"Nomadic Life" Lesson
Students will examine the imagery in a rich, spare poem about an interlude between two women of different cultures in rural Niger.
- Read the poem aloud to the class, asking them to listen carefully. Then, before reading it again, ask students whether they can answer the following questions:
- What happened to the sugar and the M&Ms? [Aisha took all the sweets off the table.]
- Why do you think the poet mentioned the tea cups? [To give a sense of time; i.e., the writer was out of the room preparing tea, which gave Aisha the time to help herself to all the sweets.]
- Would you have taken all the sweets at a friend's home? Why might Aisha have taken them all?
- What does Aisha's taking of the sweets tell us about her? Her culture? [Point out that it is not necessary to make judgments about what Aisha did; what is important is to interpret her behavior in an effort ot understand something more about what Aisha knows, what she has, what she needs, what she has learned...]
- What is the dust storm of light? [Perhaps a shaft of light illuminating dust inside the home]
- Why would Aisha examine the insides of ice cubes? [She probably has never seen an ice cube before.]
- Do the women know a language in common? How do you know? [They know some language in common, because the poet knows that Aisha has asked about "strong" and "weak" water. But their communication is somewhat restricted; the poet says they had to invent common words between them.]
- What does the poet mean by referring to "strong" or "weak" ice, in Aisha's terms? [ice or liquid water]
- How does the poet feel about her guest, Aisha? What evidence do you have? [She feels admiration for how Aisha manages in the desert. We get a sense of the poet's awe because she says she wants to trade places and have the know-how to navigate the desert.]
- What does the poet think Aisha will think about after she leaves? [She thinks Aisha will discuss the oddities of her host's home—the ice, the refrigerator, the picture of the snow—and wonder what life is like for Susan Rich, just as Rich wonders what the life of a nomad is.]