Ferkessédougou, Re-Viewed, by Linnea Boese
Not a pretty sight, they say,
those trucks blasting through to
make town square a parking lot.
Plastic detritus lines the roads
like aging snow, yellow, ragged.
Lean-to booths don’t line them; no,
they squat instead in random rows
hawking debris of Western cultures
and Chinese imports. Not pretty.
A scrawny boy, shirt ripped,
holds out his begging bucket
(once a liter of tomato paste).
His face is neutral, empty.
Any coins he gains are not for him
but “paradise” gained for others.
Around him swirls a jagged whorl
of traffic: bikes, mopeds, marketers,
goats, hand-pushed wagons.
But look beyond all this:
there’s beauty in this backwater!
Look at the mama sway on her way,
her baby’s chocolate head
a bobbing ball against her
wrapped swaths of purple cloth.
A new white lamb is struggling up
to try its first small steps
and wobble carefully to its dam.
There’s new life springing here.
We’ve had two rains, that’s all
and where the ground was lifeless
there now runs a mass of grasses,
green meadows silhouetted on
orange-red soil, bold resilience
that I pray to match, waiting
through the thirsty drought
to bloom -- rebirth and energy
A muscled woman brings a stack
of firewood cautiously to earth.
She carried it a long ten miles
to market, her corded neck
a glistening pillar, eyes fixed forward
to the last tired step: reprieve, sale,
and return to home, her round hut
and her hearthstones waiting for
the big black pot, hot supper.
Another, fatter, drops galettes
to sputter roundly in the boiling oil,
then lays them on torn sacking.
Maybe today she’ll make a profit,
or break even. A lanky man
is lounging by his wares,
long bolts of patterned cloth,
his own robes bright with gold
embroidered down the front.
Where the road slopes down I see
the long low wetland hanging on,
its moisture mostly mud.
They’re planting now, throwing
rice into the squares of fields
bordered by banana trees
and courtyards straggling
down to nestle by the edge,
where sheep and cattle laze.
I think the sun is brighter here,
transforming pavement into lakes.
It leaches color from the world
in one long sponging-up
while splashing everything with
hot white overlay and pouring
into plants (to wilt the weak,
empower the strong) until it
fades into the aging afternoon.
The blue hour is the blessing:
God make your day-end cool!
May all your work end in the cool!
They say this as they part,
along the way or after conversation.
The cool comes in on sunset
whispering peace upon the toasted town.
Charcoal in the cooking fires
burns garnet in the gathering blue.
Day ends, but not my search.
There is such beauty in the night.
Dark navy driven by sly glee
is banishing the plastic clumps
and cluttered gutters from my sight.
And what I see is people, neighbors
out to visit friends or hang around
to see what fun might blunder in
and interrupt the routine status quo.
Day after long hot day, we need
a second sight to see beyond
the surface trash and grime
and in between to gold and green
and deep and through to cool and blue
and over all a canopy of grace
that re-imagines what it all could be,
what’s hidden in harsh light,
re-view it differently. It is a pretty sight!