The Slums of Nima

by Kwesi Brew

When I passed the windows yesterday
I passed into a night buttered
With stars like the yellow petals
Of the acacia on the black soil
On which it stands.
I plunged into a treachery of winding lanes
Into an eclipse of the sun.
I heard murmurs and groans of childbirth
And could not tell
From which unhinged door they came:
The doors were too close together.

Three neighbours met,
And after a hurried, "I give you rest"
The two young men stood aside for the old man
To pass and then picked their way
In the opposite direction towards the alley
On the left.
They were thieves who robbed with violence
But still they stood aside for the old man
And he thanked them.

In a bereaved world questions and comments
Fall on unhearing ears.
Only silence, understanding and
Belonging can put
A blind man's stick in the hands
Of a searcher in that night.

The crumbling walls have leaned
On their chests for decades!
The toll of breathing has shredded
Their lungs, and their eyes are sore
With the smoke of the wicker lamps.
And now we all stand at the edge
Of an abyss
Afraid to plunge headlong, or
Return to the dark of the night with them!

from African Panorama, 1981

african panorama kwesi brew

See also: The Books of Nima