Ways to Start Time: Counting Down with Women Human Rights Defenders in Africa
by Alexis Teyie
I once thought longing loose:
Longing for peace, it’s not criminal.
It is not imprecise.
It can only be crisp.
More brittle than the yellowing pages of an old book,
A book we have read and re-read,
Whose faded corners come apart
Between your fingers, leaving a powdery residue:
The faint rumours of a moth which never reached the light.
When History turns away from us,
We steal music from strands of His hair,
Nosing our way through forests of song.
Our memories made us dance, but
We wanted History to freeze us in place,
Not wiggle past, pumping its fist
To the front of the concert
Celebrating our defeat.
Yet He can never quite clamber on stage.
Yes, we were taught this present is on loan:
Don’t be greedy,
Don’t expect your futures to be lit,
Or your lives paved.
Listen, there is the wave we rode through independence,
Through the revolutions, high and far.
Now the the tide returns to shore, and the old men,
They lie in wait to rob us of our names even.
Sisters, sitting behind bars, do your throats
Clog up with so much future? Lucid courage.
It is demanded of us. If History won’t take us in,
We’ll break the walls, the doors, the windows, and
Plant a garden where the shadow falls.
Alexis Teyie is a 21-year-old Kenyan studying History at Amherst College. She writes poetry and speculative fiction, and is especially invested in gender justice. Alexis is part of the African Women’s Development Fund’s (AWDF) Community of African Women Writers. Click here to learn more.