Today she is not here

A poem from Gabeba Baderoon. Part of a series of poems by African feminist writers for 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. 

Gabeba Baderoon
3 December 2012
  • There are things I cannot tell you
  • about beginnings.
  • An engagement is an exchange
  • of intentions between two people
  • and two families.
  • A beginning.
  • At this engagement party the two young people
  • barely look at each other.  You’d hardly know
  • the party was for them among the many
  • who have come for the food,
  • the ritual, the talking.
  • One sister is missing.
  • He is usually careful
  • not to draw attention like this.
  • She will be alright
  • for the wedding and all the photos
  • will show her smiling like the rest. 
  • And her sons will be there
  • among the others, her sons
  • whom she is teaching
  • about softness and yielding,
  • as her father taught her.
  • Her father who came to her house and looked
  • a little past her shoulder and said,
  • no one needs
  • to stay in a house where a man raises
  • a hand to his wife. Come home.
  • And she looked equally
  • long and silently at him. 
  • And, who knows why, she said
  • kassie, Da, but I will stay.
  • And who knows if that stopped him for a while
  • or made him worse.
  • Today she is not here for the engagement.

This poem was originally published in A Hundred Silences by Gabeba Baderoon (Cape Town, Kwela/Snailpress, 2006).

Read other articles in the series, 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence 2012.

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