Do not run;
let your feet find root in the mud
that surrounds your hut, thick like
the collective dung of your livestock.
Place your hands on your waist and
puff out your chest, that you may
cut a figure at once daunting and admirable,
just like your fathers before you.
Hold your head high; stare the enemy
right in its frenzied face. But do make
certain that your legs aren’t unsteady like those
of the other men as they fled their compounds.
Be still, even as the earth
trembles from all the bombing and shelling,
and as the compound behind erupts in
an opulent glow of flames and cloud of dust.
If the enemy so dares, let him come.
This hut, which still bares marks of its builders:
prints of your ancestors scattered all over it –
it is yours to protect, like it had been theirs.
So let him come;
If he must serve you death, then you must dine!
You’ll have a feast, drink into the night, sing him a song.
And when the sun rises, it will be all over.
Do not budge; don’t be scared.
If it helps you, close your eyes and breathe;
ignore the present; shun the future, and
dwell only in the blissful memories of the past
Like the harshness of the harmattan sun last
year when your last daughter was
married off. How she knelt before you,
awaiting your blessing.
Or like the scent of flowers that filled
the air months later when she laboured indoors.
The rain was merciless that day, beating down the roof,
muffling the cry of the baby when it slid out of its mother.
It was right here, in this very hut.
Remember the uneasiness you felt? How you paced
tirelessly, for long hours,, until your good wife calmed
you with a touch, said, ‘it shall be over in a moment.’
Read sequel here …