Two head masks from West Africa, helmets of rough wood, hang on my study wall. One, a long-snouted pig face, stares out through drilled eyes. The other, a bird crest, points down in a frozen arc. Each is hacked from a single chunk, painted ochre and white. On my desk are framed portraits of my two teenage daughters, who know the story of the hard bargain I struck in a crowded market, how I wrapped the relics in goatskin, lugging them from Mopti to Timbuctu. But they don’t know I hold back more secrets than the fading photos from that hot journey. I can’t tell them why these masks remain with me after twenty years, why at times my mouth gapes open like the pig’s in hunger, or why like a wooden bird I long to fly.