Posts Tagged 'child mortality'

For the Sun Child

By Noel Ihebuzor

 

Inert the child lies,

bathed in blood,

still and silent,

 

the silence of the ward

broken by the mother’s aching sobs

exhausted,

 

long labour had drained her,

almost turning her blood blue,

till eventually the blade

 brought relief and pain,

 

baby was curled, drained

 cord twisted and twined

around a narrow neck,

life slowly choked by the connection

that had linked them

and nourished,

 

the emptying evening drags

as she sits and sobs

imagining how this life

she had known in kicks and movements

would have looked

had the cord that nourished

not also extinguished

pondering this mystery of failed procreation

where lives are twined forever,

scars remain after departures,

 

sadness slowly strangling her soul,

like a cord, the pains of an empty womb

 now more acute

as her soul bleeds

above and below the lines of suture.

 

****For the SunChild who lost her baby, and who felt that the sun had gone out! Be strong, Tashie, Ndo!

 

Conoco

By Noel Ihebuzor

 

The small aircraft drifted down the scantily clad almost naked desert skies

The noise of engines banging at our aching eyes

It bumped as the hot desert winds punched and pushed its under belly

And then a thud and furious rush as we hit the stone and dust infested dirt strip of a run way

Stones and rocks and pebbles and dust rose and flew

 as if in protest behind us as we taxied

 and then the aircraft came to rest on this harsh, hard and sullen sterile desert

located in the middle of nowhere

 

Six four wheel drives stood at odds with the desert terrain….

and soon we commenced the drive to nearest town from Conoco, Garowe

 

Driving into town in an assorted and mixed convoy of aid workers, armed guards and security personnel

We passed malnourished shrubs

valiantly brandishing their thorny bristles

 and sharp ends and keeping away sheep, goats and camel predators

in this intriguing fight for life in this arid,

thirsty, empty and sterile place where much life has flown

 

We passed a young shepherd boy angrily checking and herding his stubborn flock

brandishing a stick and controlling sheep, camels and restless goats.

 

We drove along a dirt road carved on the dry desert land

A road framed in a sterile, yawning and gaping desperate desert

We drove on a flat terrain cooked and roasted slowly by a heartless  sun

Past waterless heaps of sand and stones, and dunes

In this place that screamed want and waste.

 

Soon we came across a fallen camel in its final sleep

its huge carcass still as it lay where it had fallen in its last and lost struggle

for life in this place of death

Its still and silent form still sang its last heroic but futile fight for life

As its parched throat, empty stomach and weakened body eventually emptied her body

 and it yielded up its soul to the empty desert sky.

 

Even from the distance of time and space, I felt I sensed her last tear of pain and shame

as the harsh dry desert slowly and inexorably desiccated her body, spirit and soul.

 

The sun with the passage of time had roasted her flesh,

the harsh storms, the night winds, the eternally shifting sharp sands, stones,

the smaller inhabitants of this stony place,

all of these had stripped her flesh almost bare

baring her huge bones and her huge rib cage

leaving her white bones standing there,

exposed, whitened and bleached by the sun, by the stars

 

Two hundred metres further down the road as we hurried to Garowe,

we passed yet another whitened and whitening carcass,

still in death, arresting and strident by its presence and size….

and yet another, a kilometer further

 

Who will shed a tear for these fallen camels, who but their bereaved owners?

who will weep for the fallen ships of the desert,

drowned in heaps of hot and harsh desert sands?

Will any one remember them as they sleep in this empty space,

as they lie still and stilled in this place of want and waste?

Who will wail for these lost souls

when the ears of men and women have become deaf and numb

by the din of greed, stunted by the seduction of ambition

their consciences stiffened by the creed of greed, grab and material incontinence?

 

Who will bury these white bones whose presence troubles me so?

who will remove them from the eyes of my heart?

who will bury these huge white bones and many other white bones of waste and want that lie scattered in empty spaces and places?

 

The carcasses of waste and destruction sleep cheap in this place as in many others

where the creed is greed, greed the creed and thus fecund in death, stones and sterility.

