Conoco

By Noel Ihebuzor

 

The small aircraft drifted down the scantily clad almost naked desert skies

The noise of engines banging at our aching eyes

It bumped as the hot desert winds punched and pushed its under belly

And then a thud and furious rush as we hit the stone and dust infested dirt strip of a run way

Stones and rocks and pebbles and dust rose and flew

 as if in protest behind us as we taxied

 and then the aircraft came to rest on this harsh, hard and sullen sterile desert

located in the middle of nowhere

 

Six four wheel drives stood at odds with the desert terrain….

and soon we commenced the drive to nearest town from Conoco, Garowe

 

Driving into town in an assorted and mixed convoy of aid workers, armed guards and security personnel

We passed malnourished shrubs

valiantly brandishing their thorny bristles

 and sharp ends and keeping away sheep, goats and camel predators

in this intriguing fight for life in this arid,

thirsty, empty and sterile place where much life has flown

 

We passed a young shepherd boy angrily checking and herding his stubborn flock

brandishing a stick and controlling sheep, camels and restless goats.

 

We drove along a dirt road carved on the dry desert land

A road framed in a sterile, yawning and gaping desperate desert

We drove on a flat terrain cooked and roasted slowly by a heartless  sun

Past waterless heaps of sand and stones, and dunes

In this place that screamed want and waste.

 

Soon we came across a fallen camel in its final sleep

its huge carcass still as it lay where it had fallen in its last and lost struggle

for life in this place of death

Its still and silent form still sang its last heroic but futile fight for life

As its parched throat, empty stomach and weakened body eventually emptied her body

 and it yielded up its soul to the empty desert sky.

 

Even from the distance of time and space, I felt I sensed her last tear of pain and shame

as the harsh dry desert slowly and inexorably desiccated her body, spirit and soul.

 

The sun with the passage of time had roasted her flesh,

the harsh storms, the night winds, the eternally shifting sharp sands, stones,

the smaller inhabitants of this stony place,

all of these had stripped her flesh almost bare

baring her huge bones and her huge rib cage

leaving her white bones standing there,

exposed, whitened and bleached by the sun, by the stars

 

Two hundred metres further down the road as we hurried to Garowe,

we passed yet another whitened and whitening carcass,

still in death, arresting and strident by its presence and size….

and yet another, a kilometer further

 

Who will shed a tear for these fallen camels, who but their bereaved owners?

who will weep for the fallen ships of the desert,

drowned in heaps of hot and harsh desert sands?

Will any one remember them as they sleep in this empty space,

as they lie still and stilled in this place of want and waste?

Who will wail for these lost souls

when the ears of men and women have become deaf and numb

by the din of greed, stunted by the seduction of ambition

their consciences stiffened by the creed of greed, grab and material incontinence?

 

Who will bury these white bones whose presence troubles me so?

who will remove them from the eyes of my heart?

who will bury these huge white bones and many other white bones of waste and want that lie scattered in empty spaces and places?

 

The carcasses of waste and destruction sleep cheap in this place as in many others

where the creed is greed, greed the creed and thus fecund in death, stones and sterility.

 

The silenced souls and the fixed white bones speak loudly to me

bring moisture to my tired eyes

their awkward and precocious eternal sleeps gnaw

 raw and savagely at the edges of my fragile conscience

and thaw tears frozen in the back of my skull.

 

They remind me of the dimming and dimmed voices of the weak

The hardly heard and often drowned voices of the frail and feeble

And the eternally ignored gestures of children and women struggling for life and air and some place in the light of life.

 

In their grotesque sleep of life and death, I see also the early sleep of children,

the pains and tears of harmless children who are harmed by the harshness of the strong

the agonies and empty deaths of all children who fall to the whims of the wicked

And the wicked who stand on the graves of the fallen

 

The sleeping camels conjure in my mind

future spectacles of soon to be enacted sleeps of the innocent

who will lie still in this place and other places of sand and stone,

Their souls parched, their spirits broken, their weak limbs crushed,

their paltry belongings looted as they scamper and scatter

and stoop and cower in polythene and card board hovels on the first stage of their journey to eternal

but early sleep 

as silenced, they return to their silent creator

their frail frames framed in shallow and unmarked graves

 

****Written in Garowe in 2005 when I did humanitarain work in Puntland, Somalia

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5 Responses to “Conoco”


  1. 1 Susan L Daniels July 10, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    Wow, Noel. I did not want to fill up your comment area, so sent you an e-mail. This is incredible, incredible.

  2. 5 Rhonda July 18, 2012 at 2:54 am

    This is stunning Noel. So many rich and powerful lines that made this as real as anything I’ve ever read. My heart aches for this land…for the fallen ships of the desert and I cry as I read the pain and frustration and hopelessness not helped by the ‘looking’ but not ‘seeing’ world that allows this suffering of women and children at the very hands of the ones powerful and strong enough to help them. If this is the world you see regularly N, then my heart breaks for you too.
    To read and feel the passion you have been able to hold onto, to nurture, while in such a place, cannot begin to suggest the true depth of what your writing reveals of your heart.


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