post The Girl and the Sapling

March 7th, 2011

Filed under: Literature Corner — Natty Mark Samuels @ 21:27

The Girl and the Sapling

A Poem for Voices
to the Ndembu of Zambia

Brother: My sister’s breasts have begun to grow. So it’s time for her Nkanga: creating excitement throughout the villages.

Nkongu: I am the chosen woman. The Nkongu, chosen to guide her out of girlhead. Under the young mudyi tree and in seclusion; from there on into womanhood.

Mother: We have trampled an area around the special sapling. A circle consecrated, waiting to receive you. Come little heartbeat of mine. It is your turn now. We are here, to escort you through to womankind.

Nkongu: Into the matrilineage.

Ist Woman: Times to celebrate.

2nd Woman: Times to cry.

3rd Woman: Sometimes girl, you’ll wish that you could fly.

Brother: My own transistion, from boyhood to the beginning of manhood, also began there. Under the mudyi tree. They cut me there, in my time called Mukanda.

Mother: I will be complicit in your death today, little heartbeat, to raise you again at nightfall.

1st Woman: Wrapped in a blanket, she must lay all day and she cannot speak.

2nd Woman: Yes, she must lay all day, no food between her cheeks.

3rd Woman: Lay all day; immobile as funeral teak.

Nkongu: We will sing around her; our invitation to an initiate

Mother: We will dance around her; our welcoming party to womanhood.

Nkongu: Under the tree that will bestow white sap. Until twilight, she will lay quiet and still like stone. Soon, both the girl and the sapling, will be offerers of milk.

Mother: Under the mudyi, the Sacred Milk Tree; where our ancestress slept and received the first instruction, the original blessing. Watch over her Nzambi. Ancestress, please help her when she asks you for it. Let there be respect always, between her and her husband. Let her heartbeat not cease before mine.

Nkongu: And after this, onward to the place of seclusion.

1st Woman: Away from this spot of suffering, called ihungu.

2nd Woman: To the teachings from us and the great Nkongu.

3rd Woman: To emerge sometime later, a woman of Ndembu.

Mother: I shall prepare cassava and beans.

1st Woman: We shall brew millet beer……

2nd Woman: To make libation……

3rd Woman: For all to enjoy and share.

1st Woman: So women of the next village……

2nd Woman: And those in the next village to you……

3rd Woman: We invite you to celebrate with us, a new woman of Ndembu.

Brother: She will be gone from here soon and I will miss her, my younger sister. After today,she’ll go to seclusion, then onto marriage; to the house of betrothed husband. Alongside blood, there must be milk.

©Natty Mark Samuels, 2010.

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