How Still a Body
I grew up in Nigeria with my grandmother.
One dawn two armed robbers were caught
in the act. Local people set on them, beating
them with whatever came to hand.
A large crowd gathered around the thieves.
One had survived the beating, blood poured
into his eye. In a deep gutter, the other
robber lay, his body bloated from the heat.
And then I knew this is how still a body
looks when it is dead. Today I heard
that in Urdu, the word for yesterday
is the same as the word for tomorrow.
And I panicked at the thought because
I could not imagine what my world would be like
if the words for then and now were the same.
Twenty years have passed since I saw
that stranger’s corpse. I keep walking this earth
hoping that home’s door will open up to me.
These words draw a circle leading me back
to my grandmother’s house; a ceaseless dying.
© Copyright Naomi Woddis 2008
Inspired and taken from answers to the the following questions:
What image illustrates the true nature of time ?
Describe the first time you saw another person’s blood ?
What does the word home mean to you ?
It wasn’t the first time I saw blood but is the first memory that pops into my head when I think of the question. It was the first time I saw a dead body when I was living in Nigeria with my grandmother. I think I was about 10 years old. Sometime as dawn broke, local people caught two armed robbers in the act. The mob set on them, beating them with whatever came to hand. As I woke for school their was a buzz in my grandmother’s yard. She took and my brother to see what the commotion was about. At the front of our house, outside the gates, a large crowd had gathered looking at the two robbers. One had survived the beating but writhing on the ground, one eye blinded by the blood pouring into his eye. In a deep gutter, the other robber lay inert, his body bloating from the heat and the blows that had rained down on him. His total absence of animation made a lightbulb go off in my young mind – this is how still a body looks when it is dead.
Today I heard that in Urdu, the word for yesterday is the same as the word for tomorrow. And I panicked at the thought. I panicked because I imagined how trapped I was by the language of time in my language, and I panicked because I could not imagine what my world would be like if the word for yesterday was the same as the word for tomorrow.
A place deeply planted, imagery door ways
Opened and closed, of humming bird film flicker memories
If I keep walking this earth
Home’s door will open up in me
Time is a broken hourglass, the tide bringing in rope, plastic, fish skulls and lost cargo. It’s the sea retreating from the wet sand and returning again. It’s the circle you walk in to find your way home.