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A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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Contents Page: March, 2010, vol 6 no 1

 

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Graham Burchell

Tanganyika

Ndole Lodge – The Dark Side

Bring a torch the brochure said. I did, but forgot to take it to evening meals, or afterwards to the big round bar outside, lit like Christmas for all the moths to see and circle.

The Lodge’s generator was a beating heart, with a time switch like my own. At nine it would shut off – no warning or slow fade. We’d had light and laughter to tell life’s tales by, and then a clunk that swamped us dark. Moths chirred silently into their other night.

I would sense the path beneath my feet and test a reckless route through string-balls of wild figs to thatched rondavels - tucked in - numbered. I stroked each door for number four – fingers as eyes, and fiddled keys until I was in, arms stretched, fingers brushing mosquito-net, fingers reaching inward for a torch on the metal bedside cabinet where I kept collected butterflies; frailties reduced to wings, loose legs, bits of antennae, rolling heads…

Ants smelled death
noisome in the air
body snatchers in ordered lines

A city-size populace from door to cabinet door as if by right, was distracted – new meat. Before I knew, they’d crawled my boots, scaled socks, discovered the dark give of shin and calf. In the dreadful torch beam I saw them.

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