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she is up.
before the cock remembers to crow,
before the moon remembers to disappear,
before the sun remembers to rise,
she is up.
she clutches the broom in one hand.
she clutches the dustpan in the other.
she walks.
she stops.
she bends.
she sweeps.
a floor that feels strange under her feet.
it is smooth,
tiles,
very different
from the
rough,
mud floors
in the place
she calls home.
this place,
where she sweeps
is not her home.
she is a stranger,
here.
she sweeps,
through the endless corridors;
she hears
the soft snores of the children,
the loud snores of the Oga,
the silent snores of madam.
she is the only one awake.
soon,
they will all rise
and leave her
in this mansion.
she would jump on the chairs
and
eat from the fridge
and
watch the television,
but
she knows that this place
is not her home.
she will steal pieces of meat,
bigger than the ones
that she gives the children to eat,
but
she knows
that it does not change the fact that
they go to school,
and
she does not.
the children also call Oga daddy;
she calls Oga daddy, too,
but
she knows
that it does not change the fact that
he is not her father.
her father is in her home,
far away
from this strange place,
waiting,
with his shaky palms wide open
to receive
the cash that Oga
sends to him
once every month.
she was sold
into slavery:
a different type of slavery;
a slavery that sometimes masks itself as kindness;
a slavery pre-empted by poverty;
an acceptable type of slavery;
but still slavery,
nonetheless.
she is still sweeping;
then she would mop,
then she would dust,
then she would cook,
then she would scrub,
then she would wash,
then she would eat,
then she could clean,
and clean,
and clean,
and clean,
and clean,
and clean,
until her fingers bleed blood,
until her skin bleeds sweat,
until her eyes bleed tears,
she is 12.

 

********

The image in the post is an adapted version of an image by AM Renault via Flickr.

About the Author:

Portrait - EnajerohElizabeth Edirin Enajeroh is a writer who hails from Delta and Freetown, but she was born and bred in Lagos. She is inspired by her life, stories from her family, watching strangers, fine art, dance, music, books and everything that speaks. Her goal as a writer is to enter quietly into the lives of her characters so that she can unwrap their truth and expose it to the world. She blogs at www.beautifulandsaved.wordpress.com

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

One Response to “12 | by Elizabeth Edirin Enajeroh | African Poetry” Subscribe

  1. Chukwudera Michael July 8, 2016 at 11:59 am #

    I’m happy Ainehi did publish this. The poem really did shook me and after visiting her blog and reading more of her works like social media, and break my shell amongst other beautiful ones, I had to bookmark her blog and come back to drop a comment. Well done Elizabeth.

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