A never-ending flood [poetry]

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]


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