Where I am from, we count nights and not days
by day, we become one with the forest to evade bullets
and by night we search for the biggest holes to conceal our bodies.
I have perfected my sense of hearing;
I can detect an enemy by the sound of his heartbeat
It is my sense of smell that has become skewed
Everything now smells rotten to me
Even a clear cup of tea smells like a pig’s urine.
Where I am from, cocks don’t crow at dawn.
Hyenas and Vultures have lost appetite for flesh
Even the fishes in our rivers now know the taste of blood.
Here, the purpose of food is to allow us to see another night.
I have completely forgotten how to mold a smile
The last time I heard somebody laugh was in my dream
Even though I only dream of mad people and dead bodies.
Here, people prefer becoming ghosts to enduring another night
Where I am from, regret is only evident when an enemy evades an attack
Increasing enemy body count means an elevation in rank.
Here, love kills faster than a stray bullet and kindness exposes one’s weaknesses
In camp, we received a new baptism with a new set of commandments
For example, an enemy remains an enemy, even without a reason why,
A true comrade is immune to feelings and reason.
Orders must be obeyed first before thinking.
Only the weak and faint-hearted calculate their actions.
Where I am going, the moon still rises and the sun still shines
Leaves are still green and the skies still blue
Ants still dig and termites still chew
The wind still blows without boundaries.
The treasure I value most are memories of the world before now
When life had meaning and snails crawled faster than Death
My thoughts are where I plant viable seeds of hope
Knowing that the darkest nights expose the brightest stars.
Christian Emecheta is a Nigerian, a 2019 Baobab Literary Awards recipient, a 2015 Nokia Lumia Short Story Contest winner, and a 2015 Mastercard Short Story Contest winner. He has other honorary mentions to his name, even though he is still an emerging writer. With strokes of ink, he tells stories about life experiences. His poems can be read in The Opendoor Magazine May issue 2021, Nigerian Students Poetry Prize Anthology Series 2019 and 2020, and via the British Council International Writing Competition 2014, to name a few. He can be found at https://mbasic.facebook.com/emechetac.
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Great piece. Vivid imagery. I wished it kept going.