Enslaved to the kitchen
Cooking over a small, hot stove
The woman squats, rolling pin in hand
She is feeling a little tired.
Earlier in the day she had walked
Half a mile to the nearest well
To draw water and carry the pot over her head.
She doesn’t spill a drop; she knows the road.
She never stumbles, looking straight ahead.
Now she waits for her man to come home.
The man had left early morning
To plough the field on their farm nearby
His lunch wrapped in an old rag.
The sun is out, fierce burning sun;
Already his shirt is drenched in sweat
As he works on a piece of small, parched land.
A little square, one of many he hopes
With nature’s help turn his life around.
He stops for lunch and smoke; starts again
His arduous battle with a soil so barren.
Trudging despairingly towards home
His body smelling of rustic earth,
Palms blistered and bloodied
He wonders at his fate, his lack of education
His future with his new wife, the difficult times ahead.
There is no eye contact as he eats his food
Another day of toil but without any reward.
Dusk falls; the woman lights the kerosene lamp.
Hiding one side of her face she gives him the nod
Before lying down on the mattress;
He blows out the lamp
As she closes her eyes, her arms limp by her side.
Days and weeks go by; the man and woman labour
In the field and in the kitchen; the journey to the well
Now getting longer, the route no longer so familiar.
Sometimes the woman feels giddy,
Unsteady on her feet
Water now spills from the pot she carries;
That evening for the first time
She feels something kicking inside her.
From woman to wife to motherhood;
The joy, nausea and pain
Domestic duties, hard graft
And raising children beckon.
Working in the field the man seems unaware
That night she tells him; he is to be a father.
The old woman sits in the porch, weaving a shawl
A map of the world is her target;
Oceans and islands
Cities and rivers, continents and countries,
Mountains and tropics
Till the shawl becomes a mosaic, a pictorial collage.
But her sight is fading; her cataracts are giving up.
She can’t sit for long; her joints and fingers hurt.
The world is changing daily; she can’t keep up.
New boundaries and territories;
New countries and new names.
Her dream of a fitting bequest is abandoned;
She has gone blind.
She will not wrap the shawl around her first grandchild.