Okra

Two women sit under a thatched roof 
supported by rafters
coarse wood brown
smiling and chatting together
Chickens scratch at the edge of their shelter
a bold shiny colourful rooster
a big shiny black hen

Their surroundings are a circular patch
dry dusty earth red
small mud brick dwellings
define a perimeter orange
The late autumn day is lit by a cold sun of
clean blue light

One woman sits above the other higher
she is perched
Her long thin legs hang over a shallow edge
a rug covered platform
She is the older in a thick faded purple
dress a pullover yellow
is topped with a scarf white around her neck
Her head is swaddled in a woollen wrap crimson
it frames a face sun
lit, weathered and aged by decades of labour

Spaces such as this
fields such as she can choose
to see at anytime
will forever be green and brown
She gazes pensively across
open communal space
She ponders her past with pleasure and regret
she speaks of things new
old, deep and trivial
Her arthritic hands clasped in a lap
of gratitude flesh
Her battered Nike sneakers peek out from
the long layers of fabric above grey and yellow
her face is calm
Her future as it will be

The younger sits cross legged
a woven mat under her strung tan
Together cultivating lines of okra
drying under sheltering eaves ragged
shadows of indigo host
hangings vertically in bright green
coloured lengths
unclasped necklaces ornaments
of metres adorn the space with a decorative
interior that creates a sense
coming festivity
The drying shed colours the day, the place
it’s people making
according to the crop
a pride of place for transient
prettiness and implications
security, work well done

Here for generations other
younger women have
sat for hours
days post harvest preparing
sustaining products of manual fieldwork
multi hued
for deep grey winter consumption
Her dress is brighter golds
magentas her hands are as yet
unaffected by the gnarly
growths destined by labour
She repeats centuries old weaving
patterns confidently efficiently unhurried
listening quietly thoughtfully respectfully

Tales of the past wash over her black and white
through her as water of life in delicate pastels
as hope as comfort
She knows here there are will be
still lessons to be gleaned
conversation the reflections of her elder
The younger a willing learner of
a quasi meditative state borne soft pink
by the methodical repetitious
nature of her work it is was as surely known
the best way for learning lessons
by the word of her people
successes and failures
myth legend
retelling that never ceases to inform
warm warn entertain and delight

There is comfort in the learning
a knowing that all the natural obstacles over
which there is little control life
will continue on on on
There is no question about how
time is to be spent
day by day this is dictated
by seasons culture necessity
green yellow brown grey

There is no concept of time ticking away
each day is known-quantity where
choice is limited but colour rich
life is sometimes unpredictable dangerous
set fluid simple
giving and taking with impunity
Time has no measure
life itself opaque

Two women commune as did
two before them
back it goes into the dark
blue of distance
where many women become every one
sitting together, stringing up green okra
another part of every year’s never ending
rainbow

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