Courtesy / Macondo Writers Workshop
A bunch of breasts from either arm, and that lone question—do you friend, even now, know what it is all about? —Wole Soyinka, from “Civilian and Soldier”
The sun slips between panels of fichus. Dripping. She travels only at night. Beds
in ditches for too many
hot nights. Her body arrives in the ghoulish thicket
like so many girls do with a bomb
strapped between both breasts.
The Velcro harness starts as an itchy burn then turns into second skin. Black tape travels
like zebra stripes. Tar.
Her thumping chest—an only blanket.
A rigorous comb and cut with unsharpened shears. See how girls shape up real well,
ready to scatter the ground any time.
Litter across the jungle, turn a city to shambles. Shoulder, breast, elbow, lip no longer
shackled. They tie their buns back
in bundles and bundles of black.
Their mothers have turned into mangroves. No, a dream and an ochre river. The men
form into a line under shadows of strangler figs.
The wild bird’s plucked and severed with ease. Plumes and pink meat in her hands.
Gummed to dips of fingers.
Teeth like sun, like the scaled peel of snake fruit. But when she’s strapped, how
she can slither through any damn hole,
any dark line of in-between.
For country, she says, I shall be severed. Spread with voracity, then refined to seeds and meat.
This land. All hunger, girls.
The manioc and mud and rust mud of a river. What a mud muddy soldier she’s become.
Breasts fastened mounds underneath fatigues
and sweat. A topaz sari disposed of on that river’s shore. It’s lined in reeds needling
moisture. Mosquitos pepper running water.
The buzz, buzz and zip. Inevitable sting of cyanide, then a smooth leg the hue of dunes
and cherry bark. An ornament, a trophy,
all alone lying there—full gleam.
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