Poem by Jacqueline Leigh (USA/ Sierra Leone)
Published in Issue 35 of The Ofi Press.
They've tightened the curfew. We loiter,
they say. Guns in our shopping bags.
Weapons in our hair. To us, it's clear
we must hurry after food. I'll see if Abdul's baking.
Old Sally might have leaves. Check the riverbank.
He's got dough rising. I'll go back.
It takes only minutes to pick leaves: a few green ovals,
soup off the stem. Just a taste! my neighbor says
and twists a smile. Her hand shakes after the run
home, from what was beneath the bridge.
We're drinking sun heat. And watching the Youth
chop. They've been cutting two mango trees
since nine. Pa Saidu's not here to ban them
from his land. The thuds sound—two pestles
in one mortar. The thuds sound—switching beats.
Time, time! The pressure's on! The way
is blocked to the bush. It'll take all tomorrow
to cut up the wood. Brothers come running,
peeling off shirts. They cheer. They
vaunt, We'll level both trees by three!
Look! That man there! my neighbor points.
You! What's that sack? From the road, the guard calls,
He’s OK! He's passed! Not normal, they say!
As he comes, we watch. So long we've been away.
How does normal look, this tenth day?
Jacqueline Leigh is an educator from Midland, Michigan who has lived in Sierra Leone with her family since the 1970's. She writes from both perspectives. She currently teaches ESL and facilitates writing through the Sentinel English Language Institute.
Image used under creative common laws. By jbdodane: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jbdodane/