survival, and says, don’t
you go pretending you’re well-schooled
and smart now. These new men watch
everything, so you do the same, girl.
Watch everything, keep your head
down and covered, and keep quiet.
You can’t read too much into anything.
And I notice a man in the street, he’s
limping, and missing his right shoe.