Today, I will not bow (Together, WE Rise) – A Poem by Juliet Kego

I would like to ask that you open the Soundcloud link, close your eyes, imagine, and listen to the beautiful voice of Ms. Juliet as she guides you through the journey that is  “Today, I will not bow (Together, WE Rise)”.

Today, I will not bow (Together, WE Rise)

Today, I shall be born and my mother will not weep
when she beholds the folds between my thighs
and my father will not stare at her with accusing eyes.
Yes, today, papa will not hunch over,
and hiss out loud, brokenly; ‘It’s a girl!’
to the soft hum of my mother’s searing, silent cries
and his half-brother’s pitying glances and mocking sighs.
Today, he will proclaim to his kinsmen,
(hitting his hard warrior chest with pride)
that a first-born child is gifted to him,
a child who’ll inherit his history, cattle, and farmlands;
a girl-child who will be free to love and to learn,
the secrets of kings and the traditions
of his land, of red earth

Today, I am Queen, cherished and respected
I will not be bartered off to any willing, aging groom.
I refuse to be battered; stoned with cold rocks
and killed (in honour),
-by the callused hands of beloved brothers and uncles
on whose knees I once bounced with joy
in whose warm arms I was lovingly rocked

Today, I refuse to be sentenced to a life-prison,
that cold-room of resentment,
bitterness, gloom, and doom.
Today I will not bow,
to the voices telling me to hush stand still
and watch passively as my dreams
disintegrate and die before me.
I shall not live a sham version of life,
feeling fractured and broken.
Today, I will honour and nurture the seeds
of my daydreams and night dreams.
Today, I choose to bloom.

Today, I will not bow!
To the sounds of the bullets piercing my body,
because my spirit is still strong and unshaken
Today, I will not bow!
Not even when I am attacked and maligned
by lost souls, shackled by their own fears,
who turn my eyes away from the pages of life
afraid that I may discover new worlds and adventures
-of Achebe, Adichie, Tennyson, Tagore
-Marie Curie, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti
as I dare to find pieces of myself, in Whitman’s song of myself,
in citadels of learning, within the sacred halls and walls of life

Today, I will not bow
to the drums of the shriveled village medicine woman
as she leads the crazed dance, and at its feverish peak
they restrain me down and crudely hack off
the tingling bud of my maidenhead!
They cannot stomach the sensual powers of this woman-child.
How they fear the fires of desires hidden in my shapely hips.
And the heavenly bliss waiting in the un-suckled milk
of my beautiful, budding, bouncing breasts.
They seek to silence my tongue so that I shall not question
the ineptitude of the men who ride with no skill
and seek to strip me of the source
of my shattering deaths of life,
sentenced to an endless, aching waiting,
-that never comes.

Today, I will not bow
To the diseased, dirty, old village chiefs
My bridegroom? Stealers of my childhood,
who take me, a mere 13-year old, for a wife,
-a slave-child bearing another child.
Today, I will not bow
not in guilt and definitely not in shame to the cowards
(They, who call themselves soldiers of faith and religion),
who greedily plucked and sucked away all the fruits and juices
from my plush innocent gardens, even when I screamed ‘NO!’
leaving me there, by the dusty, dirty roadside, dead and dry.

There are many days yet ahead for bowing,
Many days gone past for crying
But not today
This is the day that I will not bow
Today, I rise for every woman-child
Ancestors gone before and the unborn, after me
I stand here, and hold sacred space in the gap.
And together, with my sisters’ spirit to guide me
I declare that we are all worthy
– Man, woman, and child!
Yes indeed, tomorrow is yet unknown,
And yesterday not yet forgotten
But today?
Today is NOT the day I bow!
Today, I cease to hide under the sweeping skirts
of my mother’s fears,
Ma-jestic; a free-spirited Gazelle
chained-down, to life’s choking barn,
a fierce Tigress, caged in; breathless
I choose now to awaken, run my race,
breathe and live my dreams instead.

Today, I shall stand tall on this stage of life
I AM; authentically me – W.O.M.A.N:
Wise-strong-weak, Opinionated-extraordinary-ordinary,
Ma-jestic, Allowing my truth flow forth,
embracing the Newness of all I co-create.
And when I’m done, I’ll gracefully take my bow.
Yesterday, I was nameless, faceless, dreamless, and voiceless.
And today? I am re-born anew by an a-ma-zing grace [(♪, ♫)]
I am Amina of Nigeria; I am Malala of Pakistan
I am Rawan of Yemen; I am Damini of India
I am Farkhunda of Afghanistan
I am a little girl lost in Chibok…
And today I shall not bow
Today, I invite you all and together, we ARISE!
© Juliet ‘Kego Ume-Onyido

Floetry by JulietKego |

© Juliet ‘Kego Ume-Onyido

Ore Adeyinka
Oreoluwa Adeyinka is a recent graduate from Georgia Southern University with a Masters of Public Health Environmental Health. Being a child of missionaries she was able to experience different cultures in different countries and that prompted her interest in the environment at a young age.