Sunday, October 31, 2010

Three Gambian Women: Prose Poems

*The Peul*


How could a surname be more beautiful. A melody, running from the J to the w, that dip at the a, and then the delicious double rise of the two ll, that pleasant surprise in the middle of the name, waiting to be discovered, as you call her and she turns, her eyes wide, suddenly attentive...

Soft skin, varying hues of brown.

The places exposed to the envious Sun, tanned a darker shade.

And the places not exposed. The shoulders. The thighs. The breasts, that end in a sudden and dark explosion of sensitive flesh.

Her hair so soft, her teeth a milky white. Her smile like fehneh, formed on top of sowe, encouraged to grow into its creamy richness by assiduous merr, who will sell it, out of lehkehts, some dewy mornings.

How she grows, from an adolescent, into a woman - a gradual blooming, into fruition, a process as natural as sunrise, that shines all through the day and spends all its efforts toward one purpose: to make a beautiful sunset, at end of day.

*The Serahule*

Did you ever doubt that the Serahule could be beautiful? Then come - I wish to show you something.

A whiteness of teeth, a blackness of gum.

A smile that sparkles and glimmers under the gentle light of the dying Sun, or else under the pale light of a bulb in a room.

Or even, sometimes, in a darkness so complete you can see nothing else. As if it were the source of its own light, and needed no other.

From the hardness of enamel somehow arising a softness that warms the heart, and whispers to it of a time without pain, a future without sorrow...

You make fun of the language of the Serahule. Yet issuing from her mouth, a mellifluous flow, it sounds better than any language of your comprehension, makes you think of Babel, and a time before the great babbling, when all spoke the same words and reached the same understanding and worshiped the same God, and the sin of borkaleh, of Shirk, still lay undiscovered…

And yet how coy she is, possessed of a self-reservation that covers her behavior like a kaala, concealing much, revealing just enough, to leave you wanting to know more...

*The Wolof*

Njaaye. The good that cannot be bought or sold, that is beyond an estimation of price or worth.

The pride of the Wolof, their unwavering self-confidence. She has her hair done in braids, and at the ends of the braids hang peh-taawe, weighing down the hair, gripping it in its fine teeth. Glimpses of bin-bin as she moves about, circles encircling curves that are the repeating motif of a body that leaves you breathless with desire.

You have seen pictures of her - they do not come close to doing her justice.

Some days you think it is her cheeks, that draw you to her. How when she grins they become suddenly full, buoyant and unmindful of gravity, tugging at your heart strings and the strings connected to the corners of your own mouth, so you cannot help but feel a gladdening, a lessening of your own life's burdens.

And then on others you think it is her eyes, that recall Baol, and Kajorr, and Waalor - names less historical kingdoms than places that your heart dreams about visiting, in its eternal search for a peace and a resting, worlds that will be created by your imagination and given the breath of life by the vitality that fills her every gaze.

And then there is the other aspect of Njaaye: the lion, that conquers, and possesses. This last you have seen in her, too, and it thrills you.

No comments:

Post a Comment