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.