You Lied, Mama: Lines by Jennifer Chinenye Emelife

one morning, you tapped me.

‘Wake up,’ you said, ‘it’s time to be an adult’

i scrambled around the room, searching:

a piece of cloth to hide my breasts

fur to stop the flow

‘You’re fine now,’ you said,

your smile leading me on to the world

but Mama, you lied

my covered breasts did not stop them

the fur did not stop the flow

they poked at me everywhere

and on the bus, my breasts were their armrests

‘Stop wiggling your waist,’

you warned, Mama

‘Take off the skimpy clothes. Yes, more furs. You’re fine now’

but Mama, you lied

i scurried to the store,

draped in a long veil

they came, dragging its sides

ravenous eyes feeding on my bare skin

‘night is for the wolves,’

Mama, you said,

‘buy furs in the day’

but Mama you lied

the sun spread its arms

i wore a sack

my skin burning inside

i hid my hair under your old wrapper

and smelt of fear and shame

yet they came

their eyes on my face

i turned and ran

the sack – too long

my feet – too slow

and i fell, Mama.

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