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A tribute to the 120 policemen and security agents ambushed and murdered in a village in Nasarawa state, Nigeria, when they were sent to arrest a leader of a cult group.

SENTRY AT OMBATSE

Allizwellby Henry Iyke16 Jul 2013

Where does he hold drills now? His father
holds the first plastic gun he shot
when a boy could aspire
without doubt to be clad in black.

In one photo he poses, improvises wood for a gun
strapped across his shoulders of his scout’s garb, green
like an amazon skink. In another,
mounted on the family N’dama, giddy-up

with a horns like a gaur. Some nights his parade
kept us awake, the father says.
He transforms paper into hats
files out his siblings on a sentry

with this drill: He followed his heart.
His death was an accident, perhaps,
unforeseen outcome of testing
the ambition of a greenhorn captain. The derringer whose twin barrels,

beat and trigger was twisted from scrap metal
was clamped in a limb, operated
by an intemperate. The slug they found
in his skull was bronze pellet, what persisted of his heart

strewn with shrapnel of aluminum. After burial,
the father imagined all
he might do with the defiant tag—
mail it to Louis Edet, present it to their legislator

who wore an glazed flag in his lapel—but at last
he mounted up the hoary N’dama and rode
down to the veld where his boy
had learned to shoot his handmade pistol on the scarecrows

at twenty strides. There he pulled the beast to a stop; shut his eyes
until he could discern no obstacle
between himself and the trilling
of the golden dust, the patina wave of leaves.

He eavesdropped for but failed to hear a whisper, any whisper, give him
a signal. So he studied the tag
on his white striated palm, tossed it down
and piled dust over it until its shine flickered out,

not a gleam jutted. Sweet-smelling Zingiber and raindrops
would heal this welt
by August rush. He aimed the quadruped
back toward the compound where his wife would be probing

a redeye into every picture on the wall
for some young soft taut face—
clad in black over black, or
one mislaid piece of wooden craft—to dowse the sting.