By Tolu Ogunlesi
By way of agidi, they arrived in Agadez
They are not those landcruisered ones
weighed down with wide-eyed dollars;
their Atlantic is a bowl of sand,
furrowed with the now-silent ‘steps
of several generations.
There are no pillars of salt.
Someone built this sandy highway,
and forgot the U-turns.
Slowly, steadily, past burnt-out suns, frozen moons,
until Sebha flagged them down, marked them as lost
children of the mad dog, and tossed them coastwards.
Toes dipped into the Mediterranean, as into a dream
They woke up, to embrace Lampedusa,
flickering lamp of liberty, poisoned
with the oil of two continents.
“It is a never-ending flood.” But luck,
like a dam, always leaves some behind.
How would you like to go,
death asked the stranded:
bloated – or burnt by a desert sun?
The rest were waved on, windrushed
past a weary maze of patrolling searchlights
into an eternal Italian night.
They are not those flight-cabinned ones, weighed down
with travel papers, and jpegged memories, no;
they are the ‘Bastardo, Bastardo’, patrons of pateras,
for whom life is lived in the un-manned distance
between hope and dashed hope. “It’s bullshit,
this Europe.” Just like that Africa.
Everyone arrives somewhere eventually,
the dead, the condemned, all who fled.
All possible destinations – San Ferdinando,
Rosarno, Paradiso, Glasgow, even –
are the same place:
The Not-the-Promised Land, Inferno…
By way of agidi, they all keep arriving in Agadez…
(c) Tolu Ogunlesi, 2012
[first read at the poetry event of the 2012 Lagos Black Heritage Festival, April 3, at Freedom Park, Broad Street, Lagos]