The Jackal Who Prepares You For Marriage Everyone pretends not to notice the way Big Uncle says your name.

Everyone pretends
not notice the way big uncle
says your name
slow and deliberate
like a song
he takes his time to
pronounce every vowel
not even your father does that
who says it like he is
ashamed he named
you after a prayer
he does not believe in anymore

No one apparently notices the way
big uncle touches your knees
when he passes you by
or how he caresses your shoulder
pushing the flesh into your body
like the way a window closes
after a thief has managed
to escape

It’s harmless
your cousins say
and besides don’t act like
you don’t like the gifts
the money he gives you

It’s innocent
your aunt laughs
when you complain
throwing her head back
revealing the rotting molars
at the back of her mouth
we have all gone through it
even your mother.

Okay then why does your mouth dry up
like the rivers in May
when he is around
why do the hair on the back of your neck
stand up when he looks at you
what is that gut wrenching feeling
in the pits of your stomach
that refuse to cease
when he finds you alone in a room.

He buys you sweet things and a
sewing kit for your dolls
and jokes about making you
his wife one day
the adults all laugh
even though there is a twenty year gap
between you and his last born

When you turn thirteen
big uncle’s visits become more frequent
he brings your parents things
game meat from hunting
harvest from his farm
jewellery for your mother
a walking cane and
a smoking pipe
for your grandfather
new shoes for your father
and talcum powder
for your grandmother.

When he catches you
still playing with your little cousins
he stops and asks why you are still
playing with dolls
when you are almost a woman
he presses his wet mouth into yours
and rubs the bones of your breast
when he knows someone isn’t looking
when you push away
he laughs
his eyes like a jackal
he is the one preparing you
for your husband

He says your parents have
already agreed
they have accepted his gifts
and anyways this how things have always been done
even your own mother has gone through this
who are you to question tradition?

Veripuami Nandee Kangumine is a Namibian poet and writer. Her poems explore nostalgia and the multiple identities in which it manifests itself. In 2021 she was named by Isele Magazine as one of the young African Poets to watch. Her work also appears in My Heart In Your Hands: Poems From Namibia (UNAM Press, 2020) and Doek! Literary Magazine. She is a fellow of the Narrating Namibia, Narrating Africa Doek Emerging Writers Program.

Cover Image: Engin Akyurt on Unsplash.