Outside my window the digger, digging, plunges the spade, with target perfection, in gravelly ground hissing needle-sharp sound into palpable rhythm as green buds, cracked in the dry harmattan throw dust around. At each succeeding stroke this hard land trenches longer and deeper by the bitter glint of the spade.
During the aerial suspension of the spade, he pauses, stares into blue haze, stares into blue haze: that mirage over on the noon highway, these primal years that run from us useless as free paper in a printing press or the jocund lovers who deep in the night disappear like methylated spirit. Insults of the proud stick in the digger’s memory like a tattoo. When he tries to wash it off, it will not rub off. Of his father’s tutelage, firewood is only for those who can take heart. That is why not all can gather it. He shakes his head. Grip grip, grip hard and downright down strikes the vengeful spade.
He accused life of myriad standards in its airtight dragnet, roadblocks everywhere borders tight as steel ziplocks checkmate every hope. Yet many people of lesser talent slip out, unabated, with ease.
The logic of existence replants us in alien soils. We tear round the hairpin corners of the word divided to the vein: to stay put or to go. [End Page 267]
So the periodic spade strikes, each stroke the rasped desolation and anger of the soul. Tribulations of a black-gold age. The excavations and makings of our blood and drainage.
Before the harmattan and the digger, unmoving I sit; before these intimate vengeance, I am the watcher. I could not dig as the digger does, convinced I could with pen, I turn my gaze back to the empty page I fancy is waiting. [End Page 268]
Oritsegbemi Emmanuel Jakpa was born in Warri, Nigeria, and currently lives in Ireland. His poetry has been published widely, including DIAGRAM, Echoing Years, and Landing Places. He has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes several times. He has also received several awards, including the 2008 W. B. Yeats's Pierce Loughran Award.