Monday, April 28, 2008

National Anthem, as sung by neighborhood children

Actual Words:
For The Gambia our homeland,
we strive and work and pray,
that all may live in unity,
freedom and peace each day.
Let justice guide our actions,
towards the common good,
and join our diverse people
to prove man’s brotherhood.
We pledge our firm allegiance,
our promise, we renew,
Keep us, great God of nations,
to The Gambia, ever true.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Poetry for pyros and other distractions

I found a way to set the notebook on top of the pile so that the wind, page by page, pulls the paper up to catch on fire, like Lucifer speed-reading. It’s amazing what will burn, old bras, (not for any statement save the unreliability of today’s underwire) broken shoes, infested pasta. The neighbors are probably wondering what the acrid smoke that’s angrily pouring over my fence is all about. Or they don’t care, because they light their own fires with baggies or spent hair extensions. Either way, there is no other “away” for all this crap I never thought I’d accumulate by living in a hut.
As for the “low battery” graphic on my phone, I purposefully let the thing run down just to see the little Atari-quality picture pop up of a battery with what looks like some kind of fluid sloshing back and forth inside it impatiently. It’s a graphic that makes me nervous and happy at the same time. I wait for it, and it comes with a little sound, a sort of digital moan whining charge me.
The last Sibo moment is her sitting on a tiny stool in her underwear, brushing her teeth. The toothbrush seems disproportionately enormous, a prop from Honey I Shrunk the Kids. Children in America use child -sized toothbrushes, don't they? This is decidedly more badass, and when I gave it to her, she went around bragging to the other kids in the village and waving it in their faces. Now she’s approximating Animal from The Muppets with her brushing style, certainly not the product of those dental hygiene filmstrips from grade school, but, you know, up and down and all around. It’s not a science after all, and doing it politely is most likely less effective regardless.
This is the kind of stuff I try to distract myself with. Sarjo is able to stand up now and walk around by clinging to things. It's painfully cute to watch. She stood up and there was a spoon stuck to her butt and she didn't notice and everyone started laughing, and she just smiled, too young to feel ashamed. She says "icee" too, for the frozen juice she gets to suck on daily. It's an appropriate first word in this compound, where Betembo exhuasts every afternoon filling little baggies with juice she's mixed in a bucket, or washing out the brake fluid bottles she uses for wonjo drinks. I take my last icee, at least for a while. I've had to wrap up my life here in less than a week, and these are the things I want to make sure I do, see that Sibo keeps brushing, taste wonjo once more, burn the evidence of three years of living, squeeze it all into 2 bags. I could be, should be, taking responsibility for work obligations, making sure I take my leave responsibly, but I just want, selfishly perhaps, to top off my collection of little memories that matter instead. I want to know I haven't been dreaming this whole thing up.