the ravages of dust


The first time he ever looked at her was four years after he had first met her. It was a buzz at the back of his head, slivering down the length of his spine. But by then, she had already married the Syrian. As if that was the matter. But no, it was about her eyes, little pools of black that seemed to draw in something unknowable from the deep vaults of his soul. Then down to her lips, perfect, speaking. She was saying something to him but it did not seem to matter either, for all he saw was the lustre of her eyes and the curve of her lips, their delicate ravage. For the first time, he had looked at her eyes and seen in them that thing that makes a man mad for a woman.
Zouraine! But it had to be!.
But for all these years he had seem her around since they met as jambites at the Said Zungur University. They had shared all their courses and had even wound up in the same elective courses. Always she had been there, together with the other "Arewa " girls from the north. Was it because of his disdain for them? He felt they were mostly a pretentious pack of denigrate peacocks {female peacocks .tee hee!}, shorn of brains who had come to typify for him the decay of Uthman Dan Fodio's caliphate. And his disdain had crystallized after his spectacular run in with one of their ilk, Zulaila, by far the surliest in a pack of shrews. But then, had she been one with them?
In the weeks that followed that fatal glance, Aminu's mind was in a state of palpable turmoil. Everyday that he went to class for his lectures he saw her. Sometimes he said "hello!" but mostimes he spoke not a word. She, she was always there at the edge of his eyes, at the corner of his mind sitting amidst other married cushions or the other "Arewa "girls, oblivious of the torment that she caused him each time she spoke, each time she laughed, each time she said nothing. And he wondered of Gogo, his mother, what would she say to see him so helpless, enamoured by an indifferent girl who lived in the hut of another? Would she laugh at him and tease him with that knowing look in her eyes and tell him tales of the poet Abu Nuwas? He himself remembered something he had read from Wilde, written in the prison at Reading Goal.

He does not win who plays with sin
In the secret house of shame

In dreams in waking, in thoughts.

He sat in his room in the hostel and wondered why it was that he had sent that accursed email. It was all he could think of because it showed he was sillier than he allowed himself reasonable leash. But then in those weeks of emptiness he wondered sometimes if there was anything wrong with his sending the email. Was the problem not that he had felt a concealed hostility in Zouraine? If she had smiled or something like that, he would not now be cursing at computers or indeed at himself. It had been Hadiza he had told finally of the feeling he did not feel which plagued him. But he did not tell her it was Zouraine that was on his mind for he was sure even Hadiza would certify him stark raving mad. Worse, she might have told someone, even Zouraine! And she never would have given him Zouraine's email address. He looked over and over at the poem he had written, trying to see if he had been too forward or. . . what? No he said, he had not been. Tossing it on the bed he turned to sleep for even in dreams escape is found . . .. but not always.

Who can ask
Where the dust settles
Or why?

The pool of her eyes, the pools of Damascus
Dark with lustre, like sloes, never did I see
What it was in their depth that mired my soul

Light as the breeze, so sounds your voice
Summer butterflies are fair, but not as she
She who out shines Suleiman's Sheban Queen

Serpentine grace, priestess of al- Qahirah
By the gateway to the Nile, naiad of Egypt
Plunder my heart, it is for you that I sing

Ah! Kura, dust! She rides the chariot winds
Charming prince, poet hang your flute and violin
The dust is not for thee, your arms are but of bronze

Alas! There is a lord who sprinkles the dust

Those eyes, that voice! To Damascus they go and remain
Though she be fair, she is not for thee my boy
For the prince of Syria claims her hand

Who can ask?
Why the dust unsettles
The poet and his verse?

