Bride Price

by | Jul 24, 2006 | Poetry | 0 comments

“When the food ran out grandma left us.
I remember the dry croak of her voice,
her eyes and that last look –
she touched each of us lightly on the head
and cradled ma’s head tight.
I remember that she said she was
‘just going to meet some old friends’.
She turned and walked away, not looking back.
From other huts women walked away
while old man magic beat his drum and sang –
‘let the rains come, let the rains come..’
We hadn’t got much of anything
except the red dust that filled the hut each day.
Old man magic talked to the elders
and soon we were going to a better place.
We took nothing with us, hadn’t the strength.
So we walked and as we did so
the old men left to meet their friends:
old man magic just went,
one day there and the next gone,
maybe the spirits took him.
We got to some place the same as home
and sat in huddles, in a crowd, in nothing.
Spirits came who said they were ‘friends’:
they stole our soul with their black eyes.
They promised help and left us
and we walked to meet our friends.
The help, when it came, did not save us;
the babies died first, too young to walk
so we carried them to meet their friends.
One day the food stopped
the ‘friends’ said they were sorry and went:
they stole our dignity with their ghost aid.
Ma said, “You’re the eldest now,” and I was,
but the men were too weak and too poor
and none had a bride price, nor land, nor hut –
it is a barren place..”


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