“Bathing in Lake Victoria” by Ngwatilo Mawiyoo #PoetryMonth

Ngwatilo Mawiyoo is a Kenyan poet.  She was shortlisted for the 2015 Brunel University African Poetry Prize.  Her poetry has appeared in many journals.  She has published two collections of poetry:  Dagoretti Corner and Blue Mothertongue.   Enjoy.


I learn that my body is not for sex
when I stand in that lake’s shallows,
soap in hand, beside another woman.

I follow her lead, how she stands knee deep
so the current won’t get in the way of her scrubbing,
the gleam she demands of her machine.

She doesn’t care what I see, and I am grateful,
but not cured. I walk farther in to hide
myself in the water, so the birds and mangroves
don’t see me lift my shirt to scrub.
I tell myself to ignore the danger I’ve learned is
dormant on exposed skin, activated
by sunlight, by wind on loose cotton,
made nuclear when a man’s eye
rests on it.
—— by Ngwatilo Mawiyoo