Barren concrete blocks
on the fourth floor
of the École Normale Supérieure,
our rooms, grey, square,
metal beds, mattresses
as hard as the floor,
no curtains, no rugs.
But there is a view
of the city, the green mounds beyond,
the plunge of the Niger River.
At night we douse ourselves with repellent,
climb to the roof,
sit on the parapets,
watch the bats
stream from their roosts
under the Old Bridge.
We watch them swoop,
dive, devour mosquitoes
in the dawn of the night sky,
wings reflected in the current
as they eat, fill the cooling air
with the swish of their wings.
A sudden gale, my scarf lifted,
torn off, my hair tossed ragged,
swept above my knees,
my string bag yanked from my shoulder.
A barrage of clouds across the eastern sky,
monsters that gnaw at the blue until it’s black,
thunder so loud I duck,
red dust dropping, torrents of coolness,
the dirt road heaving into mud,
people flowing into concrete doorways,
slipping under bamboo mats,
huddled under banana leaves,
in an instant the
empty of everyone
except me, the newly arrived teacher,
wet and fumbling for cover.
Author Bio: Ruth Gooley (Ph.D. in French literature from UCLA) has published a chapbook called Living in Nature (July 2018). She has also published a variety of poems in publications such as The Corner Club Press, Hamilton Stone Review, Ibbetson Street Review, Peeking Cat Anthology, vox poetica and BlazeVox, among others. She resides in a cabin in the Santa Monica mountains, where she lives in harmony with the abundance of nature.