Aliou Kande at Point Zero
somewhere in Algeria
Thirty kilometres from water,
another vocabulary for suffering
everybody is imagining water
as soles of girls boil in red sea of sand
and half-eaten bodies in the middle of nowhere
are feasted on by congregation of termites.
At Point Zero,
cargo of men fight over a pool of urine,
to rescue their parched throats and
a mother scoops saliva into her sunken-eyed child
before the night-raiders come
to pass the night on her body.
When rumour consumed my father in Gashish,
I wanted a dollhouse where I
and he could sleep in love
and joke about how he wooed my mother
beneath the guava tree.
I was given a makeshift coffin
to bury my father’s charred body.
But you don't invent a coffin alone,
you invent the body that would sleep in it too
and a mother that will sing of loss;
you invent a child who would learn
about his father through the pockmarked walls
of memories; you invent a woman
whose face is a sack of grief
and nights that taste like ash.
Aubade for the Children at Randa
We sit at Randa,
hand in hand like landlocked countries,
we watch colourful plastics of boys,
loitering by the gutter side
while flies crowd their heads
like a black cloud.
You ask me to write about love,
I write about a father who gifts
his child to a stranger to nurse and
a mother who sings,
“May the storm carry my son
away, far from this land.”