Curfew: For Our Nigerian Girls

Curfew: For Our Nigerian Girls


I wish this could be as simple
as broken rules

the street lights are on
and you’re late

git’cho butt inside
it’s dinnertime
come clean up this room
finish that homework

as easy-peasy as fed-up mamas
snatchin’ back curtains
throwin’ windows open
hands on hips
peerin’ down the block
to growl your name and shout:
“I’m not gon’ tell you again!”
while you whiz by on your bike
plead for just five more minutes
and she smiles
shakes her head
remembers her youth
her pleads
her eyes soften
and she lets you ride

would do anything
for it to be as “uh-oh”
as fire-breathin’ daddies
sportin’ shiny brass knuckles
waitin’ impatiently at front doors
for never-be-good-enough boys
to bring you home from first dates
that their mouths blessed
cuz you begged
but their hearts didn’t

would much rather this be about
200+ mischievous girls
quietly convergin’
and sneakin’ off
on a secret forbidden journey
fingers strung together
like paper-doll chain
squelchin’ the high-pitched giggles
ticklin’ their ribs
runnin’ free
wind coolin’ their backs
sun meltin’ the cares in their hearts
trekkin’ with no fears
gon’ be right back
gon’ be all right
cuz they got each other

but these wishes are in vain

the street lights have been on for months
and still
none of you are where you’re supposed to be

cuz you were force-fed this broken curfew
into the Sambisa
into marital slavery
and you’ve been gagging
on the bane the forest’s bowels
on coerced $12.00 vows
trying to unbind the silence in your throats
to find enough voice to scream for help
for directions to lead you home
from the detour of Haram

the government’s search has ebbed
and we will not rely on them
to continue to care enough to find you

their time may have been cut
but these clocks in our hearts
will remain ticking
are your spiritual search party

at night
in our uneasy sleep
our snores
are surveillance helicopters
fueled by the inferno in our blood
that keeps our tanks from running dry
our rapid-eye movements are searchlights
in the murk of our dreams
powered by determination
to illuminate your path
show you the way to freedom
and they will never burn out

no matter how long the nights
how hard the days
piece by piece
we will link the jigsaw of you
back together
rip you from the filthy grips
of the insurgents that body-snatched you
from your rights
from your school
from your learning
from your homes

and we will annul you from your captors
interlock your fingers
to remind you of oneness
of sisterhood
of love
of safety
of strength in cultural numbers
and lead you to your dwellings
where the street lights will beam
and mamas and daddies will be waitin’
impatiently at front doors
to envelop you
inhale your scent
stroke trust into your faces
nurse your spirits back to certainty
revel in your touch
tribal dance in your smiles

to exhale

to live again


Copyright © 2016 By Jasmine D. Rivers.
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