Sisters mine, beloveds
those bones are not my child.
I am a woman at point zero;
unburnable.
The wind done gone
into a dark alliance
forged from the devil’s pulpit.

Daughters of the Sun, Women of the Moon
a mercy, please.
Let’s make dust tracks
and leave the dilemma of this ghost
to those who live in a city so grand..
Those bones are not my child.

Word of mouth spread
among the not-so-little women
with no technical difficulties.
The blues people, midwives
to a people’s history,
who believed horses
make a landscape look more beautiful,
shed petals of blood
as they walked on fire
to grieve
in a land without thunder.

 

 

Book titles used in this piece:

Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson

Beloved and A Mercy by Toni Morrison

Those Bones are not my Child by Toni Cade Bambara

Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi

Unburnable by Marie-Elena John

The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall

Dark Alliance by Gary Webb

From the Devil’s Pulpit by John Agard

Daughters of the Sun, Women of the Moon, ed. Ann Wallace

Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston

Dilemma of a Ghost by Ama Ata Aidoo  

A City So Grand by Stephen Puleo

Word of Mouth: Poems Featured on NPR’s All Things Considered

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Technical Difficulties by June Jordan

Blues People by Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones)

Midwives by Chris Bohjalian

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful by Alice Walker

Petals of Blood by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Walking on Fire: Haitian Women’s Stories of Survival and Resistance, ed. Beverly Bell

Land without Thunder by Grace Ogot

I don’t know if the Heinneman African Writer Series (AWS) was one of those Chess record label deals where the artists didn’t get paid according to the value of their work to the music appreciating audience but rather according to the skinflint economics of record label owners. I haven’t researched it so I can’t say. I can say I sincerely hope not because I am thankful for it connecting me to so many African writers they’ve become part of my interior landscape.

For instance, earlier today, I was mopping my floor and for no reason I can think of one of the stories in Grace Ogot’s Land without thunder crossed my mind. In a beautiful story called the old white witch, a group of african nurses go on strike because they’ve been ordered to carry the feces of patients and that is against their cultural practices. As their spokeswoman, Adhiambo (but called Monica by the white missionaries who run the hospital) says:

Long before you came, we agreed to nurse in the hospital on the understanding that we were not to carry any bedpans. We want to be married and become mothers like any other woman in the land. We are surprised that senior members of the staff have sneaked behind us to support you when they know perfectly well that no sane man will agree to marry a woman who carries a bedpan. A special class of people do this job in our society. Your terms are therefore unacceptable, Matron.  You can keep your hospital and the sick. And if being a Christian means carrying faeces and urine, you can keep Christianity too – we are returning to our homes.

I don’t know why this occurred to me in the midst of cleaning but it is a fine, fine story. Land of Thunder is full of such stories. Click the book cover to visit Ogot’s Amazon page.

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A more thorough review of Land without Thunder