On t’attend les bras ouverts
“We wait for you with our open arms”
Were the words in my mailbox
From the Togolese students I would meet
In a few weeks.

 

L’arrivée and Displacement

From Madrid to Benin
And finally after reaching Lomé
None of the nuns who looked
after the Baobab residence
was at the airport waiting for me.
Dusty humidity in my skin and nostrils
My ears stuffed with klaxon honks
And indecent proposals from men
Still one step after another
To ranco or the university campus or the students’ home.

Scarce water but plenty of mud
Mango trees and baobabs
The first monsoon and bounteous sun
Savage nature trapped in
Sewage and city muck.

Fatigued feet and unvarying stares
Time to dare to stop a two-wheeler cab
To feel the air and
The potholes and the need
To grip the rider not to fall.

But near the Baobab residence
Where my twenty-two students lived
Getting off the motorbike my
Leg touched the exhaust pipe
What a hoarse howl.

A skinless perfect circle
Bursting on my right calf
A piece of aloe given by Innocent
To soothe the scald
Some visits to the doctor.

 

14th July 2012, Bastille Day

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité…
To watch the French parade
In the waiting room of a clinic in Lomé
Was like attending the absurd tragedy
Of reversed and lacklustre mirrors
Of the world.

Whereas those were marching on the Champs Elysées
With impeccable uniforms and medals of “Honour”
These (who have the same language and religion –
Shall we explain why?) were lowering their gaze
Avoiding watching TV with their dirty feet
Waiting and waiting for the glory.
Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité…

 

Education and Delectation

G B C D… G B C D…
Oh when the Saints go marching in
After the jubilant mass time to chat and photographs
Music class or Spanish course
Computer basics and sports.

Playing cards on the beach
Visiting museums or the
Klimt-alike bijoux market
Display of colour and awkwardness to bargain
Dreadful Akodessewa – hoodoo.

In Africa I stay in a Christian milieu
Next to a mosque
I love listening to the prayers and songs
Of my friends the students
And the muezzin’s call.

Danse, danse, Afrique,
Au rythme de djembé
Listening to French or Ewé
Sweet smiles and glistening eyes
Bountiful hands inviting to dance.

One of the happiest moments
In my Togolese days arrives
when I leave the residence and
little Guigui and her friends
interrupt their game in the sand
and run towards me to kiss me.

They speak to me in an unknown language
(They have not yet learned French at school)
But we understand each other
For the eyes, smiles and pure hearts
Live beyond language
And their brilliance keeps all mysteries.

So when I leave them and continue my way
Alone among the horns, motorcycle taxis
And marriage proposals,
Many thoughts explode like
Polyglot meteorites and
I wonder “How could Adam and Eve
Live forever happily in Paradise if
They Never had a childhood nor a mother?
Poor navel-less adults … ”

 

Tagirem Gallego García

Tagirem Gallego García

Tagirem Gallego García is a predoctoral researcher at the University of Castilla-La Mancha, Spain. Her areas of interest and research are Comparative Literature, Travel Literature, Multiculturalism, Geocriticism, Imagology, Orientalism, Postcolonialism and Language Teaching. Her PhD is on the image of India for English-speaking and French-speaking female author travellers.

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