Artwork, Poetry

Memoirs of Mali Part 3

Village life goes on 

I sit on the courtyard walls 

Safe from the pointy horns and humps of bony looking cows, weathered and resilient. So much more than just a livelihood they are led by lithe looming bodies in wide hats and flowing clothes 

The Fulani are nomadic – they drift like sand dunes formed by the wind

They follow the herd.

The sickly smell of hide burning Is branded in my memory – just like the mark they brand forever on the

flesh of the animal 

There is a tree that drops a pod 

It rattles with seeds 

I save them to feed to the sheep

Every night we a read a story by flashlight 

Many years later there is still flattened bugs trapped between the pages, 

When the sun goes away 

More insects come out

My dad crushes a mirror against the wall 

Bits and pieces of a scorpion drop down to the floor

Sometimes at night we sleep outside under the stars 

6 in a row 

We are draped in mosquito – netting – lace 

I am careful not to touch the sides 

I hear stories of 12 step snakes – and I think that they cannot bite me through the mesh.

We load up a donkey cart for our Sunday picnic in the desert 

We are traveling like Jesus  – I’ve read the bible stories. 

Termites build castles in the sand, 

We have to brush them off the walls – 

They must be ravenous 

They eat everything.

Excitement spreads like wildfire 

Giggled whispers, 

Glowing eyes,

The blushing bride bides her time 

7 days of gifts and visitors before she is wed.

Presented to her new husband: 

She herself, a gift.

 The women’s feet are dyed black with Henna.

Sometimes their lips too

Braids and beads and boobs 

Breasts are not sexual –

They swing freely 

Often with a baby attached swaddled to their momma’s back 

My sister wandered from courtyard to courtyard 

From meal to meal 

Eventually led by her chubby hands home 

She was safer in that wildness 

Then she would have been here.

Children are cherished

When the average lifespan is 47 – 

Give or take a few years, a few lives 

The empty well became full 

When that child dancing around the edge 

Slipped and fell 

They had to lower a man in, too 

to get the body out 

The debate: did she still need the ritualistic cleaning? 

The village rang with wails 

Those early years I learned how to celebrate, I did not yet know how to grieve.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *