Wailing for Basra

Dokubo Goodhead

I hear you brothers. I hear you sisters.
of Basra. I hear your wailing cries
over your children dying of cancer,
over your dead rivers, over your charcoal
                                                                    skies that send the sun scurrying away
                                                                    like a fugitive in tattered clothes.
                                                                    I feel the sting of your naked palms
                                                                    on your naked chests and the tears
falling to the earth, falling on deaf ears
of tin men and men of straw that hide
away in coiffured offices and palatial
mansions from the killing oil fields.
                                                                    Basra. Oloibiri. Soku. Bomu.
We are the despised of the earth.
Orphans in the courtyards of eternal
despair knocking with bare knuckles
on the concrete walls of the hellish
                                                                    visions of tin gods with hearts made
                                                                    of steel and heads full of visions
                                                                    of wealth made over our broken
                                                                    and dying bodies.
The cold night is creeping in
with saber-sharp teeth, made sharper
from sharpening them on the nerve
endings of our despair.
                                                                    The cold night is creeping in on
                                                                    the courtyard, where we sit, huddled
                                                                    together like the remnants from a plague
                                                                    of pneumonia left to die in
the howling of the night.
                                                                    We are the offering to the oil god
                                                                    pregnant with oil barrels and spewing
                                                                    vile curses at us all day long
                                                                    and all night long
from gas-flaring pipes that stand like
                                                                    sentries over us, men, women, children,
                                                                    the aged, the infirm, the helpless, the despised
                                                                    of the earth in an internment camp
                                                                    ringed round by razor-sharp barbed wires,
where we wail and wait for reprieve
like Vladimir and Estragon waiting,
waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting,
waiting for Godot.

Dr. Dokubo Melford Goodhead is a graduate of the University of Nigeria and the University of Washington. He taught at Spelman College and was Associate Director of the African Diaspora and the World Program there. His articles have appeared in several scholarly journals. His volume of poems, Mourning, is forthcoming from the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point Press in 2022.