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Scenic images from the field

Mariama

Susan Rich
Niger

Late afternoons when Mariama held court in our shared and barren yard I would pick a favorite for her from among the motorcycles and second-hand Citroens imagine interviewing the assorted suitors at least to ease the traffic jam the spectacle outside our house.

I'd wonder what she had to make men want to charm her so wait under the eyes of a prickly sun flies climbing inside their collars like old age sneaking up close.

Was it the sincere disinterest with which she greeted each one obese or debonair, rich or rather less poor? Sometimes friends who came to visit me would turn and go to Mariama first sanu, sanu-how are you? I'd hear them say before the knock came at my door.

What magani, what potion did this adolescent hold to inspire men's overheated dedication, their ankles creaking as they shifted their feet in line. Mariama told me once her father was afraid that she was getting old and demanded that she choose a bridegroom soon.

After all, she said, he's the one that gets my bride price: twenty goats and a Sony stereo. It's a bargain, she spit her words across the yard and they all know it. Later when Zarma the cat was killed cut into bite size pieces we had the only other conversation in all the time we lived together.

Sai hankuri, sai hankuri, have patience, have patience was her advice. This she repeated like religious vows a prayer that someday the right answer would come.

Susan Rich (Niger)

Susan was an English teacher in Zinder, Niger. Her poems have appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, The Massachusetts Review, Southern Poetry Review and Passages North. She is completing her first book of poems, In the Language of Maps and holds degrees in English from Harvard University and the University of Massachusetts. She currently teaches creative writing at the Univeristy of Oregon.

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