Grandmothers croak welcome, and crows
watch from a sagging power line.
While I unpack the presents from a bulky suitcase
Grandmothers test me with my sisters
engaged to marry sons of the soil. I’m their favourite, but
Grandmothers think my nose ring is for free girls.
Grandmothers ask: Do your shoulders move one by one
when you dance the mbwaya?
Did you swallow cloven hoofs or horse meat?
So why do you rob our peace?
Who fed you eggs before you were two?
Who named you swallow?
Do you know where your umbilical’s buried?
What kenekene thing ate your tongue?
In the market, between purple pyramids of
piled-up tomatoes, orange culubar, and bush plums,
Grandmothers ask me how many home boys
my any-kind careless talk mouth’s thrown away.
The cool palm to my forehead is a blessing before
Grandmothers squat to the fireplace,
muttering: If you’re going to cook a white frog, choose a fat one,
if you’re going to eat snails, don’t expect to win a hundred-metre dash.
I’m asking my grandmothers if we were too much, too soon,
too loud, too young?
We all have a need for sweetness, Grandmothers reply
What would you rather be? A meal or a snack?
My grandmothers ask: If you give the milk away,
who’s going to buy the cow?