Posted in Poetry

The long mile

She walks with slow dignity

Feet as lead, soul as stone

auto-pilot, behind him on this long last mile

a dark strangling walk, unfitting end to a journey

that had commenced with songs and stars

a mother’s heart frozen cold, numb

as sorrow scorches and freezes her

all at once  her to the core

of her being


No tears flow now

“He would not want me to cry in the public

Even though this mile I walk behind and with him

should be his to walk for me”


she dreads the end

the sight of another mother opening to receive and enfold him

the sound as shovelled in loose earth

draws the blinds forever


the tumbling sands drown her prayers

for the father’s bosom

to welcome this pilgrim

who returned too early


and as she  prayed

the welled up tears, push down the barriers

of soul destroying composure

and cascade, the heaving sobs and wails from

a shattered mother

shattering the solemn calm of a painful goodbye



Development and policy analyst with a strong interest in the arts and inclusive social change. Dabbles occasionally into poetry and literary criticism!

21 thoughts on “The long mile

  1. Noel, this is stunningly beautiful and overwhelmingly sad. The poem is so well woven together, tight and heartbreaking. These particular images made me catch my breath, they were so beautiful, and heavy with sadness:

    she dreads the end
    the sight of another mother opening to receive and enfold him
    the sound as shovelled in loose earth
    draws the blinds forever

    & the last stanza is so powerful it blew me away. I do think you meant soul destroying?

    Anyone who has seen a mother burying a child knows this poem rings with terrible truth and beauty.

    1. The mood of this poem is heavy and full of reverse reality. The old remain while the young die. God forbid unripe harvests. May the woman find comfort.

    1. The “Feet as lead, soul as stone autopilot,” image will stay with me–that deafening numbness.

      As for the typo–as I was typing my response, and typed soul, I also typed sould. How odd is that? D is nowhere near the L. What would Dr. Freud have said about that?

  2. For a moment I thought Christopher Okigbo has reincarnated in an Naze man.just same style,leading you to more than one interpretation,each appearing obvious.On the whole it is didactic but very, very sobering.

  3. I want to say I love it but “loving it” would be so inappropriate. It’s so moving really and it’s baffling how you always empathise so well with the women folk. I love the “mother” and “father” references. The mother earth opening up is so..I don’t know…oxymoronic? Trenchant that a mother (earth) can take with love ( another mother opening to receive and enfold him) and leave the other mother so devastated. Meanwhile, how does she have so much faith still in that Father who is to welcome him? Faith amidst so much pain? So so so moving. So complex, the idea of love, faith, belief, wrenching away, devastation, going to a seemingly better place but leaving your mother so broken….I love it, I dare say!

    1. It is a sad poem and one who captures I hope all the wrenching pain I feel when seeing a mother and/or a fathers acting brave at the burial of their child and then breaking down! painful!

  4. Your previous poems(2) put me on same plain…”sobered me down the plains of sadness and reason…where the taste of the tear is a joy…”
    …found traces of Garrod, Okwubunka, and of course Egibro….. More please.

  5. He would not want me to cry in the public

    Even though this mile I walk behind and with him

    should be his to walk for me

    that was really emotional for me as this slowly unveiled…the sound of the dirt falling on the casket…and a mother letting go a child…i can think of few things as hard….heavy piece…

  6. Deep heavy and sorrowful. A parent shouldn’t outlive a child – though millions on millions have and it never lessens the pain. Poignantly penned.

  7. As a 6 yr old girl,I cldn’t bear 2 watch my mum grieve over the death of my baby brother.I ran away & hid behind a tree for hours.It didn’t really make much sense 2 me then.But the fact that my mum was in anguish & pple whisperin & talkin in hushed tones was too much 4 me.As a mother,I’ve always asked God 2 spare me the experience,yet several parents have experienced it even more than once.No matter hw many times it happens death is one fact of life we can never get used 2.

    1. It is a very painful experience – I saw my late father break down literally under the sheer weight of anguish when I lost a younger sister to child birth> One of the very few occasions when I saw him cry in public. My late mum was shattered. The baby survived the delivery and is now a 300 level undergrad!

  8. this is so sad…and the emotions are so stark that one would know the poet has partaken of them…
    to lose a child is one of the greatest tragedies in life….

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