Ehi-kowochio Ogwiji

The Design of Girlhood in my Village


Yesterday, Kalu gave his first daughter out

To a rich suitor. He left no kola nuts for his wife,

He ate everything, the way the bees take all the credits

For making honey, without acknowledging

The flowers who contributed nectar

Today, Kalu’s wife is shouting down

The village. Yelling at her second daughter:

What man would marry you,

If you don’t close your legs?

No man marries a loud woman,

Close your mouth! This is how

They tell girls to close this, and

Close that. Until the girls become

A closed door

Why is girlhood designed like

An internship program for marriage?

Why is the news of the arrival of a man’s

Fourth girl child passed quietly like an internal memo,

Written on the midwives’ lips

And signed by his wife’s sigh

I once asked:

Why can’t a girl inherit her father’s arrows?

They say: She has no quiver, that she might cry on them

Till they rust, that she does not even know how to hunt

Their answers angered me, maybe because anger

Is a force of inertia. It propels us towards change,

The type of change needed by a binary world,

Who sees only two colors; black and white,

And does not care about the shades of grey

Suffocating in the middle

Each time, I read the sign on a public restroom,

The reality of a unisex world

Becomes a quiet dream

Resting in the pouch of a girl,

In whose eyes, hides a starving rainbow