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Awuor Onguru

Nairobi, Kenya

International School of Kenya



December’s wet afternoon beats blindly onto golden rapier grass
as the wind blows gently into my grandmother’s wrapper
which inflates like a summer balloon:                          gentle air filling up on all sides

lifting slowly , begging to take flight                          if this were another day

she would acknowledge it       that same wind that taught her to pick the best corn

to smile at the prettiest birds

 now she furrows her lips        as she turns the millet onto its sides

feet making patterns               in new-born seed

stalks tossed              in      round, warm, light                             headscarf falls beyond     neck

to hide              beads of sweat from wandering eyes       supple breasts bounce       gently in

tandem with the beat of work-dance:                       the step of  breath and the rhythm of feet

a secret drumbeat forms,this:      her military reaping and surely         nothing can evade

             a woman of the sun    not       worms that slither in- between the branches or

              cats that  stalk in sultry silence.           waiting for meal or help   or   hand

a single mayfly lands on the yellow-clothed back: ignored                 she works in silence, this

her praise and worship            she is turning, turning, the day away stopping  for

 nothing in the religion of  the heat                 the shuffle,of the feet                the taming ,of the

wheat: land
that she has worked for decades                     bows down in quiet submission           the birds

cry out

 in song                          joyous...


Every time I start to think that a poem needs to be sweeping and profound in order to be well-written, I stumble across a poem like this one, where the beauty lies in its simplicity. This one paints a vivid image of the speaker’s grandmother and her “work-dance.” How it focuses on just the grandmother, and the wheat, and the “secret rum beat” that forms from her movements. It is breathtaking to experience this quiet moment with the speaker, and watch as the land “bows down in quiet submission” to the grandmother’s work-weathered hands.


Awuor Onguru is from Nairobi, Kenya, where she is also a rising Senior year (Class of 2020) at the International School of Kenya. Awuor enjoys viewing her work most through her mother’s WhatsApp broadcasts. Her favorite pastimes include writing, cooking and thinking about cooking. You can visit her at

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