Bio Note: When I was a child, my family spent 2 years in Lagos, Nigeria. It was the mid-1960s, and Nigeria was a very different place, politically and socially, than it is now. The experience of being a girl of 8, 9, 10 in a culture so unlike what I'd known was transformative, but I've very seldom written poems about that time. "Goat" emerged when Betsy Mars asked me to contribute to the Unsheathed anthology she published in 2019, a publication chock-full of Verse-Virtual contributors. "Monkeys" was written several years ago on a writing retreat in the desert.
The end of Ramadan, the fasting over, time to slice bread, slit the throats of goats. From the backseat of our car moving through Lagos streets a glimpse of men in lantern light surrounding a small creature meant for the knife. Darkness everywhere except inside the circle. Flash of white teeth, someone staring in at me. The heat, the flies lifting with the sun gone as if a pressing hand has been removed. We drive past as quickly as the crowd allows. A rope around its neck, its four legs splayed, the goat cries out in terror as they drag it. I am small, too, and easily caught.
Originally published in Unsheathed: 24 Contemporary Poets Take Up the Knife (Editor: Betsy Mars)
From the air it might have been a turquoise sowbug resting beside a stretched-out snake in emerald grass, that small car pulled to the side of the road, jungle pressing in on either side. A man and a woman, three skinny girls drifting, no one going far, chewing sandwiches and fruit, sipping sweet tea. Air warm and heavy on pale arms and legs, air full of water and the cries of birds deep in the trees. In the car a jumble of dolls and books, sticky residue of saltines and arguments spoken and unspoken, sibling quarrels and the father’s tamped-down rage, his wish to be shed of them, this woman and these girls he must carry along, turtle trapped by his shell. One child holds a toy monkey, stares into green. Not a clearing but a gradual adjustment of sight and the wall becomes branches, leaves, a space through which bright-hued beings swing, chatter to each other and are gone before she can say Look!, before Nosey can extend his rubber hand.
©2020 Penelope Moffet
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