‘They’re mutilating little girls’ breasts in Cameroon to “protect them” from Boko Haram.’
Phillip Obaji Jr.
My mother takes in ironing, women’s work,
feeding her ever-growing family.
Neighbours bring thin bundles to our tin shack,
sweet-scented sweater-soft girls, breasts swelling,
creasing their outsized blazers, school blouses.
I cannot look. While they’re playing, squatting
in the bustling backyard, catching beetles
under cracked coconut shells, I’m listening
to laughter and lamentations, shop-talk
barters, over coffee drunk from chipped cups.
Bargains struck, their mothers leave, playtime stops –
beside hot cooking pots and smoothing-rocks –
Mama irons soft breasts back into girls’ ribs
to walk our unsafe world unmolested.