“Eyewitness” by Ajibola Tolase

for Hauwa Liman

Hauwa has traced the history of her loss
beyond the city she was named Silence

as though her body were a living collection of sins.
A man is collecting his daughter’s tears

in the pocket of his shirt. He presses her face to his chest
as though that could blind her from seeing the mortician

bent over her sister’s body. The dead girl’s eyes remain open
as if to memorize the world. Across the street,

another man is drowning in tears. In this small town,
busy as a colony of bees, everyone is a ghost awaiting a grave,

and Hauwa, too, has come to meet with Death,
full beard and stabbing gaze which cuts through you

before the blunt rays of sunshine in the desert heat of Borno.
It’s the same city, where the red earth rose in the wind

and a child swore it was the dead racing their horses of light.
I think of other cities unlike this, their geese-speckled fields

and other birds beating their wings as they call for home.
The birds of Borno are silent witnesses, their songs

are buried in them. Herons and hornbills,
listening for the thud of falling bodies.

Ajibola Tolase, whose work has appeared in journals including Faultline, Sand Journal and The Lifted Brow, is a Poetry MFA candidate at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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