He sits and counts the days and the hours
mama has been away to the market
for seven market weeks now
and they all say that this market she went to
is located in some very far away place
and he tells himself that he will ask her
why she did not wake him the morning she left
to go to this far market to say good bye
He had woken up to learn she left for the market very early
at that time of day when the dew still holds back the lizard’s tail
and slows down their running,
at that time of day when night spirits
are hurrying back to their abodes
before their sworn enemy the sun catches
them out and abroad
and so he waits and asks
“when will mama return from the market
other children’s mothers come back and go again
and I sit, waiting for mine, mine who will not come back
mama, when will you return from this market”
And he wished she would come back
prayed to Chineke and his personal chi
to hasten her return
so that he could tell her
how everybody had been so nice to him lately
and how papa no longer scolded him
how nda Uzoemena had come and taken
him to mama’s maternal village four days
after mama had gone to the market
and he had stayed two days
he would tell her of all the woman who hugged him
all saying Nwam-oo
and the nice meals they all competed to cook and bring for him
and Nne, his grandmother who held and hugged him,
and the hushed whispers of the women when he was there
and how he thought Nne cried the day he arrived
and how when he asked why
she was said it was from joy of seeing him,
him, son of her only daughter Nwabuaku
He would tell her when she came back
that once or twice in the night
he heard papa sobbing
when papa thought he was asleep
and he smiled as
he imagined how mama would then tease papa,
papa who always said men do not cry
yes, there was a lot he would tell her
how nda Nneka now came over to cook for papa and him
in the evenings and would stay to chat with them afterwards
how her onubu soup tasted more bitter than hers
and how he had resisted the first time she tried to bathe him
a boy of four was a man he prpoudly told her
and needed his privacy
he would tell how he overheard nda Uchechi and nda Onyemauche
discussing the other day
and one of them, he couldn’t remember which one of them,
saying that papa
would need another woman to look after the house, and how
they said Auntie Chimaoge would be perfect for the role
and he wondered why, but he would ask mama
and he knew she would smile softly and shyly and explain
as she always does
and he still sits and waits, missing her with each day that passess
not knowing when she will come back,
very sure she would come home
but telling himself that he would not tell her any of these stories
until she had given him the ripe udala, the akara and yes, the utara ukwa
she would have bought for him from the market,
and then he would hug her and hold her
and ask her to never ever leave him lonely for this long again .
21 thoughts on “A long song for the boy who waits”
Thats really very emotional.. very nice!
Yes, agreed! Amazing write!
Thanks, My brother!
Ah, this breaks my heart. Beautifully done, gorgeously said, incredibly sad–you will make me cry this morning (evening/night for you).
Yes, Susan, It is sad. when such separations do occur, the standard story is to tell the very young children that mama is away to the market and will come back soon. Often I sit and wonder whether it would not be better to simply announce the death and the finality of the separation! Really don’t know!
I don’t know how much is understood–I told my son that grandma had gone to heaven, and he said, “When she comes back, can we get her some ice cream?” I think children learn separations like this by living them, as the boy in the poem does–whether the truth is told, or they are told someone is at the market. Either way, the loved person does not walk through the door again. You so eloquently describe this first lesson in loss–again, beautiful!
Mmmmm! most touching. Well written and pregnant with meaning!
You have an amazing gift!
Stunning voice. Really captures confused emotion from bereft child’s point of view. Poetry is most difficult medium for me to enjoy usually but this touching message will stick in my mind for all the right reasons. Regards // Seyi
Thanks, Seyi! God bless.
I really don’t know what to say that won’t sound like I simply copied and pasted my comments on your other poems that I have seen? They are all so brilliant. This is a little bit different from your usual style but just as engaging, Uncle, you are truly gifted…I am in awe of a mind that can come up with the kind of poems you write. Truly beautiful. Though the subject of the poem is sad, I like the poem. I particularly like that it is told with the voice of a four year old boy and the innocence of that age…It is a beautiful poem and I honestly believe it could win an award.
O se gan, Akorede, omo mi dara! Thanks for your very kind comments!
Daddy,this is a great piece of work. Brings some sort of memories back. The innocence of children.
Yes, it does!
A great one. You not only made me feel him, you equally made me “see” him.
imela, ezigbo nwannam Emma! ana lee?
Noel the paradox of the culture whether African(as in gone to the market) or Western(as in gone to heaven)is lucidly exposed in this poem.The whole idea of telling lies(albeit benign)to children when they lose a loved one is to shield the child from agony of the truth thereby reducing the pain also of the Liar.The poem clearly reveals that this age-old stye only produces both relief(hope) and pain(hopeless) for the child and ultimately the lying adult.
Perhaps telling the truth right away would be a better course to follow but who would have the heart to say to a 3 year old girl that Daddy will never be seen again soon after the death of a father.Who? And so I guess the lie about market and heaven will be with us for a long, long time to come.
Well- crafted poem.
Vicki nnem, you are very kind with your comments. Your reflections on how best to break the news in such situations as well as the implications of the choices we make when handling such issues are so spot on! Imela.