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Mountain Song

by Busayo Akinmoju
Mountain track

Of the sons of God, those adopted after the beginning, some of them wore uniform stripes. Teeth moulded around the hard pebbles hidden in their porridge. Children, sent to school to learn the coming of the new age, the fading of the old.

It was simple, how they were chosen; a child is asked to stretch his arm over his head. Could he touch the ear on the other side? If he could, then yes, he was sent off to school. Probably with his siblings pushing an old trunk that would serve as his new suitcase. Pushing, to the point in the neighbourhood when the tarred roads gave way to red, dusty earth.

And it was goodbye from there.

To old manners like food eaten directly out of bowls with freshly-washed fingers. The children were taught to cut their dinner into bite-sized bits – fork in left hand, knife in right. Or was it the other way around?

Some didn’t learn. The teachers tried their best, instilling new principles. Teaching a new civility that had been learnt from old colonialists. The only acceptable language to speak in this school, they said, is the one we are teaching you. So learn it, and be good boys.

Many of the boys did learn, they recited Shakespeare, knew Soyinka by heart, and argued over who could memorise the longest passages. 


Sometimes, someone would ask on the days the children walked to school, bright pink-uniformed under the sun, if anyone could have seen it coming. Did the ancestors know, when a century ago they walked down from the mountains, those mountains that had protected them from violence, from warring nations and old ghosts? Did they consider all the ways a new world could take form?

Did they know they were choosing a specific type of death? A death for themselves, for the children their children would have. 


The boys went to school, yes, and years later went on to the city. There they became men, and they would dream. They saw their village with its streets nestled in the bosom of hills. And remembered the old myth about mountains being cracked open by God to reveal either a flood or raw gold. How no one had dared to find out which it was in the centuries the ancestors had been up, living in the mountains.

Because they had come down, ending that possibility, with a new dream.

Author Bio:

Busayo Akinmoju is a writer. Her work has been published in SmokeLong Quarterly, The Republic, and The Kalahari Review among others. She likes to read, and to relax on long walks.


Judge’s Comment:

I was immediately taken by the collective voice in this piece - this is a story not just about these boys but also about this community, about this country, about the way the world has changed and continues to change. The writing is rich and atmospheric, and I love the mix of specific detail and deep, philosophical questions. This was a story that cast its shadow a long time after I'd finished reading; there is a weight to it that extends a long way past the young boys going off to school.

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