I define the habitable boundaries of the coastal people’s abode, thus, I remain liquid land to them. In the process, I witness to the fact that indigenous coastal people access the belly of a creek and other far-flung fishing grounds as a basic traditional necessity, more than the access to a dwelling soil. These are people preferring living thinly along coastlines like ants marching behind a warring queen or otherwise assisting her in pulling a long rope of humanity in slavery shackles.
Even amongst them, wisdom is measured by not who lives closer to the shore but by who is precariously closest to the water. Such wisdom which over time deprives them of land to farm haunts them in turn when it is ripe to leave an inheritance to their benefactors. But then, they are proud of their wisdom; the coastline community.
Like tears from a trillion eyes, filling, overflowing and creating cavities in the earth, I run deep like in a labyrinth of sword inflicted aimless and artless cuts, resulting into high walls of the cliff. I sojourn like an arrow of blood to the far reaches of other coastline communities, bellowing in white surf both in agitation and in satisfaction.
I stretch; I wind and run the race of brotherhood between clans to alert them of real and imagined tramplings within and around their neighbourhood, and to deposit the nuts of the palm fruits bathed with the salt in me which unite the clans.
With a power exceeding the anger of a liquid spirit escaping from a burst pressure hose snaking through channelled paths, I am a network of fluid floating and sailing with a mind of my own, linking heaven and earth at the distant horizon. I’m seen running errands to and fro as depicted in my tidal turns like the changing moods of the weather.
I had drunk from the coastline’s man’s ancestors’ cups; from their generous libations. I then became the heart and influence of their culture. In some coastal communities, I had implanted the visions of spiritual deities for which their aquatic cultural displays are the memorials. The treetop masquerade which the indigenous Okrika man of Nigeria calls 'Periangala' is the vision of animal-dance men mimic—to sustain a celebration of my life through their culture.
A creek, yes, I’m a watery tower in a semblance of the many floors of a skyscraper. In my substance, vegetation and flowers at my base flourish, yet oblivious of the laws of photosynthesis. I am the generous host harbouring armies in natural military armour of shells as that of turtles, periwinkles and crabs, crocodiles and clams that are visited by angelic jellyfish whose ghostly appearance reminds one of extraterrestrial spiritual life in harmony. I accommodate my tenants in storeys guided by the compromise between their lightness and heaviness. For some creatures; I decree they glide forever and others must float only when agitated to meet the other’s food needs at various levels of their accommodation. It is only here that order ends.
In my fluid world, I witness great crimes; the tyranny of the strong, the shark against the sardines, the swordfish fencing defenceless eels and the crocodiles pulling aliens from land into the water. Those who are naturally hydrophobic are made to drown, all because the court of justice is not yet constituted in my depths as it is on land.
What a world of lawlessness in the abyss, yet what calm! The tumults of my community of cold-blooded villains envelope me, and like a war song, I rumble along transmitting the echoes of a thousand grumbles of the deprived, the orphaned, the widowed, the injured and the dying in my enclave.
When I seek the pleasure of the sights and wonders of other lands, I gather my loins of overlapping waves with edges lined in rich white surf and men herald my departure as an ebb tide. I leave behind my shelled tenants to be picked up by men at will; to console those whom slumber had delayed from seeing my earlier arrival with treasured imports like messages in many sealed bottles.
In my runs, I am constantly unburdening the loads of good tidings I had endured to bear as gifts from generous lands with an abundance of sand and silt for hungry and impoverished landscapes. I return richly in high tide spotting the blessings of my visited lands which I introduce to the knowledge of the coastline people; products from such far-flung lands. I return like a treasure ship without an owner. On my approach to the shore, for a song to amuse and soothe me, I sing of the pleasure of witnessing THE DANCE OF THE CRAB:
When the tide is AWOL,
As like when the cat is away,
The crabs play a game of asunder;
Raising swords, or claws in surrender
To greet the sun at yonder.
Moving like in a waltz dance
Obeying the beat for a musical ball
At the sound of a thud at shore
The scamper into tiny holes is sure;
A dance too swift to be a bore.
None collapsing holes
Like a long and hollow pole
Housing eyes in twinkling allure,
A crab in a fight of claws;
Creating clicking sounds that are raw.
Opening and closing to maim a bait,
To cut a life to seal a fate,
A dance in a fight of hate,
A crab in the sun of late,
Awaiting the tide at the gate.
