Luanda smells of heat
Fumes from exhaust pipes
It smells of fried dough
and putrefied waters that host mosquito larvae
It smells of the sea
and spillages from oil rigs
Of cheaply tarred roads
and, faintly, of urine.
Luanda has the sounds of
Semba, Kizomba and KuDuro
Of bus fare collectors
screaming their routes across the city.
Katandeiras calling out the catch of the day
and the voices of drowsy security guards
complaining about the oppressive heat.
Luanda looks like
blossoming acacia trees
and derelict colonial buildings
collapsing with time and brick rot.
that transport people packed like tinned fish
children in white robes going to school
police officers pimping themselves out for bribes
and banks with too-long queues.
Gleaming black skin walking at a fast pace
counterfeit iPhones and
She sits on the red dust
beneath acacia trees.
It has not rained for months.
Golden leaves fall around her.
She smiles when approached,
dusting her fruits.
She sits there every day,
her fruit rotting before it is sold.
The soil is the color of ochre.
Abandoned construction sites ghost
over the city.
Sentinels of forgotten hope.
There are trees with dried-up leaves
and empty plastic bags caught in branches.
Smoke rises into the early evening,
from piles of burning filth.
Women set up stalls,
Their faces illuminated
by fire lamps made from beer bottles.
From Aaiún Nin’s poetry collection Broken Halves of a Milky Sun, forthcoming from Astra House.