Tell the children

Poem by Khadija Tracey Heeger

Tell the children stories about themselves
so that their feet may root in the
palace of dreams fulfilled

give the children honesty
even when the texture of your word is
roughened by the toughness of the lessons,
so that when they grapple with life’s tensions
their foundations never crumble.

Let them run without the imprint of your fears
wafting slow barriers into their minds
and hindering their imaginations.

Talk about their bodies with an awe of naturalness
so that they never come to hide the beauty
of that first ache that springs so intensely
from their sexuality
so that they never mistake the beauty
of sex and orgasm for anything less.

Tell them stories of the gardeners of Africa
in the magic cotton fields of Burkina Faso,
Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, Senegal, Egypt, Mali, Benin

Seed their hearts in the coffee plantations of Congo, Ethiopia & Kenya
grow their feet in the sumptuous roots
of the Cassava of Angola & Mozambique

Cultivate their minds to the open arms
of the sorghum leaves
let them revel in the treasures of Alkebulan
her sugarcane & cocoa
her tea leaves & fruits
her groundnuts and seed oils
bananas & sweet potatoes

Talk to them about the wonders
of the great Kilimanjaro
the wells of Lake Malawi, the seas of the Sahara, the Amazon,
the bat caves and savannas
so they own the world in their souls
and keep it healthy for everyone.

Build them stories of skin and limb without adjectives like
black, white, coloured, albino, cripple, gay, straight, Muslim, Christian …
so that their minds savour the human being
and their eyes stay open for the things within.

Tell them every day the wonder and revelation of their birth
so they’ll always rest their heads on the better
side of doubt about their place here
even when the messiness of living stretches them

Give them these shoes,
the ones that Dorothy kept for home
only let them wear them on the inside
so that no matter where they go
home will always follow.