By my banks and beyond, I nurse and nurture the mangrove trees for men’s regatta boats, war canoes, paddles and conveniences and the birds in their shades sing my praise. There and then, I dance to acknowledge such in great waves; high ones and rolling types for the entertainment of those brave enough to approach by paddles.
Even as a creek, I thirst and drink the clouds in abundance to vomit occasionally as rain over land in an effort to bless farmlands. But the coastline man who farms with rope-like cobwebs hooked and baited pendulums in water, how do I bless his farm if not by encouraging the opening of ponds as maternity clinics for replenishing my stock of fish and stockfish.
When men plough land, it is the ancient wisdom to loosen its back of humus soil to receive seeds for planting. But ploughing over water as the coastal boatmen’s outboard engines do, I wonder! Ploughs which twist, turn, push and scoop, maybe to aerate my bosom. How can I be ungrateful? The coastline man as a landsman, treats his water like farmland, riding the waves of ridges, not to plant but to harvest in its roots in admiration.
On a dark night, I reflect shimmering light to the coastline town almost like a community’s private moon or a privileged satellite of a community’s land mass.
On a hot day, I labour to absorb the excess heat off the land and save the native man his sweat for better ventures of exploring my bowel’s riches for his bowels.
My waters run deep into the land of the ancestors far below my bed into the underground where I help to communicate the goodwill of the living to the dead through libations which I dilute. I convey broken calabashes with their tokens of sacrifices to the spirit world far at sea as believed by the coastal man and his people.
During celebrations for the enthronement of kings and chiefs and likewise in their farewell, like a hot knife cutting through jelly, the paddles of their boat regatta parry and slice my substance into the air as they row, opening a wound through which they peep into my essence in search of the mystery of my strength. The strength which enables me lift cargo; the mystery of my ability in lightening burdens of matter that fall through my body, I tend to push them up almost as a free service to humanity than revulsion. Loads as heavy as ships I make light. I even yield the unfortunately lost men; drowned ones. But I still love to own the treasures of the TITANIC or the ghostly German’s BISMARCK.
During festivals, I also have my colourful moments; basking in sunlight or twilight, reflecting a myriad of shadows of the synchronous colours bouncing off the regatta’s dark hulk in a forward surge when breaking the rays of light that are trying a push it off course;
Reflections from banners dancing on board the modern ark to the music of the whistling breeze.
Reflections from towering sails bulging with the pregnancy of the wind and the fist of a brewing angry storm.
Reflections from the sweat soaked and gleaming muscles of masculinity in symbolic toils with the paddles giving the regatta a rhythmic dance like a masquerade of a million peeping heads.
Reflections from encumbered rays of light that had laboured their way around through and between the blades of many towering sails, seeking a continuous passage to make contact with my surface.
Reflections from the silvery armour of my fishy hosts, toasting green algae off the red noses of barbs which seek the wisdom of grey molluscs on brown tree trunks.
I hunger and I am fed by men who cast the entrails of fish and bread upon my water; like a good scriptural prophecy, they are found after many days. The gift also feeds my population of creatures who all share in the mono-cultural rhythmic wiggling dance for movement. By my nature, I set the cultural rules. Even if men visit in a swim, they must flap their hand and legs in a paddling dance.
As a creek making constant contact with the perfumes of sea creatures; the aroma from detached leaves, dying tree barks, trunks and rich muddy pastry that line my path, I have a distinct scent which the coastal man identifies in the aroma of his food.
But when I taste death through the gifts of poisonous entrails I’m foisted with; primitive oils, crude or processed, causing colours of the rainbow to descend from the sky in sheen-spacecraft, laying claim to my surface like an aerodrome and dictating how much air I dare breathe. In such disregard, I smell foul and lose most of my tenants, belly up; as if they are proud to show the world what their underside had witnessed in a typical revolutionary fashion. Aquatic life dies an inconsolable death and I mourn even when I am silent.
Other times, the coastal man extends his frontiers in a literary jargon he calls reclamation, done like in building a pyramid of mud cakes using fibres of the mangrove which I nourish without bias. What he forgets is that I also take my own back somehow, somewhere and sometime. Cutting to fill or eroding to deposit. One day I’ll sack the coastal man in vengeance.
Technological man is my biggest headache. He sometimes blocks my path with a masquerade he calls a dam, then I swell and tamper with his weather in retaliation after I affect his yield of crops and occupy his land.
Ahoy! I sing. I could be the friend turned fiend when I dance with my waves, heaving palm trees with which I flog the coastline and any man or beast who dares to wait for my anger.