4: Wind—Three Sorrows (lyrics)

We till the ground. We fetch the water. We gather wood.
We plant seedlings. We grow vegetables. We harvest fruits.
We churn the milk. We load the mules. We go to market.
We carry groceries. We plumb the wells. We knead the dough.
We mill the grain. We cook the meals. We compost scraps.
We scrub the pots. We wash the dishes. We clean the toilets.
We sweep the floors. We wring the clothes. We air the linens.
We fold the sheets. We mend the seams. We weave the baskets.
We tweeze the wire. We do this. We do that.

We birth the baby.  We breastfeed the infant. We teach the first word.
We sing for the child. We braid the hair. We pinch the cheek.
We hug and we kiss. We manage the household. We pay the bills.
We knit the family. We calm the rages. We salve the wounds.
We nurse the sick. We attend the dying. We mourn the dead.
All day, all night.

We lament for our sons. We long for those who died in war.
We cry for those who are held in prison.
We reach for the heavens and plea for mercy.
We chain our arms, stand in silence without food.
We lift our voices, speak our minds, blink away tears.
We hold our ground, confront power, demand the truth.
We resist: the hand on our thigh, our throat, over our mouth.
We persist against your threats, your scorn, your guns.
We insist on a heart that is open.
We want to be heard. We want justice.

[Maathai]: “The government decided enough was enough. When the government descended on us, in that moment of desperation, women stripped stark naked, and shook their breasts. In the African tradition, every woman who is about your mother’s age, is also your mother—and you must treat her with the same respect. If  men beat women, it is like sons violating their mothers, and the mothers respond by cursing them. And they curse them by showing them their nakedness.”

We are mothers. We are daughters. We are sisters.
We are wives. We are widows. We are mistresses.
We are what you desired us to be.

“Be ladylike. Be charming. Be caring. Be affectionate. Be obedient.
Don’t act too smart. Don’t have an opinion. Don’t age. Stay young forever . . .
And smile.”

Three Sorrows of Women, our grandmothers called it.
The day of circumcision, the night of our wedding, and the birth of a baby.

“Do not mess with this body.”

This is us, this is our body.
This is where you came from, where it all began.

We will not be broken. We will not be silenced.
We will not stop till we are heard.
We will remain unbowed.

“Do not mess with this body.”

Take everything we have. Rain down your blows.
Rile up the crowd. Pour hate upon us.
We will remain unbowed.