Monday, 29 February 2016

for little Cheptoo

it is a frightening world, dear young sister,
& you might not have realized it yet
& it scares me

the dreams you have today
soaring up, unlimited like imagination,
the shining light in your eyes
the curious questions you ask today
there will be a time they may be dimmed
by the strictures of the society
telling you, “You are a woman!”
as if the dreams in your heart
were marked with the ink named woman

you see, Sister, there was once a time
when baby Lizzy  and her twin brother, Billy,
were with me
& i was bathing them
& she asked me why Billy had dudu
while she had not
& that was the briefest question that I had no answer for

i remember also a question that little Billy once asked
a friend differently-abled in crutches visited me
& Bill asked what happened to his legs and why he wasn’t walking properly
& again, I had no answer but I mumbled something

the world you are living in, Sister,
will not be fair to you and if you will not be careful
it might pull you down, suck life out of you & drag you on dirt
for the blooms, there are wilted petals
yellowing and wilting in stunted dreams
& gardeners, early in the morning, pick them up
weep for them and not even their tears
drenching the rotting life resuscitate them to life

i will never tell you to behave like a grown-up, dear Cheptoo,
because being grown-up has stunted me
this society wants me to act like an adult
to dress like an adult, eat like an adult, think like an adult
and being an adult is no fun anymore
i no longer ask those curious questions like Billy and Lizzy
i don’t play chodoko anymore, or sheki, or koraa, or use fantili
i stopped going to mtelezo or swimming at pango
because adults are expected to behave like adults
being an adult is no fun anymore

see, Cheptoo, you say anything the way you say it
and you don’t care and no one has any problem
because you are a child
when you are not happy, you just say it
and when you are happy, you show it
but we adults are complicated
a person may be happy but you won’t know
a person may be unhappy and you won’t know
sometimes they are happy-unhappy and still you don’t know
how do you do it, Cheptoo?
they way you cry, your chest heaving
the way you laugh, your chuckle so full of life
sometimes I laugh but my insides are tearing apart
you see, you don’t want your enemies to know that you are unhappy
so you pretend to be happy even when your body is screaming in pain

dear Cheptoo, if you forget everything else
don’t forget this:
develop a fierce love for books
for though the society may want to pull you down
books will be your best leverage
read all manner of books & never let your education
interfere with your love for reading
for when you will be done with formal education
you will realize that the best education
was one that you did at your leisure
when no big stick was wielded

~echoes of the hills 29.2.2016


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