The Deer Hunt - Mariska Taylor-Darko

The night before the deer hunt
There was excitement in the house.
We stood upstairs looking down onto the courtyard
While men and women went in and out,
Sweat pouring off their brows.

This was my family house,
The meeting place where all the hunters came to prepare,
Fixing their hunting gear and choosing what to wear,
Where women came to cook and where the elders assembled
To perform their ancient rituals
Not written down in any book.

Sleep would elude us that night.
We sat up eating plantain and groundnuts,
White corn dough, hot pepper and shrimps
Slices of sugar cane pulled between our teeth,
Drinking cold minerals while the men had their beers
And something that made them spit.

Dawn was creeping in when the hunters assembled.
They gathered around in their hunting clothes
With sticks, guns, cutlasses, bows and arrows
Looking fierce and frightening
To a young child like me.

The noise and drums and shouts
And scraping of metal on the cement floor
Sent shivers up my spine.
Then suddenly they left,
Marching and shouting out of the yard,
The women standing behind.
Then silence!

A different kind of noise arose,
Women laughing, cooking, sweeping,
Children running around playing, shouting
Trying to get pieces of food when mothers were not looking.
Throughout their work they waited to hear
Did our men catch the elusive deer!

For us the children it was now one big party,
The smells going out into the yard made us
Lick our lips and act like scattered chicks,
Our mothers lashed out when we went near the food
With their sticks shaped like little whips,
But we had no fear the men were not here,
What could our mothers do when their hands were full
With pots and pans and other things too

Time was getting on and all were anxious,
The silence became like the calm before the storm.

A distant shout, the trampling of feet,
The drumming and shouting swept us off the ground.

The men came jogging with branches so green
The deer held high looked frightened with big eyes so brown.

Our colours raised high,
Our men danced full of life.
The women gave shouts in the yard:
We were first! We caught it first!
Good luck will be with us the next year!
We all rushed out and followed the crowd
To the chief’s palace to claim our reward

Now the festival gun was fired,
The hunt was over, the men looked tired.
But this was the beginning for us,
Our Company had won!
There were now so many festivities to be done
Throughout the day we were full of cheer
Going in and out of each others houses
While the men sat around and drank beer

We the children started to doze
As the night brought things to a close.
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