Mervyn Taylor

Those Who Stayed

The Lesson                  for Doc Long

Death in Mudland

Those Who Stayed

In the small spaces of their yards,
they lodge their complaints:
everywhere there’s so much war,
and last night, in the next street,

did you hear that woman scream,
whose boyfriend set her on fire?
How are the children, one asks,
the ringworm, it gone? They’ll

exchange pelau for fish, an end
of pork left over from Sunday.
Termites are eating both their
houses, and the boy in America

for some reason, hasn’t called.
They’ll go back, after a while, one
to her sweeping, the other sitting
by the phone, in case it should ring.

The Lesson                   for Doc Long

A Brooklyn man walks down a street in Lagos
with his Nigerian friend, worried one of his buddies
from the States might see them holding hands,

He keeps finding ways to let go, pointing in surprise
at every little thing. This makes his friend wonder,
Has he never seen a cow before? A woman
with a basket on her head?

Suddenly, the African shouts, “Look, a tiger!”
“Where?” asks the frightened man, grabbing his arm.
“Nowhere. But if one comes, it’s okay to hold my hand.”

Death in Mudland

Poor Professor Perry, what did they
think to find, those thieves running
from your residence, besides books
left over from teaching days in wintry
states, a bottle of preserved plums,

the icebox door ajar. What, climbing
those rickety stairs, did they imagine
the portrait of your wife on the landing
might fetch from a deal in Georgetown,  
US or GT dollars exchanged in the dark,

their beady eyes dancing, in the old
wooden quarters of that city. What of
worth did they believe they’d discover
in your suitcase on the unmade bed
in a back room, half-unpacked, mouth

open, dumb witness to their crime,
shirts spread about, and striped ties.
And an army of letters, spilled from
a small valise, intended for friends,
that they’d never receive, only

news of your sad death, of the heat,
and humidity, of the robbers in hurried
scamper, like rodents, one reporter said,
among them three who seemed to be
females, judging by their long tails.