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                                               (tanka sequence)

                             by Richard Stevenson

"Don't spit," the signs say  
not that I'd considered it
in the airport hall.
Then the fast of Ramadan . . .
my students will not swallow

On their prayer mats
chanting Koranic verses
under tall green neems,
novices at their devotions . . .
wasp bottoms pulse on fruit rinds

petrol shortage . . .
pump jockey sucks a litre
from a wreck out back.
"Don't want you to think bad things
about my country," he says

Go slow! the man cries,
his broken leg bouncing
inside the hijacked van.
I no go walk again oh!
Cop's rifle points at the stars

The Hausa woman
is startled when I spot her
stealing my water.
I offer her an ice cube;
her eyes grow big as the fridge

Pepe or pankay  
savoury or sweet dough balls
deep-fried while you wait.
How could Tim Horton's staff find
the love in this woman's hands?

African potlatch?
As King Sunny Ade plays
and women shimmy,
men slide bills down their foreheads;
women tuck them in brassieres

Same sentence for rape
as for smoking gange at school,
the principal says.
The victims are only girls;
their place is working at home

Re verse 3:
Neem: a tall evergreen East Indian tree, transplanted and growing
successfully in northern Nigeria