The Women

The women were beautiful,
In their powdered faces, bleached by the sun
Their brightly coloured chitenges crafted into elegant gowns
Pinks, and baby blues, and bright yellows, and golds
Their hair greasy, and straightened, black behind their necks
Because they’d been taught to
Because they’d been born in times before
When it was a mark of pure beauty

They cried and cooed at their children, and those of their sisters
Their powdery scent left lingering on our skin
From their hugging and kissing, and gasping in awe
As if they had not just seen us only the day before
But they were mothers, and it was in them to love
Because they’d been taught to
Because they’d been born in times before
When they were built to care

They rose and ululated at the brown skinned girl
Tall and slim, her face a copper glow
Our bride! They’d called her, and she beamed in matrimonial assent
Even though she’d been married for 6 months and more
She was still their bride, and she would continue to be
Until there came another who too chose the path
Because they’d been taught to
Because they’d been born in times before
When it was considered the last and final joy

The other woman, once slim now squat
Once bearing a copper glow, not sallow and pale
She sat in the corner, regarding the new bride
Recalling when she once was the bride, their bride
Only just a year, and a year ago
And now, she sat with a babe in her arm, and a bruise on her face
She’d come to them for help, and they’d told her to be quiet
Because they’d been taught to
Because they’d been born in times before
When you sucked it in, and blamed it on the door

They talked about their families, and laughed about their ills
Of how their husbands were masters of illusion, complete with disappearing acts
And I watched in my silence, knowing I couldn’t speak
Because I was old enough to understand
But still too young to understand
They would tell me to shut my mouth, to quit my disrespect
Because they’d been taught to
Because they’d been born in times before
When young women were meant to be seen, and never heard

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