Peace Corps Teacher, Ikare, Nigeria, 1964-67 (1 of 2) - Ron Singer

(part three of four poems entitled 'Colleagues')

A catalogue poem will soon grow fat,
if each portrait spawns a gallery.
Let’s try a rule: “Just leave it at that!”

Blessed by the kindness of my colleagues,
I come now to the kindest of all,
J.B. Fakile (that’s “faa-kee-lay”).

“Mister F., Mister S.,” we were called
by our peers at this old-fashioned school.
To the boys, “Amos,” their all-in-all:

in subjects taught, Agric, the Bible;
in appearance, short, bright, bald, bearded;
in temperament, to choler, liable.

Buba (shirt, that is) with sweat beaded,
he’d announce, gnawing a chewing stick,
“I must to bed, I’m having fe-vuh.”

Malaria lurked, ubiquitous.
J.B. had partial immunity.
For me, pills and a net did the trick.

Vigorous, animated, loved, feared,
Amos was my confidante, mentor.
His children would magically appear

in my parlor. While I leaned over
the table marking tests, half asleep,
they’d wake me by shushing each other.