photography by Julia Zolotova, via


Team one

I am learning to make my legs a game,
A ball of memories rolls under my feet;
There are ruffled papers, I can’t read English;
I am trying to read folktales from mother’s lips;
One story says only magicians can read lips,
I start to think my sister is magic.

The horizon has swallowed the sun but darkness is on leave,
I am trying to gather some in my palm because it is good for hide and seek
It’s too heavy and my hands can’t own all of it.
Grasping is owning, holding is possession;
There is a lot we have to learn from men
Like chasing women on the way to the well, and grasping them.

Team two

It’s black again, the world
Mother is gathering the sand that once held father
I look around, is it true that we are from sand?
Mother becomes a path and I walk through her
To places that held me and her, Pubungu/Bahel Gazel/Sudan,
Maybe we just existed, the white man always paints our eyes with lies.

Our neighbor has a child, he’s new like Christmas clothes
She laughs at my curiosity, I think she picked the child from sand;
The little one is not like us; his hands are pink and has the skin of the mzungu.
Me and Oyela are not allowed to touch his shawl, our skins are dirty,
I think they are scared that we will make him black
Or take him to the stream, our gods love white sacrifices.

The Sunday school teacher says mother lied,
She must be white too…
Maybe white is no longer the skin.

Charlotte Akello is a Ugandan poet and writer. Her two poems were featured in 2017 FEMRITE anthology Wondering and Wandering of Hearts. Her haiku was also shortlisted for the 2017 Babishai Haiku Award. She was featured in the writivism@5 anthology Odokonyero and her story was the title story. She has also been featured in Writer’s Space Africa and was recently among the top ten Briggite Poirson Poetry contest. She is currently a medical student at Makerere University.

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