Senegal: a Love Story

This is a poem I wrote upon my return from spending half of the 2016–17 school year in Senegal.


I loved the warm night breeze of you

your call into the night while I walked to the boutique

your cool water cleaning off sweat as I showered under the stars

your warm eyes as I greeted you every morning

Asked how you slept

how your family is doing

your rattling and dust seeped into my bones as I saw more of you

it felt as thought I might never leave you

And when it came time to say goodbye

my heart went into shock

When I realized that I was no longer in a place

Where your goats roam the street along side me

Where you invited me to lunch before you knew me

Where you taught me that language is love and that talking to you I would find my voice

Where you showed me who I am time and time again and I walked with you knowing who I wanted to be

Where you told me the story of you

Of how you grew up with different problems than I did

On the other side of the ocean of culture and language and religion and history

You stood welcoming me with warm food and a big laugh, an appreciation to whatever phrase of your language I would try to borrow

No prying questions but when I spoke to you

We tore down the bricks

One

By

One

Of the walls we thought separated our worlds

Of course someday I will return to your

crunchy rice

and drinking hot tea with you while cool ocean breezes touch all

no discrimination in what you gave me

Even though you were constantly reminding me I was different

With your voice

Your eyes

Your open hands asking for “cadeau”

How I have loved you made me proud of who you taught me to be

How you loved me made me feel whole, a human who has created a journey for herself and in doing so discovered love

Of constant sweating

Of sitting around laying on the mattress looking up at the sky

Of learning to count while you taught me how to listen

Of learning to cook while you taught me how to laugh with no inhibition

Leaving self consciousness behind on the side of the road baking in the sun

I felt free with you

And I felt myself

I think you will always exist in my heart and no matter how many times I return it will never be the same

You were my first love

Growing and feeling love for myself while I felt love for you

how I grew to be myself