Return of the pilgrimage

I forgot about drinking ice cold bissap
about the smell of burning coal
and plastic on the street, the dust
taking away your sight and scent
to smell the purple-pink bougainville
intense like the taste of red pepper
abundant in the thieboudienne

cooked with eggs and black pepper
offered in little paper sachets
wrapping up the heat of the sun
shining on the Pulaar women
following the flip-flop rhythm
of the goats grazing for carton and grass
next to the dirt roads with potholes

refilled by rain with the muddy red earth
lining the rows and rows of peanut plants
scorched like the cracked bark
of the majestic baobab tree
thrown back by God or Allah
upside down as the misshapen termite hill
underneath the mobile antenna towers

standing mile upon mile upon mile
along the endless mangrove road
with children walking home with firewood
on their heads and school books
in their hand and a stick to chase the dog
lying down on the warm tarmac in the evening
staring up at the blackening sky

with the red kite circling the sunset
catching the last of the daylight
together with the mosquito
looking for the crying baby on her mother’s back
cloaked in the Vlisco fabric
colourful as the weaverbird
building its homestead

patched up after each rainy season
to keep the tin roof from slumping
over women cooking for their men
in their immaculate white caftan
on their way in the sept-place car
for the pilgrimage of Magal

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