A Song in Seven Stanzas: for our Grand-Daughters
Tradition and the remembrance of things past,
Are a re-discovered country
Of things we struggle against;
Where as pygmy women we stand tall among the Bantu
And name ourselves Babongo.
We stand here, compassionate witnesses,
To witches who are just mothers, to mothers who are just loyal,
To those who wrestle snakes to feed their children,
And to grandmothers who keep faith enough with girls,
To make god change his mind.
Young as we are, if we don’t tell our stories who will speak out for us, when
We claim our bodies for ourselves and weep no more, when
We write to each other and teach ourselves, not
To trade our bodies for security, wealth, power,
Or whatever price they can bring, when
We call out and claim a love that knows no name and has no place, when
We learn “it is not rape if…”
We still love our daddy as his bewildering passion penetrates us
Shocking us to learn the forbidden pathways of ourselves,
And the things we struggle for.
If we don’t tell our stories, hailstones will continue to fall on our heads,
Thrown by fathers for the children to see – for we are not good women,
Thrown by Imams by a judge’s decree – for we are not good wives,
Thrown by other women in our husbands’ lives
As they come in the morning cradling his children
Calling us witch, barren, bitch
And we find something to tie the chest with;
Challenging words to hurl back in battle,
And partners to hold us anyway,
Through the things we struggle against.
If we don’t tell our stories who will know we did not comply:
We did not wish our lives away, but stayed focused,
And staunched the cut of virginal blood,
To stop our daughters being slaves;
We learned to sing survival songs,
Through violence and rape and war;
We did not tell each other lies, or taste slow poison all alone;
And stitched for our dead not effigies, but new dolls
So our artistry displays only prayer heals despair,
Through the things we struggle for.
When we share strategy through story
We empower ourselves to take a stand;
And bear witness through our words in blood and ink,
To wage peace as an act of faith,
To call out by name the things we fear.
Not just victims, or betrayed child soldiers –
liberated from the fires of oil, or greed, or power
We claim a collective love,
Plant trees or wage a campaign, sing songs or keep silence,
As agents of a just resistance now, and as in the past.
Through bondage and through freedom we share our tactics,
And document. We write from every different place,
To reclaim our names, and inherited legacies we want to pass along.
We write to stay in places as we choose –
We who crossed the Atlantic all those yesterdays ago,
We who have come again today-
We who have stayed in place through generations,
We who will stay in place tomorrow-
Or move on: between generations, between cultures, between locations,
As we ourselves want, now, as in the future.
We envision new futures for ourselves
As we weep with each other in silence or laugh:
We network behind shop counters, and on factory floors,
We engage across industrial landscapes, and in mining villages,
We reach out from fishing boats and commercial farms
We meet in schools, churches parliaments and slums
And from dance floors to prison cells we are Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the Liberian State House.
We are the tomorrow our grandmothers dreamed
We are grandmothers dreaming other tomorrows –
Our own compassionate witnesses: standing at the edge of time.
©Abena P.A. Busia,
Accra, October 2009