Monday, November 8, 2010

The Love of the Poles

Two poles stand on the street, a distance from each other.

Each outside a Peul shop, each bearing the weight of wires that crisscross the street and head in different directions. Wires that are their only connections to each other.

They have discovered each other gradually, the poles. They have explored each other's thoughts from a distance, rough gems that held up to the sunlight have perfect smoothness.

How one prefers the twilight hour, when the birds that perched on it during the day now fly home. How it warms it with a satisfaction that cools its cold metal. How the other dreams, of going for walks, of meeting and conversing with other poles. How it yearns for legs, that would carry it, instead of a stump trapped in hard Earth.

And placing each other under such scrutiny, the two poles have fallen in love.

Over the years, over time, there has grown in each of them a space that only the other can fill.

And so each pole abandons itself, to the care of the other, becomes dependent on the other for its complete survival.

After a while they yearn to touch. They reach out for each other.

And fall just short - they fail, at the last.

And each withdraws, for a space of time, but it is too painful, and once more signals are sent, across the wires that connect them. Conversations are refilled, with the sweet warmth that makes the nights not so lonely, the stars not so distant.

And once more they reach forward.

And once more they fall short, these poles, once more metal will not budge, from hard Earth, nor the laws of physics be disobeyed.

And again they retire. And again they return.

They reach, they fail, they try again.

And again.

And yet again.

Again and again, over many years, over a decade, over two.

Time does not go past, but accumulates, a heavy weight of sadness that hangs between them.

Because the poles cannot leave each other, because their fates are as one. They cannot be apart.

And yet they cannot be together. It is an effort that will always be frustrated. I am not ready, each thinks. It is an effort that is always doomed to fail.

Houses are torn down in stages around them, each thing that is torn replaced. A metal koriget fence become a stone wall with gates in the center, a small hut become a boys' quarters.

The street level rises as the water level does, a new pavement is built, the drainage system running under it.

Still the poles stand, regarding each other across a distance.

A new Peul shop is opened at the base of the first pole. A new Peul shop is opened at the base of the second pole.

The rain rules the skies for weeks, every cloud containing enough potential for a storm. And then just like that it is gone.

Harmattans depart, Harmattans return.

The poles stand as the baby being named today becomes the bride whose name is being changed, tomorrow.

The poles are more patient, than you and I. The poles are more patient, than chereh, and laalore.

But the poles are not more patient, than trees. And the poles are not more patient, than time.

And so their patience slowly runs out, their strength is sapped, they become irritable, with each other.

They take out their grievances on each other, their conversation is turned sour, the black wires that run between them thick and heavy with obdurate thought.

And the atmosphere about them becomes tense.

A child hold the first pole. An exposed wire, a rainy day.

The child is flung, propelled forward by a great shock. She is dead before she hits the water of the street gutter.

And the first pole is filled with a grief that makes the second pole breathlessly turn its attention toward it, a feeling that scares it. The second pole cannot bear to see the first pole like this.

And so the second pole reaches, once more, for the first pole.

But this time there is a difference, the nature of the desperation in its reach has changed.

For while before it was an angry desperation, a fierce desperation filled with need, a selfish desperation, now it is a firm but quiet desperation.

One that gives itself completely, to reach for the other pole. And that has accepted that it will fail, and yet still it does not matter. For it would rather perish in the attempt, than not have tried, at all.

That night a storm comes. You know it, dear reader, as the famous storm of '96. A storm filled with fury, and a cold rage.

It raises rooves, and uproots trees. It drowns livestock, and floods rice plains. It excites the Sea, makes it overflow its banks.

And the next morning all about the poles there is all manner of destruction.

And a falling coconut tree has crashed down on the second pole's back, and bent it at a violent angle.

And the second pole leans forward, looking almost graceful.

And the head of the second pole rests on the head of the first pole, and they are joined together as if one.

Can poles dream, can poles sigh?

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