Aminu Baba Ahmed

She reminded him of the Yemeni girl, Nabila, for whom he had had feelings for just as passionately and ultimately just as hopelessly too. Nabila Farouk who had broken what could not yet even then be called a heart and had run off and married the younger brother of the Emir of Bolewa, laughing at him over her shoulders, her long jet black hair flailing gracefully in the wind. He had thought then that that broken thing had not grown.... but then, what now!?. Its buds were bursting in bloom for the wrong sun in the wrong season. He recalled one night when he had been with Nabila at their then yet special grove, long long before the Magaji came. He could not recall what it was that preceded their dialogue, or what was said after it, merely a full snippet of some large, vague episode of his recurring past.
"My arms are made of bronze. " he said, stretching them out in front of him.
"They could be made of gold." The Arab girl had replied
"Could they?" he asked, his voice almost a whisper, impassioned "But what the price?"
"Alchemy" Nabila replied, plucking up a red rose up to her nostrils, filling her lungs with its fragrance before tossing the rose on the grass .She had not looked up at him.
Alchemy? he wondered. What on earth had she meant .Had he asked her? Or was it one of those taunting riddles that Nabila had always flung at him after moments of feeling and tender words and caresses. Was it chemistry? But surely she could see that there was chemistry, the body sort of chemistry for never did she doubt that she had expressive feelings for him, she had merely been faithless. And he had been na´ve. "Arms made of bronze?".... Had his words meant what he now thought they meant? But alchemy was also the quest of transmuting base metals such as bronze, into gold. Of transforming the decadent social morass that was man into the harmonious divine soul of the Creator's creation. Love? Ah, could it be? Alchemy required the possession of the so-called "elixir of life", The Philosophers Stone. Zouraine!! He possessed no Philosophers Stone, so how could his arms of common bronze posses her waist of gold? Had he really had that dialog with the Yemeni girl or had it been Gogo? Had Gogo been trying to tell him something to console him.? It must have been Gogo all along! Zouraine. Even if she had not married the Syrian, she would not have desired him or noticed him just as Nabila had noticed him but could not desire him enough.
Ah, dear old Gogo .Was it not the fatalism's of rejection?
* * * * *
The handsome young scholar arrived at Nguru at about 10 a.m. Nothing much seemed to have changed; the dry earth still retained its light brown color and the Sahara still threatened, blowing with each gust of wind more sand from dunes in Agades and Fez and Morocco. The garage touts, Gegere and Moli-Moli, were still there hailing and haranguing passengers with shouts of "Kano,Kano!" and "Sokoto,Sokoto!" With his satchel across the chest of his caftan and his suit-case firmly gripped in his right hand, he thread his way through the familiar narrow streets full of men in robes and women in veils, stopping sometimes to greet relatives and friends, towards the house where he had been born and had lived most of his life.
The old woman sat in the shaded balcony of the aged single story house looking far out to the fields menaced by the desert that lay not 50km away. As soon as she heard the door behind her open and without a backward glance, she said to Surayya her teenage companion.
"Baba Ahmed is here"
Aminu walked up in front of his mother and bent himself halfway as was customary, taking care to see that she was okay and noting the wan smile on her lips while Surayya fussed over him. It was Surraya who had changed much, not Gogo. Her lips, her bosom, her hips. . She 'd turned into a young woman and a fine one at that.
When he had had his bath and changed into his jallabiya he came up to sit with Gogo and tell her of school and what had been happening. She had seen many seasons. She just nodded and smiled, sometimes speaking a few words to the youngest and only surviving of her seven sons and he knew that she knew most of what he was telling her.
So he sat there on the balcony of his old home with the woman who had loved him and the girl who was to love him, eating dates and sultanas and watching the sand-laden gusts of wind blowing across the denuded fields. The winds, he thought, have always been and perhaps the day might be when this house would succumb to the winds and become ruins in the greater Sahara. Gogo, Nabila, Zouraine. Would anyone know then that such a one as his Gogo had lived here and watched the wisdom of the seasons go by? And witnessed the sands of time?
Then, such it would have to be with Zouraine; the ravages of dust.

Poetry by richard ugbede ali
Read 840 times
Written on 2007-03-30 at 18:19

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