Chokoza and Dead Things

Lydia Kasese

Tanzania

A man at work today said to me, “Umenichokoza”
Meaning: you have provoked me/
Meaning: You have offended me/
Meaning: my small breasts flailing around in my white halter neck top have aroused him.

The woman that sits alone across the room
By the water dispenser stops me and says,
“I have been staring at your nipples all day,
you have nice breasts,
they will never fall.”

The woman that sits on my right,
Says to the guy who sits across me:
“What’s the difference between your chest and hers?
I bet there are more guys in this room with bigger breasts than hers.”

In one version of my life,
I am full chested,
My bones do not creak or rust
Under the pressure to be perfect,
Because I already am.
I am the envy of all the women around me,
The men stare when I walk into a room.

In another version of my life,
I am skin cling wrapped around bones.
I am bony knees begging to be set free off their caps.
I am scoliosis infected spine.
I am struggling to love myself.

My grandmother says that there are a lot of uses for dead things:

Ashes are not always meant to be thrown out.
You cannot cook for your husband in a pot that has been stained by fire.
To undo this, go to the last place you lit a fire in your home,
Take the ashes and rub them against the pot, until it becomes clean.
Or until the tips of your fingers turn red and soft from apologizing.
You can still salvage your relationship.

Even though you like your hair up and far from your face,
You may need to let it down from time to time.
Once for your man,
Because it makes you look pretty.
Because it is the only part of yourself he can hold onto when he is fucking you.
Once for your father,
because what womanly woman walks around with her hair up?
Do you want men to confuse the length of your neck with pride?
And every once in awhile: for yourself,
For when the weight on top of your head gets too heavy,
You need something to hide your tears when with strangers and friends.




Lydia Kasese is a Guest Contributor to Panorama.