John Akanvariyuei Agandin

January 04, 2023


The Fires Eat the Land at Home (after Kofi Awoonor)


At home the fires are in the fields
Licking up twigs, herbs and every blade of grass
Leaving a bleak blackness everywhere
The fires eat the land at home

They came one day in the heat of noon while men rested
Racing through the cornfields
And licking through the rice farms,
The sorghum, soya and late millet
The fires eat the land at home

How sad a thing to hear the wailing of women
And the mournful sighs of grown men,
Calling on the gods to save them
From this monster of their own making

Analim stands in the middle of his cornfield
With his two sons, sweating from the heat
His hands on his head, in despair
Their frantic efforts with neem branches and buckets of water
Could not save their burnt crop
The women are weeping mournfully,
If only their tears could quench the blazing fires
But alas! Their ancestors and the gods are asleep
And the flames of hell have broken out
Eating up the very soil
Sending thick clouds of dark, dark smoke
Into a clear sky where an angry sun
Fumes and sends down fiery darts of his own
Making the flames leap in ecstasy
Cheered on by persistent Harmattan blasts

Alhassan has lost his sorghum to the fire,
Mma Asana has lost her soya to the fire,
All have turned into a pile of white ash!
They have lost their lives and their livelihood.

Meanwhile, far away, a man saunters along a heedless farm track
Whilst the tobacco stub he flicked into the bush, flares
And elsewhere, Ayaala and a brood of impetuous youth,
match home in glee,
Recounting their hunting exploits and carrying their loot:
One hare, two squirrels, three snakes,
Four grass cutters, and five rats.
The fire they set to the bushes did serve them well
Yet its remnants became a monster to their neighbours
A craze for ‘bush meat’ has led them to this recklessness!
And the fires continue to eat up the land at home.


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