They would never know that the narrow lanes –
one right, up the thickly wooded hill,
the other, following the valley’s curve,
quickly out of sight – led to the same place,
and that the few houses there were shuttered.
They had stopped – the diesel puttering,
the brown exhaust fouling the summer air –
in front of the triangle of long grass,
with a glass fronted shrine at its centre,
that marked the fork in the road. The officer
searched the landscape with binoculars,
quartering the maize fields on either side
then looking for movement among the trees
on the hill. They waited. The engine puttered.
They both thought, though neither could say, that
this was not where they wanted to be.
Drawing his revolver, the officer got out
slowly to examine the shrine. The driver
revved the engine slightly. The grass triangle
had been uncut for months. A wild flower bloomed –
and heavy rain or some animal
had flattened a narrow path to the shrine.
The fields of maize chafed in the warm soft wind.
The shrine was typical of the country:
a rectangular wooden box painted green
fixed to a rusted cast iron pedestal –
with something behind the small red glass door
(usually a dried flower and a bone).
The officer reached to open the door but heard
the engine revved – and returned to the cab,
placing his revolver into its holster.
The diesel puttered. The driver gripped the wheel.
Suddenly, round the curve of the valley road,
a white horse galloped towards them and past,
its reins whipping the dust. The officer
drew his gun. The brown exhaust fouled the air.
And the shrine exploded.