The Yard ::mX:: a travelers >> sacrifice in West Africa

The blood is pouring into a bucket and then gushes in a final surge. I step aside quickly because I think it will gush past the bucket onto my feet, but it doesn’t. I’m staring at the blood, transfixed in some kind of surreal reality. I’m detached yet present. I become acutely aware of how very quiet it is. The knife with strong cuts cleaves open the sheep’s throat, sacrificing it. It goes quietly ……

The ngueweul says to roll up the window so I do. We turn off the main road into a smaller one that runs along the yard. Everything becomes hectic immediately. I understand now why he has told me to roll up the window. Beggars run along side the taxi desperate, hanging on, heads through the ngueweul’s window. We turn right into the yard itself. The beggars do not follow.

We exit the taxi. I had misunderstood where we were going. It’s not a shop but a shanty town. As we walk, my eyes do not leave the path because I am staring at the hooves and horns of sheep and goats that have been discarded there. Bits of bloody hide mixed with dirt.

I’m afraid to look up~to see what else I might see in this place. Everything is black, the black of old blood. I am conscious of my white-ness now more than ever before. He, the ngueweuleven in his blackness, and I are both technicolor in contrast.

A small hill curves up to the left and at the top we stop at a shack. In front of it a young man is holding fresh skins while another is stretching the hides in the dirt to dry by pounding nails in at the edges. I try not to stare. The skins are still wet.

We greet. The ngueweul and I are invited to sit in the shack to wait for Ousmane.

Flies… flies…. more flies… more black.  Attaya is boiling and I notice more dripping skins. Sheep and goats bleating, hawks and vultures in the distant sky, circling. Fulani men making deals. Others pass by with potty pots. I’m not easily put out of my element but I am here. I’m feeling faint. They must piss in the back behind the shacks. I’m obsessed with the black that covers everything, like creosote, hanging on the table, black and grimy.

The sheep bed down and chew cud, goats frolic happily, a few butt heads. It dawns on me that they are not aware of the death around them. I listen for screaming but it is quiet. Very quiet; actually peaceful.

The flies are on me now. They are getting to me. We are waiting a long time.

Finally, a car rolls up and Ousmane steps out pristine in BouBou and Ray Bans. Greetings and a bit of business deal. I take pictures of the ngueweul and Ousmane and then Ousmane goes to pick a tender one. I divert my eyes hoping that in doing so they will forget that I am there. I am not ready to feel this. 

The sheep is on the table and they are holding it. The knife. The have asked me to take pictures. I am snapping pictures with the lens cap on. I have left my body by now.

Later, we share the meat on the bone at the house and again in the evening, marinated, with the whole family. I am exhausted and drained from the yard. When he said the butcher I thought it would be a shop. But it’s OK because I understand something now even though I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is. Something I had often wondered about.  Spirituality and sacrifice. 

It’s intangible, yet there is a whisper in my ear that says LIFE.

I saw it in the rush of blood.


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