Biting the Branch

—Buea, Cameroon, Kent Maynard

Late afternoon, I’m walking back
                from market, the stalls locked early
from no queues: Cameroon’s been caught
by an economic crisis for twenty years.
        Lucy stays home, Tumbah only goes for news;
he’s got one shoe with no heel, another without laces.
The road’s full of dark-suited men
                        talking about chasing pay.
A clamor from three trees, ruined
                eucalyptus stripped to phloem:
                        weaver birds
                        picked these limbs clean.
Kin to the innocent finch, weavers colonize trees.
        By the hundreds, nests
perch upside down
        like woven straw Christmas bulbs.
These birds love millet or corn:
                like locusts,
they glean field by field. I’ve seen
                                plots razed to ruble.
Taxis honk, drivers
        lean out windows to beg fares.
Like the birds, cars grow louder:
                mufflers have become a luxury.
I gape as a weaver flies to the next limb,
        rifling the last leaves
        to clothe its nest,
                        flaying its own tree.