XXXVIII (from “Ogoni”)
I preferred the nights when oil lamps twinkled
over the evening tide catch in wet nets,
fish-women smelling of eau de poisson
and buyers bent like shrimps over trays and mats,
haggling over prices without a care. We’d
surround the town but keep the roads clear.
At my word, big guns would go off
and at first, the fish-market, always
a hubbub equal to the sea’s roar,
would be dead-still, and you could hear
a lamp, its oil drying, splutter its rage,
or the chink of change dropped by shocked hands.
We paused for the awe to revive them,
till we saw them fling away the fish
as if they were marine bombs! We sustained
fire then till all the lamps gasped and surrendered
to night, till only the light of our fire streaked
in the bloated darkness as houses quenched
their lamps to hide their fear, and their occupants
fled to the bush through the paths of flight I’d kept open.