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Of Gog and Magog

(For Ayo)

 

By Juanita Cox Westmaas

 

Friday, September 26, 2014.

 

I was born amid the brush of brittle-

Browns and yellow-browns and water-

Sipping greenish-browns and stridulating

Cricket-browns.

 

It was under the spell of the Dogonyaro tree,

That I fell

In unconditioned love:

In love with the still sweep of egg-shell blue and

A ghostly tremulous heat that rose.

And kept on rising.

In love with the dusty ochre-red earth that blew in

Swirls around the “Ranka Dedes”; the Hausa traders

That meandered, Bukuru-Bound,

Tall and lean

In billowing Baban-Riga blue.

 

I was aware, yet never afraid of the black mamba

Of gun-metal grey. Habitually nearby. Silently

Coiling, recoiling, silently cooling in the shade

Of Gog and Magog.

When it left discarded skin, shadows of a

Former self in wind-parched earth, I would prod

With snapped twig and watch as it, like ancient

Manuscript, resolved to dust.

 

We,

Ayo and I, lazing atop ancient rocks,

Watched young Fulani boys

Protect prized cattle from tsetse,

Watched walking-sticks and white egrets

Rest on proud but tired, well-worn shoulders.

Watched Birom women laugh.

Watched some bend over, pipes clenched

Between teeth, to till crisp earth into lines,

Watched Musa save a Yoruba woman’s son,

Fola from falling.

 

The mango trees, laden with fruit, watched.

The grey woodpecker, red crowned, watched.

The bougainvillea, flowered in white, watched.

All watched.

 

None heard the sibilant songs

Of Gog and Magog:

The songs of sorrow,

Songs that sung of future hatreds

Deep;

Of the spilling tongues of red and the skull-

Cracking smell of burning bodies and carnal sins,

Of Babel’s return,

Of hell, a screaming hell,

Castrators of Plateau’s ancient promise.

Abroad and in fitful ignorance, I dream:

Yearn for the brush of brittle-

Browns and yellow-browns and water-

Sipping greenish-browns and stridulating

Cricket-browns.

 

While the songs of sorrow grow louder.

 

The songs of sorrow grow louder.

Dr. Juanita Cox Westmaas is a Guyana-based poet, writer and academic, with roots in Nigeria, Ghana, the U.K and Guyana.

Of Gog and Magog: A Poem by Juanita Cox Westmaas

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