Their Stories

By Ngwatilo Mawiyoo

The one with no husband, the one who has had three,
the one with HIV, the one who was married at fourteen.
The one who weaves sisal baskets, the one who is the thatch
of her community. The safari boot and jeans
millionaire, the merciful one who gives all her money
to the poor. The one who speaks no English, the one
who speaks Swahili like rain seeping into parched red dirt.
The Arab Kenyan whose otherness wins her elections,
the CBO director and mother whose tribe we know
from the words she cannot say, the other one we place
on a map of Kenya by the jewelry she wears. The women
we cannot classify and those we think do not fit
among our 42. Both the one who went to university
and remains unremarkable, and the thoughtful one
who did not make it past KCPE. The one who commands
our attention every time she speaks and the one we do not mean
to ignore, but do. Their stories can fill the pages of books
so harrowing and instructive, rife with sin,
forgiveness and joy that we will refuse to read their lives
as non-fiction, as joined to our own.

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