NINE YEARS OLD: Poetry Festival in celebration of International Women’s Day by Nyambura Kiarie
Nine Years Old
Nine years old, nine moons, nine seasons already a woman.
Nine and she had her mother’s baby strapped to her back.
Nine and she had her mother’s cooking pot boiling on the stove.
Nine and she wore her mother’s leso1 as she swept the floor.
Nine and she carried her mother’s basket.
Nine, nine, nine, many times multiplied and already she was old.
Nine and she made her father’s meals.
Nine and she washed his shirts.
Nine and she hid the small pocket change she found in his pockets as she washed.
Nine and she knew how to meld with the shadows of the house when he came home drunk.
Nine, when he beat her mother and chased her round the house.
Nine when her mother gave birth on the kitchen floor before help arrived.
She was nine, nine and nine multiplied.
Nine and she knew,
She wanted more than her mother.
Wanted more than her father;
She wanted more in her life.
Nine and she dreamed of something more than their two roomed house.
She was nine and she planned;
Every day as she swept the floor.
She hid the shillings and multiplied and multiplied in her head.
She did sums in her head, subtracting her mother’s children,
Wondering how life would have been had they been fewer.
In her head, she counted plates and curved out pieces of ugali2 on each,
Sliced like cake.
Little pieces, big pieces and each plate and each piece had a name in her head.
Nine and she went to the market and bargained like a woman.
Nine and she knew when the tomatoes were too ripe and too light.
Nine and she knew how much Osuga3 was needed for the stew.
Nine and she knew how to fry onions and make the kitchen smell like home.
Nine, she managed her mother’s household,
Her mother had run away to grandma’s house.
Nine, she grew skillful at evading the wrath of her mother’s husband.
Her Mother’s husband!
She would get herself a better one.
A taller one, handsomer, kinder,
A man who did not take alcohol from kimbo tins
But drunk only from bottles with difficult names;
Pretty bottles with pretty pictures.
A man who made less children,
Fed them better and remembered their names;
A man who did not run out of words quickly, needing to use his fists.
porridge made from maize meal and water.
She saved her stolen shillings, multiplying in her head.
A day would come for the shillings to buy her a life,
Better than the life in her mother’s house.
All her life Kenyan born Nyambura Kiarie, has had a passion for the written word and the telling of stories. She believes that life is a story just waiting to be told and everyone has their own. She is passionate about exploring the politics of psychology in the struggle for voice and identity: the powerful inner stories of minority voices capturing women and children. Struggling with Lupus for most of her life, she is a spirited advocate for Lupus and writing has been for her a powerful catharsis. God is her Muse of muses and words give her wings to fly, to scale the heights and they are the footsteps to her dreams and to God.