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For Rosaline

Please read this post to understand how/why I have been inspired to write the following:

A Voice from Cameroon

for Rosaline and Shekina

Oh, Rosaline, sitting on the floor of a smoke filled kitchen
we know what they’ve decided without your hand in the decision
Shekina extends her own to remind you of human connection
forgetting widows aren’t allowed to shake hands
their innate power so sacred and feared
the village thinks you’ve killed your husband
because you have inherited the power of woman
in every inch of your being – can’t clean your skin for seven days
until his corpse is removed – they’ve laid out black rags for you
to wear for an entire year after his death, preaching tradition
handed down by father after father in fear of the power of your breath

They say they’re taking care of you with their sub-human philosophy
that subjecting you to this sense of inhumanity will keep you
from going crazy, and how many widows have you known
to be treated the same – stripped naked, sleeping on bare floors
for weeks, you’re trying not to look outside while they’re braiding
rope from the back of a fig tree, rubbing it with cam wood and palm oil
to be tied around your waist, here’s your bamboo staff and raffia bag
filled with kola nuts, snuff and tobacco to smoke away your grief
you’ll be neglected, dejected and isolated - eating off of plantain leaves
barefoot and not allowed to cook but served by elder widows
after a year you’ll be able to move your naked buttocks
across the ground of the celebratory floor to commemorate
your husband’s death and then sold to one of his brothers
I know you built a house, a home with him
but you are only property to be inherited at the end of this

Even in the case of proven illness, they will find a way to blame
your uterus – even in cases of AIDS, they will call you a witch
and declare slow poison instead of infidelity
I wish you had the courage to wrap your arms around me
and hug me, that I could lay hands over your temple
and teach you not to suffocate the power of being you
that the forefathers of all of our countries
knew nothing but the joy of exploiting their own egos
and an insatiable hunger for blood

remember that even under the patriarch
and with all of the dismantling statistics
we have a population of women reaching 3 billion
and we’re listening – from the huts of Cameroon
to my desert
I won’t stop speaking
for the voiceless
until you’re here beside me
ready with your story.

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