the women hide/when the masquerade comes out by Honora Ankong

the women hide/ when the masquerade comes out
Honora Ankong

Saturdays spent harvesting husks of corn
and tubers of cassava
Sundays were for morning mass
And the chorus of mortars echoing through the village
On Thursday afternoons the dust of the harmattan
Paint my white kneehigh socks brown
As I walked home from primary school

Summer nights spent in grandmother’s hut with
Smoke-filled eyes I fight away sleep
Trying to follow the chatter
happening in my mother-tongue
That my mother never taught me

The president was to come on TV @ 9
But the lights went out
So we’re having a candlelit dinner
—without the romance

After school we play football with anything we can find
Suck the nectar out of hibiscus flowers
Race to climb the guava tree in front of grandfather’s compound
And dance to the rhythm of makossa and bikutsi

Last week at school we had to hide under our desks
Cover our noses with wet hankerchiefs
Because we were invaded by the smell of the tear gas
The motion from the strike outside
Drowns the sound of the school bell

My mom fastens the mosquito net
she tucks me into bed— tells me the story of a man
who lives near the lake,
I fall asleep and dream of playing in the river with my cousins
Those saturday afternoons when the water went out
And we were sent with buckets, to fetch water for bathing
And drinking.

During the dry season, we play hopscotch in the afternoons
Until we hear the messenger’s cries
I’m told to run inside and hide—for the masquerade is coming
Women can’t look at the masquerade, it’s bad luck
I hide behind the guava tree but I take one tiny peek.

Honora Ankong is a 20 year old poet, from Cameroon, West Africa. Majoring in English, minoring in African American and African Diaspora studies. Loves literature, art music and fashion.


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