48 Hours in Lagos

Was here 3 years ago,

but only a night in a hotel

with no visit elsewhere

in the city on the Atlantic

 

This time around we say

that Lagos can be summed

up in three words: 

noisy, crowded and dirty

 

You might want to hear

“chaotic” or “crazy” and

that might be true if I

really knew what I was

talking about regarding

how life is lived here

 

But I am a visitor with

minimal exposure to

the daily lives of the

city’s inhabitants

 

I will say that life looks

very, very difficult

and that I am certain that

years are taken from your

life span with the more

years you live in Lagos

 

Over there, a ram sheep

stuffed in the hatchback

trunk of a 4-door car,

to be eaten later

 

A boy washes dishes in

the wastewater gutter

running by the road where

food stands sell lunch

 

A landfill in the distance

has homes built in it

from the waste of someone

else’s unneeded things

 

Okada–2 stroke

motorcycle taxis are like army

ants weaving in and out

of the traffic that never moves

 

Sweat is running down

my shins to my ankles

and onto my flip flops

making a slippery pad for

my feet that are hot too

 

Where do the people come

from each morning

Where are they going right

now and later today when

the sun goes down

 

Q-tips, belts, watches

Coke and all else comes

to your taxi window

if you’d like to buy

 

How much does a street

hawker make in a day

taxi driver says about

2000 Naira on a good day

which is about 15 bucks

 

Okada make about the same

but baba taxi driver wouldn’t

tell me how much he brings

in on an average day

 

Exhaust makes the air

take on a grey and sort

of yellow color and burns

my throat and eyes a bit

 

Police stopping cars

to check ID or maybe

to extort some money

to put in his pocket

 

15 million people

some say 18 million

human beings call

Lagos their home

 

I am grateful I don’t

live here, and so is

my colleague who cannot

wait to get back to his

home in Benin City

 

Lagos stresses him out

and he comes here only

for work, otherwise

maybe once a year, he says

 

No place on the planet

that I’ve seen is like this

place, and I think that

that is a good thing

 

The world only needs one

Lagos, where life is moving

fast and in seemingly unworkable

order except that things do get

done though perhaps much

slower and in a more challenging

manner than I can imagine

 

Lagos, Nigeria, West Africa

a geographic place where

millions of black Africans

were stolen and taken to

America to be slaves

 

That’s another thought I

had while in the taxi today

knowing that “Lagos” now

is not the place of then

but both disturb me deeply

and make me sad

 

 

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