Poem: “Luxury”

Poems, Posts

We climbed out of the 4WD
and I was thinking about my shoes
or my hair frizzing in the humid heat.
I don’t remember the drive there.
I was eighteen.

The locals gathered shyly, hovering
in the shade of their dirt houses.
I felt awkward, morbid
with First World guilt.
The adults hung back,
speaking only to my father.
The men crushed each other’s hands
in Ghanaian grips, smiling fraternally.
Their teeth flashed white,
the colour of money.

But the kids.
The kids clustered forwards,
with their dark dark skin,
and their milky pale palms
creeping cautiously into mine
to examine my white white fingers.

The smallest boy stood in front of me,
looked me square in the eye
and grinned.
Gaping, rotting gaps greeted me;
a dentist’s nightmare.
Staring at the stalagmites
in the cavern of his mouth,
I wanted to cry. I wanted to hide.
But he was still standing there,
grinning.

So I reached down to pat his head –
those coarse, tightly-wound curls –
as if in gentle benediction.
Then: TAG! I yelled and sprinted away.
The word meant nothing to him;
he’d never seen American movies
with plump children playing chasey,
but he knew what it meant
when I giggled and ran away.

Together we ran around the huts,
scattering chickens,
and the other kids joined in our play.
We chased each other under those trees
where cynicism is a luxury
and the flesh of the cocoa bean pod
is the sweetest treat.

I was eighteen.

Published on AustralianReader.com

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