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 – Iâ€™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
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 womenâ€™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 mommaâ€™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.