Musings of a Toubab

Allie McKinney - Senegal


October 2, 2013

It’s been an interesting month so far in Senegal, and while I am excited to share some thoughts and feelings with y’all, I find myself struggling to articulate just how this experience has affected me. So instead of a traditional blog post, I thought I would share two poems I have written while in Dakar. Rough and raw, these poems are the best examples of the complex, confusing, beautiful feelings I’ve been coping with.

For Maman:

It is by the words of her native tongue  – thick as the millet she pounds, firm as the roots of the tree that shades her – that I rise,

Piercing the virgin morning air it rouses the sheep and calls the rooster to begin the day,

It is what breathed life into the sky, blew clouds into existence, formed Neem trees and produced children to rest under them,

Her’s is the sticky heat of the sun, the sweet bissap that dribbles down the chin, the ticki ticki tak, ticki tak of the djembe,

All of this, teranga, the heartbeat of Senegal, she balances, carries, effortlessly atop her brightly wrapped head, her boubou trailing behind her as she walks.

 

How Do I feel?

It comes in waves,

in sudden downpours that catch your breath in your chest,

it comes in a soft whisper, barely audible to the untrained ear,

it comes like none of these, all of these, dragging you down deep,

drowning you,

until right before you begin to let go, to stop fighting back,

And then all at once it releases you from its depths,

and surges you upwards until gravity no longer exists

and you float,

As quickly as you are brought up you are brought down, to neutral ground,

and you are walking the streets of Dakar, baby Fatou in tow, cooing in your ears,

knowing at any moment you could be submerged once more,

so you hurry home

before Fatou will witness.

 

 

Allie McKinney