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Balumba stole my lover’s breath. She died
and all of Mayumba suffered with me.
The next day, down by the ocean, I spied
the ghost of my love as she passed. Fairy
lights were in her hair, her left breast had grown
back and her splendid ass shook as she walked.
Balumba had painted an ash skull-bone
on my lover’s face and prated and squawked
in the mist of my dead Osa’s unbound
hair. I do not like blue-faced Balumba,
even if she is a woman who drowned
under the long shadows of the casbah.
Osa just smiles. Death was not the nightmare
she thought. Neither was our secret affair.


Bongolo Hospital of Libreville is the only cancer treatment center in all of Gabon, Africa. The distance from Libreville to my coastal village of Mayumba is 276 miles. Mayumba is known for its long sandy beach where leatherback turtles nest.

Balumba (whose name means Ghost Face) is a Gabonese haunt from the same region.