Mali Memoirs part 4:

We still have our Malian spice mix here in Canada 

Every couple bites you can feel sand grind beneath your teeth

They go together, my memories of Mali and sand 

In the village at night we cook up liver and onions as a treat 

We eat couscous 

Tomato based sauces 


For celebrations they will kill a sheep 

Young boys chant outside our door as we eat 

Singing for food 

Garibu begging, it is just the way it is

Women chant in rhythm with the pounding of their poles as they beat millet

They carry water on their heads

A balancing act 

Men sit in woven mats in our courtyard 

Hot sweet tea forming a string between the cup and the pot 

Always pouring back and forth

I drink from a plastic cup hanging from a large clay basin 

With my allowance clutched tightly in my fist 

My brother leads the way to two sticks of pink chewing gum 

I savour the sweetness in my cheeks.

When the air stiffens and stills 

My mother hastily removes the clothes from the line 

The metal windows with flaking red paint are shut and bolted 

We light a kerosene lamp and sit in the dark while a sand storm swells outside 

I feel so very small

We bathe using a barrel

I am afraid of the mound with a hole 

Terrified a cockroach will crawl out of it while I squat above 

On market day Dad comes back with fresh bread, tuna, mayonnaise

Laden with presents 

A ring, a necklace with matching earrings

Market day is better then Christmas morning. 

The doctor is far away 

So villagers bring the sick to my father  

Nature is cruel and only the strong survive

My chest aches and swells with my first taste of childish infatuation 

A crush 

The man is tall and dark and handsome and there are butterflies alive in my belly when he pushes me on the swing 

One day he is gone for many weeks 

When I see him again his leg is shrivelled up 

He lives on a mat in a hut in the middle of the village 

A snake.

He is not the same 

Understanding begins to bloom 

I am not the same either 

My memories dance some more like the tendrils of flame from the fires we sat around for so many nights 

I didn’t know how precious it all was 

It was all I knew.

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