Was it for this

by Gill Learner

she’d carried the bulk of him, felt his kick
under her kanga, chewed her lip and thumped the wall
until he squawked in the hut’s dim light?

She’d trekked to the well half an hour each way
with his sweet head nodding against her back
and empty-bellied had heaped his plate so he grew tall.

He’d walked three miles to the mission school
and learned to write and read and count
and vowed to build them a house one day.

They’d sold the camel to pay the man
who promised a bus, a boat, a job
in a glittering city across the sea.

She’d striped every sunset in soot on the wall
for a year and three days in withering hope.
Then the Aid man came to stammer his news

of a boat ablaze near a northern land.
A few had swum but many had drowned
and Kibwe, he feared, was one.