Writers Project of Ghana

To Alight
by Laban Carrick Hill

Kwesi says, "Fuck,"
                    right after he asks,
          "Where will you alight?"

I am not a virgin and am not
                    at all averse to fucking
          even in the back seat of a taxi

under reasonable or perhaps any
                    circumstances, but Kwesi
          saying "fuck" reconfigured

whatever destination
                    I was headed toward
          so that even his curious

post-colonial locution, which preceded
                    "fuck," could not set in motion
          what would have been inevitable

musings on the colonial influences
                    of post-colonialism
          that has been my interior

narrative for the past few weeks
                    after listening to former
          Tanzanian president Mkapa

indict contemporary West Africa
                    for falling into the same traps
          as their colonial precursors

without ever acknowledging
                    the Christian prayers that opened
          and closed each of his lectures.

Instead, I’m transfixed
                    by the realization that Kwesi
          must have lived in America

or bought a pirated DVD
                    of the fifth season of "Sopranos",
          the episode where Tony

exploded in F-bombs.
                    If Kwesi hadn’t,
          he would have prefaced his expletive

with "sebew," the word
                    which polite Fantis use
          before speaking of private

body parts or bodily functions
                    that can’t be avoided
          in conversation.

It’s been four months
                   since I’ve heard "fuck."
          Now out of perhaps an appropriated

sense of propriety I avert
                    my gaze to the traffic accident
          that aroused his outburst.

A truck loaded with barrels of palm oil
                    flipped. The red clay track
          now even redder, thick

as coagulated blood,
                    puddled in the intersection,
          the driver, himself bloodied, crawling

out of the upended cab. Horns blare
                    as dozens of taxis spill
          across the open sewer

like a river, newly routed,
                    grinding gears from third to first
          as a tall woman—dressed in black stretch pants

and a blue Obama for President t-shirt,
                    ragged at the hem—rotates
          into my view through the windshield.

She is walking along the edge of the road,
                    speaking on her cell phone,
          the hand of a toddler in hers,

a small infant bound to her back
                    by a bright orange batik
          decorated with the Akan icon for hye-wohhye,

a proverb signifying, "Burn,
                    you do not burn."
          The infant’s pale, tiny soles

dig into her narrow hips,
                    toes pointing like a quiver of arrows
          toward her head upon which eight egg crates

balance on a small pad. As if part
          of another tributary

I calculate that each crate
                    contains three dozens eggs—twenty-four dozen,
          three hundred and eight-four in all—

nestled row upon row; the taxi’s nose
                    swerves as Kwesi rotates
          the steering wheel. Without interruption,

the woman continues her call and passes
                    so close I could push her.
          Only then do I look for the elephant

to step from behind a coconut palm,
                    wrap its muscled trunk around her slim waist,
            carry her through the wall of flames

erupting from the half empty
                barrels of palm oil that have been pulled
        to the edge of the road and set on fire.