There was no air
Every time we rose above the tide
They shoved us back into the dark water

They shook, shook, shook
And tightened the lid
The rules
The regulations
The law

Wearing ankle length socks
Underneath your floor length skirt
Having long or plaited hair
Underneath your veil
If you reached class late
When the boys were already there
Because you had not completed peeling
Your bucket of matooke
If you talked to a boy
You not him
Would receive your due

It was a stick as thick as a three strand rope
It bounced not broke when it hit a surface

If you talked during prep
If you wore earrings during movie time
If your academic average went down
If your teacher had a bad day

It was the wush and slap of that whip
Whirling through the air with inhuman force
Like a felled tree
Landing on your bum

You leaned onto one side
Then the other
Just for a few seconds
Because both bums
Were burning like raw pepper
First red
And then striped
Blue and black
Like a concussion

Have you ever seen stars twinkling in the darkness
In the middle of the day
For a brief moment

Hot pepper on raw skin
Once, twice, thrice, four times, more
“If you touch i add you”…

And the boys’ dormitory kept catching fire
“The boys’ dorm is burning!”
We chuckled
It was the only entertainment we had

Still they bottled us and shook and shook
For morality
For religion
For discipline

Yet we heard, that with one hand they instilled morality
And with the other hand they stole the innocence of our friends
Men with power
Young girls in uniforms
They did it for morality
For discipline

The boys’ dorm is burning!
We danced
As the orange flames
Snaked through the foam mattresses
Ignored the food-less metallic suitcases
And broke the windows

The fire brigade came
We were disappointed
Our fun would be extinguished
They pulled out their hoses
But they had no water
We danced

Like mad men and women
We danced with the fire
As it rose and fell
And we hoped it would burn again!
Again and again!
So we could pop and breathe again
Like a shaken Coke out of its bottle

And I know now
That if I had landed on the match box
I would have lit it myself.