a market somewhere in Aba, Abia state, Nigeria. Here, the smell of sweat rivals oxygen for dominance in the air. It’s a fierce battle, and one could tell—even before touching the entrance—that the former is reaching ascendency. One foot through this gate and you could already perceive a saturation of perspiration in the ambiance, like the sweet scent of incense burning on a Catholic altar flying all over the space-- finding its way into all the nostrils present at worship. Or perhaps it's no sweet scent, supposing you're an alien to the odour of the man who, for a living, baths in metal-melting sun rays whilst shouldering and transporting loads the weight of a house. Here, boys are men, and girls are no ladies— no—they’re no less the man who shoulders a house for a living—frankly. And it’s no child abuse, it’s the hustle. Here, the rain doesn’t shatter the anthills— no—the bustling is just as steady as when the sun is at its peak. They say the average man works eight hours a day. I do not disagree, but an hour here is like a bestseller on the back of an ant. Not that it’s too slow, but that it’s very, very heavy. The people call here cemetery / now I know why; oxygen don’t live here. And if it does, nobody breathes it.
THE MAGIC AROUND HERE
The world around here is an indescribable sparkle of light. / It's daybreak, & I look through my window hanging a few heights in the sky & the little boy coming out of his mother's hut has a smile that halts my uncertainty— & for a broad while I'm happy I awoke from a sleepless bed. / The whole day in this street is enveloped in a miracle that can't be undone. / The seemingly unsightly road is everything at the same time: a football pitch, a dance arena, a carpark, a bathroom… yes, here juveniles without any automobiles drive me back to the innocence of yesteryears. The kind that saw a skirt or what's under it & just go about the untiring business of nagging & clamouring for mama to undo the poverties of my belly. It's angelic. At night time the street is a mixture of afro-beat coming from a shop that sells compact discs, the heavy sound of different pestles brutally beating into the mortar trying to turn cassava into something worthy of dinner, & the back-up cries of children hanging around the firewood kitchen impatiently waiting for the cassava transformation-- & that of the little babe strapped on mama's back awaiting the same magic. / Dinner's almost ready, but the cries won't stop. Fathers return from their workplaces & mothers waste no time in untying the burden gathered around her kitchen to daddy sitting in the front yard—probably thinking the same thing I'm writing. / The children at this point are specially drawn to his pocket, & soon to kill their tears at the promise of sweets & biscuits. Mama at last is at peace to continue with dinner preparation. Ten pm leaves only the disco alive. The other sounds are now fast asleep. Now young adults are gathered about the biggest bulb in the area, talking & dancing to the rhythm of the beat from the film shop. / Without a clock one could tell when the street goes to sleep. It sleeps after the disco finally sleeps -- when the 'film man' is closed for the day. You could wake at midnight to the sound of gunshots coming from local vigilantes announcing that they were well on duty, or you could sleep like a baby dreaming about all the magic of the day.
CHISOM CHARLES NNANNA (runnyink) is a Southeastern Nigerian poet with works in Eboquills, Kalahari, Afro Lit Mag, Feral, and elsewhere. He is an undergrad student of Mass Communication at the University of Ilorin, Kwara state. His writings border around politics, philosophy, humanity, and resolutions amongst others. He finds fun playing football, cooking, dancing, writing and reading poetry.