New Work


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The Ol’ Mas have said that unless the lion learns to tell his own story, the hunter will always be glorified.Moussa was a gentle lion that lived in Eugor forest long ago. Long ago, long ago when the women still pounded the face of the river like drums when they bathed. Moussa went to the river frequently to watch the women, drank from it and laid underneath the sun to the insuperable music. The women crowded around Moussa, resting on her soft fur. They healed her when she was sick, they told her stories when the sun went down.

The women no longer bathe in that river. They no longer pound that epic drum because they are gone. They were stolen by the hunters while Moussa slept, the birds had said, and taken to a land faraway to be slaves. The birds had also mentioned that some had been killed, and Moussa was saddened that she was not able to save them.

One night as the sun fell into the ground and the moon took its place, Moussa wandered in the dark until a stream met her ears.  Moussa approached the sound until light stampeded through trees in the distance.  When she reached the light below an opening of trees, a thin stream flowed through rocks and separated the moon’s reflection into long white ribbons in the orbit.

Moussa went to the water and drank. A frog, waiting on a rock above the stream for signs of something sweet to treat his tongue, bellowed loudly until a night fly drew near.  Four owls watched from the boughs of nearby trees. They were vexed with the frog for hummocking their sleep during the day; and shouted loudly to the night flies and other insects of the wood that the greedy frog and his tongue waited at the stream for them to pass.

While Moussa eavesdropped the night’s sighs in confidence, the croak of the frog became deeper and deeper.“The hunters them here,” the frog croaked. “The hunter men them here.”Before Moussa could run away, a sharp arrow pierced through her back. She fell in and out of consciousness, barely remembering when the hunter tied her arms and legs together and tied her to a stick, still bleeding from the deep wound. When she woke up, the hunter stood before the Judges and told the story of how Moussa the lion had savagely attacked him in the night—how she had tried to maul his face and bite him in the rib, and would have killed him if he did not shoot. Appalled by Moussa’s behavior and terrified of the young lion, They gave the hunter permission to kill Moussa and use her bones and soft fur for goods. And what could Moussa do? How could she defend herself when she was nearly dead, and all of her storytellers had been killed?

The women have returned to the river where long ago, long ago, they beat its face like drums. The women now live in the shanties with arsenic colored shades and yawning doors, where weeds move at a snail’s pace to make homes in the seams of their walls. The women are playing, and the river is beating Moussa’s story.We hope she resurrects, we hope she resurrects. We hope she resurrects from this music, which we make near the shore where the enemy drew her name in the sand.

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The single most important thing in the building of my character and perspective has been rejection. Success is visible and that’s what’s celebrated, but for every time something has worked in my favor, there were at least 3 times I was told no. I read a blog from a publisher who shared that women resubmit work far less than men. When we hear no we are more likely to internalize it, hide or give up on our dreams altogether. We then construct alternative dreams more accessible to us, or fill preassigned gender roles as a means of blending in; the normative route is perfect camouflage. But what to do then with those leftover aspirations? Learning how to process rejection, learning how to navigate criticism, learning that every no, whether from a job, or life path, or man, or friend, or city, is a unique lesson in building, has empowered me. Teaching our nieces and daughters how to have a relationship with “no” is what’ll shift the patriarchy. Rejection does not make me any less of a woman. It is sharpening me. Making us better.

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