Saturday, December 13, 2008

Saturday miscellany...

Aisha in Zimbabwe - a poem

Aisha is mother to her sister, Khadija,
their mother died of AIDS last year.
Aisha has a soft, round face,
lucky for her, she is H.I.V. negative.
She struggles to get drugs for Khadija,
who at 11 years is H.I.V. positive.

Last year, Aisha took her little sister,
(Khadija appears half her actual age)
to Parirenyatwa Hospital,
the nation's largest.
They waited in the vast courtyard,
amidst the hungry and the festering,
a hospital official finally notices them,
he calls them in and with a gravelly voice
tells them that some crucial test results
needed to qualify the little one for
medications were strangely misplaced.
They will need to come back later
and redo the tests once again.

On a later visit, Aisha is told
the machine used for the tests was broken.
A couple of weeks later, the hospital finally
closed. Of course, they were referred to
private doctors. Doctors who had demanded
payment in S.A. rand or U.S. dollars.
The girls could not do this,
they had no money.

Aisha used to escape the sadness
by going to school, two months ago
the teachers at her high school
stopped going to school.
Of her math teacher, Aisha wistfully says
"She didn't bid us farewell, she just left"

Aisha now barters her labor for food,
Khadija is too weak to work.
Last week, Aisha was overjoyed
She was starting a four-day job,
It did not matter that she was
bent over in a field, all day,
readying it for planting corn.
In exchange, she would get two pounds
of flour, a bottle of cooking oil
and clothes. She plans to keep a shirt
and blouse for Khadija. She prays that
Khadija will fit into the standard sizes.
Aisha needs to get her job done soon,
before the rains lash down on the red earth.
The same rains that will drip into
their little room during the
unannounced late monsoon bursts.

The girls pray together every night
they sleep in a tiny, windowless room.
A small room in a small house that
belongs to their mothers father.
A grandfather whose takes his share
of the little food that Aisha brings home.
Aisha also has an uncle living with them.
He is 45 years old. He is too lazy to work
and sometimes steals her cornmeal.

Like other girls, these two have dreams,
Aisha wants to be a doctor,
Khadija, a bank teller.
Aisha wants to be a doctor to help people
like her little sister, shriveling before her.
In her sleep, Khadija dreams… of growing up,
she dreams of having children, she also
dreams of becoming a bank teller and
repaying the unpayabe debts owed to
her older sister, asleep next to her
hugging her little, emaciated frame.

Note: I wrote this poem using lines adapted from a story about the cholera raging in Zimbabwe printed in yesterday's Times. I had attempted a similar 'poem adaption' exercise earlier here.

Photo by Uwe Ommer, a commercial photographer based in Paris.

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