Thursday, October 9, 2008

Umoja

(I don't know about you but I feel completely fed up with this country's politics and problems right now. We are so self-involved and so dependent on so many things to live the way we live. I wrote this poem several years ago after reading a newpaper article about Umoja. Today it reminds me that there is a world of people out there making their own way, struggling with issues and injustices we've never dreamed of.)


Sitting cross-legged on a sisal mat,
thatched roof and the equator sun above,
Rebecca holds the 13 year-old girl's hand
You don't have to marry that old man
even if he is my brother.
Rebecca goes house to house
You don't have to have sex with a man
that beats you, exposes you to HIV,
a husband with other wives.

Shamed by rape and then abandoned
Rebecca's women grow a circle of mud
and dung huts in parched and barren grassland
and call it Umoja, in Swahili, unity.

A sanctuary for Sarah's little girl body
from bearing a child that would have shredded
her insides, causing her to leak, to smell,
to be shunned into a beggar's existence.

No men live in Umoja,
a haven for Mary from circumcision,
mutilated genitals that would have forever
brought pain and denied pleasure.

In Umoja children go to school for the first time,
women work in the cultural center
inviting tourists into the beauty of Kenya,
selling red and white Samburu beaded necklaces.

Rebecca ignores spiteful men setting up
their own village, spying, failing to imitate
Umoja's success but hiring the men to haul firewood
as women change the rhythm, the power of a village.

Rebecca throws back her brown cloud of hair,
laughs at stone throwing and death threats
as she boards a plane to a world conference on
gender impowerment an ocean away.
If you remain silent
no one thinks you have anything to say.

14 comments:

FranIAm said...

This leaves me speechless.

Thank you Diane, thank you.

Kelly Jene said...

And the world rushes back into perspective....

S.L. Corsua said...

I hope someone from the UN reads this. I'd like to read it in one of the pamphlets they disseminate, as regards international human rights (IHR).

Julie said...

S.L. Corsua recommended that I come check out this poem. She is an amazing poet I have recently met, so of course, I had to come over here to see. She is right! This poem is SO powerful. I am gasping for breath here. Your work is tragically beautiful but also sends a powerful message.

There are so many images in this poem that are awesome. But perhaps my favorite line is "as women change the rhythm, the power of a village." Yes! It is very nice to meet you.

The Real Mother Hen said...

Let us all say a little prayer for a better tomorrow, and for humanity.

Cheryl said...

We live a very charmed life here, don't we. Most people have no idea the hardship others live with day to day. Thank you for sharing this tale of woe and courage.

Geoff Schutt said...

Diane -- Thanks for stopping by "This Side of Paradise." The Anais Nin quote you remarked about comes from her diaries -- 1931/1932-ish.

I'm out of town at the moment, but I'll return to read more of your own words.

-- Geoff

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Thank you for writing about this and for reminding us that so many people have much more to cope with than we do.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Thank you for writing about this and for reminding us that so many people have much more to cope with than we do.

Jo said...

I came via Unguarded Utterance. An excellent post. It is terrifying what life means for so many.

rdl said...

wow! powerful!

cravingoxygen said...

I found a link to this on S.L. Corsua's site... this piece is brilliant. Of course, it does strike home even deeper because I live near communities like this and actually I know people who suffer in this manner. Thank you for a thought-provoking piece.

RachelW said...

I am blown away by the power of this. Thank you.

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