Yesterday's Leaflets

Gombolela

 He shakes his vinyl-like plumage in preparation for a massacre, an encounter between him and Gombolela. Anticipation written in his gait, he waits to raise dust like dancers in a madhouse festival, a carnival of feathers. He makes a perfect circle around her, marking his territory with scents and droppings laced with uric acid. D the Bird stands still in the middle of the circle, her hair trembling like the wind got trapped within it. Her closed eyes make a million darts behind their lids. She has already made the decision to fall in love with this man who dances so gracefully his shadow has to depart him to pay allegiance, but has to stay composed and feign her anxiety less the watching crowd judge her for acts unbecoming a widowed bird.

Oglive, in a black and white, looks like the phantom of the opera. His beak is curved to break the toughest seeds and his eyes pop out as if peering into the future. He stretches his plumage into a Chinese fan. Like an erotic flamenco dancer he moves sideways, his scaly toes tapping on the branch and awakening the spirits of dead ants and decaying earthworms. Here is a bird capable of waltzing, with feathers intricately arranged like the notes of a sonata and claws that could grasp food twice his size.

Oglive, chin set high as a butler’s, makes more frantic but calculated moves , all the while like a sorcerer deep in meditation. This is the dance of grace and trigonometry, of fate and courtship. All his energies have gone to his feathers, leaving his head light in the wind, a fact that makes it sway like cones on a tree. Deep in his compound eyes there sways to and fro a snake charmer’s concubine. Deep within their blackness is a 5 × 6 matrimonial bed where he believes she will loose her avian virginity for the second time

Meanwhile, D the bird is perched on the intersecting branches of two symbiotic trees, and the flowers make it look as if she is surrounded by a bevy of bridesmaids. Oglive’s movements are signs that he could fly over all of hell’s cantos, past the yells of other burning birds and bring back earthworms in his vomit by nightfall, his every maneuver a quiet revelation to her, a promise for a future cushioned in the warm bodies of earthworms. Inside her pea-sized head are whirlpools of her secret longing.

The ancestors, forgetting that they are dead, rise to watch the unfolding of the most majestic dance in bird history. Some of them look down on Gombolela with disgust and contempt for daring to challenge Oglive the master.  ‘Who is he, falling feathers, big feet, sickly eyes, pests at the back of his ears? Stupid fool! Doesn’t he know that we are the gods of the plumage kingdom! Curse his arthritic bones and the seeds of his gangrenous poems!’

They could chant their spells all day but Gombolela had to prove his worth. All is fair in the plumage kingdom. “Yes,” he admits to himself, “that Oglive bastard can dance better than Solomon’s concubines, but that is not as good as the higher vacation of writing verse.”

In a way, Oglive’s footsteps were like rhyme schemes embossed on the womb of the earth, but it took real craft to be able to write like Gombolela did. His dancing made Gombolela uncomfortable. There had to be something terribly wrong for a man to dance like that, something metrosexual. “Maybe he is a hermaphrodite! I am going to expose him for who he really is. Haven’t the gods heard about his frequent French manicures? Who hasn’t seen him frequent the spa on weekends! They cast stones at a simple melancholic like me and are blinded by the charm of a man who wears a dress to the market.” He silently laments to himself.

“And D the Bird, Oh D the bird, haven’t I written poems for you! lyrical ballads and versa libres for you and she whose canonical tubes hatched forth your egg, and calibrated chirpings on the bark of our tree of life. You told me to be in touch with my feminine side and I went the extra mile and touched my feminine sides. Do I really have to stretch my plumage to its arthritic end and prove my ability for long distance flight for you to openly love me? Remember when you were wild blackberries and I was the child who put you in my gizzard save room? Let me write psalms and awaken the spirit of David to play for you my Bathsheba. O D the Bird.”

For a moment these words take her to the season when they first met.

They met just after the July migration season, when her eggs hatched but the feeble chicks succumbed to the unpredictable cold that spread along the kingdom like a plague.  For two months she resigned to fate in a nest whose grass was soaked in her own urine. She lived with  the depression and came out only in the early evenings when all the birds had gone to sleep. His voice, like smells of damp earth and wet leaves -the first signs of life since the death of her babies- sneaked through louvers into her nest. He stood on canopies and recited his coded verses to the night. On closer examination she realized that he stood there cursing at the moon because it refused to come out during the day and demand that the sun not shine so bright. Was he crazy? It didn’t matter, his music consoled her, healed  her. Gradually she began to pity his loneliness, secretly leaving food baskets for him to find. He ate the food as she watched, glad that he enjoyed her cooking. Gombolela left ribbons for her hoping that one day she would be enticed by their glitter and come out of her hiding. Every time he came back the ribbons were gone and the air bereft of any traces of a bird that he could use to track her. He became convinced that it was a spirit god playing tricks on him.

He never caught the spirit until one day when he had gone to sell roses at the spa he saw D the Bird in the ribbons. Later that night, without the rigorous and cumbersome mating dance ritual, their affair began.  Then Oglive who had been eyeing her for some time made a formal engagement. It was then that the two male birds had to enact this dance to win D the Bird.

The quiet settles in like death on a Sunday afternoon. All the attending birds are silent. Earthworms can be heard as they coil their bristles deeper into the soil. Impressed by his own maneuvers, Oglive finds a high point on the canopy and sits to watch, a disapproving grin on his face. The wind, itself curious of what Gombolela has up his sleeves, abandons its course, allowing the leaves to lie still in the moribund air. This is where fate has brought them.

Gombolela steps on the Marlborro buts he has been smoking and stretches his wings, the ends pointing to the sky as if praying to the gods. The black on them shines so shyly in the equatorial sun betraying the films of dust that have settled on them. It dawns on him that he should have taken a bath before coming here. He is too weak to maintain the position. He lets out a long fart. The wings recoil, enclosing his body into an ugly bud. Damn it! He curses, maybe reading Thoreou was not such a good idea for a bird. The forest laughs at his rusty manners, wondering why he even considered challenging Oglive. He has just lost a chance to settle down with a most suitable mate.

Oglive moves closer to D the Bird, holds her between his wings as he leads her to his old pickup track, license plate KEJ 127N. Gombolela knows she will be back at their love nest. What’s a bird without poetry?

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