A POEM FOR JOE (LONGER SCRIPT)
I stared bleakly at this dark place they called a prison, i could hear the chants from outside the small peep hole that was mistaken for a window.....they were calling for my head.
The voices seemed to rise in unison as the dawn approached , I could smell their vicious rage ,their blood running hot calling for my head , i did not even flinch when the key turned as the warder came in to usher me to my ceremonious death,i was already filled with unimaginable pain "where is joe? why won’t he come.." i wondered.
This was not how i was supposed to end up, dressed in a loose fitting grey dress, the stench from sleeping in my own waste seemed unapparent to the eager onlookers that peered from the prison walls, watching the blasphemous adulterer walk to meet the hangman, my death would be their salvation, my head severed would act as a warning to other heathens, the Village remedy for defilement by the gods. Sorrow and dread escaped me, my life till i met him had been an ominous existence of living without cause, I had no choice in who i married, where i slept nor what i wore. It was a life devoid of any freewill. Death would be an escape much longed for and an end to a journey that had drained me of all desire.
Two weeks ago things were different i remember the exact moment i met him, The day began like most of my days, uneventful i had decided it was time to teach my last daughter the rites of passage, the long coarse road to the village stream that would be her pathway for days on end.
Her excitement as she walked beside me on our way home was almost contagious and yet her innocent shrill laughter saddened me, this was not what her young eyes should look up to, daily trips under the hot sun to a stream on the other side of her habitat, barefoot without protection from the rough stones and parched dirt which would burn her bare feet, endless trips with clay pots of water on top our heads, that was the way of the mamba women.
Her voice echoed in the wind as she chattered excitedly about the water, her young eyes could not make out the pile of dirt that had piled along the stream's banks. mounds of dirt evidence of a location that was a meeting point for dirty clothes, dirty plates, dirty bodies and worse off dirty excrete, her nose was not yet familiar with the pungent smell of excreta mixed with urine as we tiptoed across the rocks, placing our calabash so delicately to scoop running water that could pass for clean in this parts. As i approached my house i paused in surprise when i saw a stranger sitting with my husband on our stools outside the hut. I felt his gaze before i looked upon his face, dark eyes peering at me behind a hooded cloth, i should have run away then, the heat i felt beneath my legs had nothing to do with the scorching sun burning my back.
I could not wait to hear the introductions my husband made, i could not breathe i refused to meet his eyes darting into the security of my room as i got myself together, who was this stranger that made me feel this way without speaking a single word? I wondered aloud.
In the days that followed he became my tormentor, a serpent camouflaged with the looks of a man, he became a regular caller to our abode, bringing gifts, always looking at me intensely without saying a word, my husband was oblivious, drunk from the strangers gift of wine he welcomed this man, always with a smile , my husband’s dim witted demeanor was not surprising , he cared more for his belly than he did his family , he would sell me off to the highest bidder if they asked but the stranger never asked....he never asked me my name...never asked me my thoughts...never asked for things it was unholy for a married woman to want to be asked for but i so wanted to be asked, once in a while i would tip toe across the mat that served as a door to our entrance, my ears marveled at the sound of his voice , soft yet masculine, he spoke so little but i perceived there was something more this stranger wanted. For fear of my husband's lashing i asked no questions, yet my head seemed as if it would burst with curiosity and something else.
It was five moons after the first day i saw him, i counted with the pebbles at the back of our hut. That fateful day my husband had dragged himself out of the house, taking the children with him.
He left me alone in our hut, an act i found most unusual but i welcomed the solitude, my eyelids drooped in fatigue as i lay on my mat, staring up at the thatched roof feeling the slight drowsiness of sleep, suddenly a thought crossed my mind, by fate or by choice i know not but i suddenly became restless, surely the stranger would make his way to our hut when the Sun began its descent to make way for the moon I thought out loud.
Sleep had been replaced with anxiousness, eagerly waiting for the footsteps i knew were sure to come, and then just as the chickens signaled he came, his footsteps light and sure, stopped by the entrance to our hut, i should have stayed in my room, i should have pretended not to hear him but he called out to me. Gripped with fear and excitement i wondered how he could possibly know my name. I stepped out nervously and saw him fully for the first time, His skin was not as black as ours, light like chocolate and tall like the palm tree he stared at me intently not speaking for what seemed like an eternity,
"I've come for you" i heard him whisper and slowly he walked into my abode.
The house trembled as if in unison to my heart beat, I had never been this close to a man not my kin and not my husband, I stumbled with the words to say but words failed me, I was afraid and yet an unexplained emotion held me captive.
“my master is not here " I conceded , eyes boring into mine ,he smiled and whispered.
"i am not here for him, i am here for you." his long frame seemed to relax with the wind, eyes never leaving mine , he slowly made his way towards me.
"i don't even know your name" was what i could mutter . He stopped and i swear a shadow came over my abode , "joe" he whispered his voice like sweet honey on my skin , when he reached for me i did not resist, i stopped thinking when his lips touched mine and so it begun like a drunk obsessed with drink i sought his every touch, he would call out to me in my sleep and i would heed his call walking into the night, he made love to me on the leaves, on the bed, by the stream every day i felt my soul slipping into dark territories but i could not stop. I would not stop.
That night as he tore into me he whispered "would you die for this" and i screamed "yes" exploding into a million pieces as i climaxed underneath him. That was how they found me, half naked, exhausted with a smile on my lips and no lover in sight, the humans came for me.
"witch" they called out, the men with their lamp stands , "you come into the forest every night to sleep with the spirits" i said nothing, i was beyond their salvation, they dragged me half naked through the village and taunted me with names i cared not about , the only thought that crossed my mind was where is joe? Was he a man or was he a spirit, would he abandon me to the rope of the hang man.
The crowd was unruly , for nights they had heard a maiden making ungodly noises in the forests and sought me out in fear, finding me half naked after the throes of love making with no lover in sight they had made up their mind. I was the curse that plagued them at night , i had broken tradition by coupling with the gods i was an anomaly that should be removed, i stood condemned to die in fear wondering if they were right, wondering if truly i had been bewitched by the dark eyes of a ghost as i sought him out with my eyes "where is joe"
They repeated questions they had asked me since they found me "confess your sins and be saved " and i stood frightened, who would believe me , what would i say? That i had fallen for the charms of a light skinned stranger who had disappeared, that i would gladly die to be in his arms one last time.
So before the hangman put the cloth around my neck they asked me to say my last words and i said "you tell joe thank you for showing me how to love before i meet my maker" and then i saw him, towering over the crowd he came for me, still hooded, still mysterious and no one could dare lift a finger, he took me into his arms and whispered in my ears "I've come for you, the pain you knew you would know no more."
And so she died the quiet maiden with a smile on her lips before her strength had left, Human or Witch we knew not what she was but her last words were JOE.