by Cara Waterfall
Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire
the belly of this hardscrabble street growls under bald acacia trees. smoke from the
cooking fires uncoils from metal roofs, riddled with bird shit. in front, the floodlit
disarray of rickety chairs and tables, sticky with bissap. bottomless bass of the radio
rumbles, static bumbles from the football game.
a rooster’s scabbed feet dart between plastic tablecloths. an untethered dog yaps, taps its
stumpy tail, skinny strings of saliva swinging from jowl to jowl.
a woman hovers over the grill. wrists darken with the spatter of palm oil and the gasp of
chillies. her fingernails rap iron. the air seethes with diesel, raw onion, singed feathers.
her thoughts simmer in dusk’s orange silo.
the calabash spits, a runny yolk hisses. she jabs an eggplant with a blunt knife. her fingers
palpate braised catfish. she splits gray snails from their shells with a hammer. flies
wreathe her nose, mouth. dull pear ls of attieke crumble in a plastic bag.
evening brims with the blather of hungry customers. blond globules of ginger beer blister
red straws, young throats. truckers loll, quaff Drogbas, trawling for gos.
she untwines one memory, and then another; they brine in the swelter.
kids giggle, trip in and out of the shadows, spindly as seedlings. night ferments. smear of
cloud, scratch of stars.
she emerges, serves lukewarm plates. her head-wrap unswaddles as she gnashes through
the flak of dust and bug, the din candling her nerves.
a baby bulges in the small of her back, eyes shuttered against the fat moon.
maquis: an outdoor eating area in Côte d'Ivoire; also means “scrub” or “bush”
bissap: juice made of dried hibiscus leaves, sugar and mint
attieke: a side dish prepared from fermented cassava pulp.
Drogbas: the beer “Bock de Solibra’ is nicknamed “Drogba” after the celebrated, Ivoirian footballer.
gos: young women