Africa and Beyond
Our mother owned three big beaded gourds: one she would hit rhythmically against the soft pads of her palm, while wiggling her derriere and beaming with joy. She would glow, swinging her hips, and moving the sekere rhythmically to the beat.
Mother was always happy in church.
One she would shove angrily into my hands. I would watch in mock-awe as anger tries to snatch the veil of happiness she is wearing.
She would tear a split second of attention away from the ministering officer and stare at me with bemusedly. I believe she thinks me an oddity, since I can’t bask in the spiritual enthusiasm and awe these people are dancing in.
The last one she would keep on her chair with an invisible invitation to anyone who wanted to share in her rapturous bliss.
We knew -my brothers and I- not to touch mother’s sekere -as we all called it.
Sound swims round
poking and stretching
I find fulfilment in thinking my childhood to be a live performance. I would watch with objective interest as mother confronts father over her paranoid suspicions of a new lover, always.
A lover who I’d pictured to be faceless but with wide smiling lips; smiling lips because father smiles,he laughs loudly, his laughter would push the air and you would feel it tickle your insides making you laugh, yet mother rarely did, except she was in church.
Surely, he would want someone that laughed more like him.
pictures of love
hungover yesterday’s emotions
words we thought to say
sung like songs
played off key
We kept quiet; we had sworn an oath of silence with our eyes. We knew things. We knew the things daddy wasn’t proud of showing us. We kept tabs on daddy’s other life. It felt interesting. It was thrilling to know yet pretend not to know. The dual-naturedness of what we children could do.
We knew he loved us very much, so we loved him back by pretending not to know. We knew he had multiple affairs, we weren’t blind to his many many flaws, still we loved him, quietly, ignorantly. And we would wonder why mother was always so angry. Why couldn’t she be like us? Close her eyes to daddy’s faults.
Beaded gourd falls
its cry travels on the wind’s wing
not the shrill-like scream
of many twined beads
It sounded like mother’s feet.
I wonder what was worse for mother. Was it fifteen years invested into having children? Was it children who never understood what it meant for their mother to have her back against the wall? Was it fifteen years of marriage yet loneliness?Was it the unhappiness she lived in; days that poured into months that overflowed into years? What was worse? Because somehow we, her children could just never understand.
She had our consent when she left. We gave it for new reasons every passing day; because we were tired of the old song titled “I sacrificed my joy for my children”; because we knew she had been wronged but we didn’t know how to right the wrong; because we wanted her to understand that nothing was more important than her happiness; because everybody expected her to go on with her life as though nothing happened. Mother couldn’t, we understood -that is, on some days so we let her.
remember to forgive
memory is vomit
that crawls the throat
when one remembers to forget.
I wonder how we kept one life away from the other. I might swear that it was because he saw no wrong in what he did. Mother was wrong because “a wise woman builds her home”. But we knew he had a weakness that everybody else called a strength.
He was a lion who had the right to any lioness that belonged to his pride. People do it, people move on. Why couldn’t mother?
My brothers and I are different. We think. We know. We couldn’t speak. We never learnt how to.
Mother had had enough. She left.
mother was torn from us
we remained still in our bubble
carefully away from feeling
but we thought. We thought our feelings
I would love to know what it means to selfishly state my desires. What it means to throw a tantrum and demand that adults act their age while they let children be children.
I was stuck replaying acts in my head while age crept up on me, slowly. But too fast to catch up.
Her feet sounded
like a hundred thoughts
recited in the dark of the night.
While we looked on
in the murky waters of our thoughts
away from light
I wish we knew what to say and how to say it; maybe we would have told our father what a monster we sometimes thought he was, even though we loved him through it.
We might have been able to tell him that we couldn’t forget how much he hurt our mother because deep down we believe we let it happen.
But we could hear
the angry clatter of her
as it buried the petter-patter
of her footsteps.
We might have been able to tell our mother how scared we were for a woman who had the guts to step away from the cycle of unhappiness her marriage was.
We were safe in our thoughts
When we heard her leave.
I might have been able to speak of how brave I thought mother was; on some days that is, on the days I didn’t feel like I threw her off a crashing plane without a parachute.
We thought things that remained in our eyes, else the world would only my brothers and I knew what we thought.