Thursday, February 2, 2017

Yellow Water Jugs

The yellow water jug
holds just a little in its bottom
in the early morning
so I can splash my
dark dark cheeks.
Uniform stretched out on my bed,
I wear a faded dress instead.
I stand up tall - upon my head
is the empty
yellow water jug.

The path is long and stretches far.
One way students walk to class;
this way we walk for water.
Dust is stirred by bare
dark, dark feet
like mine and all the other girls',
careful braids and short-cropped curls
and teeth like baby pearls. 
All carrying, just the same,
yellow water jugs.

The men watch us, 
taking tea with big, rough hands,
winking at us with 
dark, dark thoughts 
but we do not meet their eyes. 
The hairs on my arms rise.
Strength in numbers, walking by sunrise. 
I grow thirsty under the sun
but as barren as the dusty path
is my yellow water jug. 

The thorn bush catches my foot
and like a river, up wells
dark, dark blood
but still I smile because I've arrived 
at the end of the long queue. 
Women young and old and thin 
with weary faces, weathered skin 
stand at this daily chore again,
all carrying empty
yellow water jugs. 

The heat is thick and still I wait, 
jug at my feet, skin damp with sweat.
My head bows, casting
dark, dark shadows. 
When the sun is high it's my turn,
so I pump until my muscles burn 
and my dry, dry throat yearns, 
but others are waiting too, so 
I rush to fill my 
yellow water jug.  

The jug balanced on my head, I hurry. 
I don't want to be trapped in the
dark dark night
with the men who always watch.
I make it home, aching, tired.
Grandmother cooks bent over the fire. 
Brother walks in with stick and tire,
looking so smart in his school uniform.  
Grandmother cooks and empties most of 
the yellow water jug. 

It's hard to see through the
dark, dark smoke
but we eat and tonight there is enough. 
Brother talks about all I missed
in class. I ball my fists,
but through sleepy thoughts I listen. 
No need for tears. When the rains come, 
perhaps I'll go back to class again. 
But tomorrow I'll be walking 
with other girls, barefoot, balancing
our yellow water jugs.

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