By Reginard Bishoza, Kigoma, Tanzania
It’s not yet 4:00 am, I an African woman
Moving rekindling the fire from the overnight embers
Inside the mud-walled hut, my husband coughing
As the first birds are heard, he swings his legs over the bedside
A bed made from a rough rope strung across a wooden frame.
He stands in the doorway and stretch
I Chausiku at my morning chores
As the cold dawn light suffuses the sky
I sprinkle water from a squat earthenware jar
Across the mud floor and sweep the dampened earth
With a brush of long grasses bound tightly together
The day has begun, I wearing a living smile.
I poke about in the straw of the hens
Hoping there might be eggs
To take to the market to exchange for salt and oil
I find none, my mind is a little bit confused.
The baby begins to cry, I fasten the child
To my back with a long, dirty cloth
To keep him comforted until time to breastfeed
The child coughs, I feed the tiny fire
In what looks like an old biscuit-tin
With slow-burning wood to lost the kernels of wheat
For breakfast of my starving family.
I fetch water, I set my kids about chores
Some shift stones from their field for plowing
Others take the ox on the long trek for water and pastures
My daughters spend hours fetching firewood
From the far mountainside and hills
Sadiki, the only male child sets off on the hour’s walk
Walk to school.
I hoist the water container and swive it around
To lodge in the small of my back
My friend fastens it in place
I reach home, without break, I prepare for lunch
As the others eat, I breastfeed the child
Often, this takes a long time, an hour
Milk does not flow freely, no much food to go around
I cough, I lose, I rattle as I prepare little tasks
When the child’s eyes die, I lay him among blankets.
In the afternoon, I leave the house to join my husband
In the field shifting stones for plowing and sowing
I keep the weeds from the rows of sorghum
We return home tired in the late evening.