Winter comes gray and dusty, like another vagabond experiencing its hangover on Lagos’s belly. The harmattans find December, we eat weird dishes and carry out other Christian traditions. Whatever goes into the Christian homes becomes a fellowship—a wild synagogue of shrimps hailing a boy not so full of grace. Tonight, the sky may not womb a high-spirited cloud but promises the universe and the moon a smooth ride. God dabbles in a swampy dew, but no one believes this still—that there are worms deworming their dreads on the Milky Way so the white lines can inherit. I am yet to reconcile the whole part of this, to discover that in a world that keeps claws like lobsters there is nothing like an unscathed lawn, smooth paths that tilt to colors, not even a small patch to make up for overused cages as dog vaccine cribs. Now I know why they all die asleep. It’s because lying comes with the luxury of cleaning their chest and splitting the insteps of their hoof-made mud pies by a marshland. And here, the spider, climbs the roofs to eavesdrop on a conversation our windmill holds with her fins.
In the stream beside our ghetto, you could almost hear the fishes’ gnashing of teeth on the surface of the water. This, they say, is everything—that moment you remember hell and its gorgon of sylphs, fading with the hummingbirds, all feather and pink. The wind here eats their flesh and gifts them with drone stunts as they flap distances in choir lines, leaving claw prints for their eaglets to chase. They break the shrubs from roofs and suck branches till they lay like twigs, like trunks you’d make a giant nest from if heaven would stop yawning. In their wild thoughts, this was how God knew to fulfill his promises—with ripe shrubs on the rooftop to serve as homes and victuals for them: the birds that feed on air.
The air here is one talent the moths do not cherish. Kicked strokes like pretty butterflies losing their wings to harmattan blows. It peels the colors and flings them up, like a wallet of rainbows. Arcs with shapes like Noah’s ark, reminding us that animals like these aren’t safe here, not in this climate, with non-veggies who know little about petting.
The stars are gorgeous beads when knocked about. They close, like amputated oysters stripped of limbs, having their fingers in different folds cauterized by the wet burns that steams from a barnyard. The stench bolts with the wind, and the horse neighs to a near-death. There are haystacks plugged into the owner’s ears, so he doesn’t know when he loses a beast that feels like a burden. His cattle would stray to the field and lose their feet to potholes. They’d swim in the mud and get tired of it. In a sennight, help would come in ropes and sticks and teens tied to a guava tree, drawing hinds from a pit soaked up to the tip.
Here, our hen counts her chicks and crates her eggs in mud holes. But, this will not stop our hands from digging to cull the spoils. The next day finds her glued to the mud, shifting her claws, as if to trace shell lines to a spot where we cracked and made the protein look like sin. Livestock, like her chicks, are alert in their cribs, dreading the hands that steal them. Each grip, a miss, a lost count of her census thing, and she’s back again recounting the chicks, asking after their feathers, why they’ve grown so pink it feels like a color bet, or a near-death from our stead?
But, this is how we celebrate our eves, how we fledge the Christmas trees to lay eggs on their twigs and yoke us all with lurid beams.
Sophia Ashley is a Nigerian writer & undergraduate of English from the University of Lagos.