The Tree of Life
The following flash piece appeared in Passages: Africa, the first issue of PEN America’s translation journal, Glossolalia. Glossolalia advocates for writers with limited access to the global reading community. By publishing works from lesser-translated languages, Glossolalia connects storytellers to audiences eager for a vivid, mind-expanding look at experiences unlike their own.
First, it is important to visualise as far as is possible the street that runs in front of my house. I live in a quiet neighbourhood, home to a bunch of stuck-up bourgeoisie counting down their meaningless lives behind brick walls and hedges and lawns. Acacia, young and robust, line up beside the street, which sweeps out a gentle arc before stretching out to join the highway into the city, their leafy crowns casting shifting shadows on the light grey of the road.
Stepping out of my house one bright Saturday morning, I saw a man standing at the junction at the far end of the street. His arms were pressed to his sides, his gaze was fixed on some point far away, and he did not move. He looked decrepit and emaciated. I passed by without a word.
On my way back home he was still standing there. I went up to him.
“Is anything the matter?” I asked.
“It is here,” he declared.
“What is here?”
“I have found it, at last, this spot. I’ve spent the whole of my life looking. At this very spot is the spiritual source that nourishes life.”
“Very good,” I said. “But you cannot stand here forever.”
“Ah, but I can,” he insisted, and there was no arguing with that.
He was still there the next morning.
“My dear friend,” I said to him. “Will you not eat?”
“This is the source of life,” he returned. “I need no more food.”
In the evening he was still there. He seemed bigger and stronger, and looked well fed indeed. His voice was rich and resounding.
“You are looking good,” I commented.
“Assuredly,” he replied.
The days went by. I spoke to him whenever I passed and each time he had increased in stature. He had much to say, and I found his words wise and engaging. So it was that one day whilst thus engaged in conversation, a third person came up and asked me:
“My good man, why are you speaking to the tree?”
I replied without hesitation, “Here at this very spot is the spiritual force that nourishes life.”
Martin Egblewogbe is from Ghana. He is the author of the short story collection Mr Happy and The Hammer of God & Other Stories (Ayebia, 2012). He also co-edited the collection of poetry, Look Where You Have Gone to Sit (Woeli Publications, 2010). He is a co-founder and director of the Writers Project of Ghana. His story “The Gonjon Pin” appeared in the 2014 Caine Prize anthology.