• Vol. 09
  • Chapter 06
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Lake Retba

Lamine says it’s raining time
It’ll rain any day now
The skies are overcast but the drops don’t fall
Last year there were only three big rains
Lac Rose is not satisfied
Her pink waters lap low on the shore
After the first big rain the farmers ready their fields
After the second, Lamine will plant tomatoes
And after the third, peanuts
Lamine says in past generations the lake was fresh
Teaming with fish (today there are few)
The estuary was open to the sea
But the heavy winds came
Pushing with them the desert sands of Mauritania
South and further south
The dunes filled the estuary
And now, only a tiny trickle of water enters the lake
Evaporated by the Senegalese sun
The lake became saltier
The fish died
The algae thrived
And turned the green waters an unnatural hue
The fishermen became salt miners
Coated in shea butter, they wade into the water thick as oil
Scooping sharp crystals into wooden boats
The women in bold patterns borrowed from the Dutch
Carry buckets from the shore to be bagged


Lake Retba

At 1,000 CFA each Lamine says it's good money
(If you’re willing to do the work)
He calls them boys—they are clearly grown
They’ve come from Mali
Economic migrants working for the rich men
Who own the wooden boats
But are never seen on Lac Rose’s salty shores
The white bags are sold to Europe
Rocks for icy roads Dakar will never see the likes of
Or finer still to sit on tables of diners who will never know
That Lamine is still waiting for rain
So he can plant tomatoes, then peanuts
In the off season, when it’s too wet to spin tales for tourists
Around the pink lake