Amai

A poem about different girls in Malawi.

Vocabulary:

Amai: woman and mother

Mphatso: gift


By David Albano - Peace Corps Volunteer, Malawi (1989 – 1991)


1.
dusty Sunday road
young girl        
in primary school uniform
walks like a woman
 
fire wood for a week
on her head
balanced
by experienced fingers
 
curve of her
like a spoon
she moves smoothly
under her labor
bare feet
making dusty weather
 
we pass
smile
greet each other
she asks my name
and I hers
“Mphatso”
  
2.
slender yet full
her young body dances
moving buttocks and breasts
to raspy reggae
 
alone among drunken men
who leer and pour
long looks at her body
from dark corners
where light from a single
kerosene lamp does not reach
 
serving chibuko
she moves to the men
sitting on low benches
against walls
 
I buy a carton
she says nothing
I return her silence
her face is a closed flower
eyes flat
 
she shakes the carton
with one skilled stroke
cuts of the top
and gives me change
 
the beer is sour
the room is filled with sweaty gravity
shadows of men bloom on blank walls
 
her body moves again
inside this music it has power
“she is dancing to find customers”
a fellow drinker slurs
 
then she is a silhouette
gold flashing
on her cheeks
when the dim light
finds her

3.
Agnes
Nurse midwife student
from local hospital
serious Malcolm X glasses
long joyful hair
purple dress pulled up
thick bronze thighs
 
she leads us
up Mchesi Mountain
smell of grass fires below
dome of granite pushes
against a clean sky
 
near the top
all of us sitting
sharing water
talking about the view
pointing and looking out
 
On Malawi below
and Mozambique beyond
Phalombe River
tumbles off Mchesi
making a green twisting path
in an arid plain
 
Agnes fixing her glasses
smiling and serious 


This poem was selected as a finalist in the returned Volunteer category in the 2015 Peace Corps Poetry Contest. It was selected from over 1,000 submissions, representing 50 years of Peace Corps service in over 100 countries.

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