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THE PAUPER’S SHOULDER by Hannatu Adamu

‘Tis the beginning; ‘tis the end
I am a child; a pauper
But the whole world is on my shoulder

As I awake at dawn
Having had little sleep, I begin to yawn
My body is already aching, anticipating the day’s ordeals

Ignoring the summons of my empty stomach
I hold on to our simple farm tools: a hoe, a machete
I lumber behind my father and we reach the farm in a hurry

The farm is small
The soil is hard, brown, and unproductive; the crops are dull
I wonder when Father will realize it’s futile to keep trying

Of course, if we had the money,
And the means,
The farm could be made to meet our needs

Suddenly, I look at my two feet and hands:
Rough, calloused, like the sands
That my bare feet trample and my young hands tend

I am later left behind in the scrubs
To find and bring home pieces of firewood
To be used for cooking the day’s food

My shoeless feet feel heavy
A thousand steps have made them weary
My raggedy clothes are no match for the harmattan winds

With my dry, cracked lips
I try to sing some song
My miserable life doth teach me to long

But my growling, grumbling stomach from time to time, warns
And incites me to concentrate, thus it turns
Me back to the task at hand, to hurry to ensure lunch

Of course I never ate breakfast
And although lunch is meager and quite
Innutritious, I must hurry and hawk, to ensure supper tonight

Wandering through town
I see others in cars, houses and schools: I look down
Will these ever be a part of my life?

As I return with the proceeds of the day’s sales: a few food items,
I begin to daydream of delicious meals and flashy cars,
Of beautiful clothes and educated minds, and my heart lifts to the stars

On getting home, my old-looking young mother
Smiles a welcoming smile, but I’d say she needn’t bother
Hiding her sufferings—our sufferings— behind that façade

She is also pregnant for the nth child
Which makes our situation worse
I ponder our life and ask: are we under a curse?

And even as I sleep, in my dreams, through my smiles
I see me running and running, while my Utopia ahead seems miles
Away, moving farther and farther from me, till it fades away

I wake up suddenly and still
I am a child; a pauper
The whole world is on my shoulder and it feels improper

THE PAUPER’S SHOULDER by Hannatu Adamu

THE PAUPER’S SHOULDER by Hannatu Adamu

Author: Hannatu Adamu

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