 

The silenced souls and the fixed white bones speak loudly to me

bring moisture to my tired eyes

their awkward and precocious eternal sleeps gnaw

 raw and savagely at the edges of my fragile conscience

and thaw tears frozen in the back of my skull.

 

They remind me of the dimming and dimmed voices of the weak

The hardly heard and often drowned voices of the frail and feeble

And the eternally ignored gestures of children and women struggling for life and air and some place in the light of life.

 

In their grotesque sleep of life and death, I see also the early sleep of children,

the pains and tears of harmless children who are harmed by the harshness of the strong

the agonies and empty deaths of all children who fall to the whims of the wicked

And the wicked who stand on the graves of the fallen

 

The sleeping camels conjure in my mind

future spectacles of soon to be enacted sleeps of the innocent

who will lie still in this place and other places of sand and stone,

Their souls parched, their spirits broken, their weak limbs crushed,

their paltry belongings looted as they scamper and scatter

and stoop and cower in polythene and card board hovels on the first stage of their journey to eternal

but early sleep 

as silenced, they return to their silent creator

their frail frames framed in shallow and unmarked graves

 

****Written in Garowe in 2005 when I did humanitarain work in Puntland, Somalia

Circles and cycles

By Noel Ihebuzor

 

Eyes buried deep in hollow round sockets,

the sagging sack of bones speak for bodies

clothed in loose fitting tired plastic skin buckets

drooping like tired jute bags, brown, crumpling floppies

 

Buttocks shrivelled and feet

Swollen ungainly, dragging weeping frame around in now ending cycles

the circling flies, whirling after twirling running tummies meet

mums in panic, running around dazed in dizzying circles

holding on to and hoping, slowly hopes withering

yet stubbornly clutching to withered hopes, wilting and dithering 

 

Close by, on well manicured lawns, watered

tenderly by cycling swinging sprayers,

in circles of encircling and overflowing affluence

Pastors, prophets, politicians co-habit

preach, pray, praise, and pontificate

in voluminous waffle, clogging spaces with sterile volubility,

consciences clogged, hard hearts twisted,

greed terraced mindscapes and bodyscapes, carousing

in convoluted cavorting

 

Waste dances indecent

in the wining and dining,

want swells, ballooning

sweeping fragile frames and staggering souls

their mother whining,

along to painful grinding end points

 

a procession preceded by a small wooden box

announces the end of one cycle,

the prolongation of the circle,

the festering sore enlarges

speaking the language of a cycle of infamy

and a dooming narrowing circle

closing in on the undying hope of mothers with dying children

their throats and lives throttled by the plump hands

of greed, callous, grabbing and choking

Ogbanje III

By Noel Ihebuzor

Thick as moonless night, debilitating damp

was your grip on our minds, clammy,

our thoughts misty fogged, drugged by mystical myths,

sights clouded, we saw the horned dog,

eyes red chilli, schools of skull carrying

fish flying and whirling around,  transporting

red toothed ageless mermaids sucking young blood

and souls, never questioning

the cry of the night owl calling to mate

made mothers freeze, cowering in fear,

covering the feverish body of

sick children lest the hollow hooting of the owl

their mournful summons siphon their spirits out

mothers, fathers shivering, sweating

ignorance thick on them

like wet blankets, minds haunted

  

New day, new dawn, the frontiers of your kingdom

roll back by half every quarter

the native doctor’s beads and amulets

now gather damp and dust,

shallow short red earth covered mounds

sad resting places for souls spirited away

slowly vanishing with the roll of time

 

new wisdom, knowledge and vision replace

specious séances garbed in obscurity

progress breathes, heaves rolls forward in waves, freeing,

washing away ignorance,

shrinking superstition,

knowledge unrobes untruths and lies,

its rays piercing illuminates the dark kingdoms

where once you roamed, raged

 ragging souls and joy with your minions,

uncovering why children die

that for which we blame the gods recedes

memories of starless bleak nights and deadening days

when mothers and fathers drained by truncated childhood

now distant, your shuttles, abrupt wailings,

the dreaded terror of childhood

ended in infancy by feverish frequent returns

to spirit-land recede, the suckling mother gay

suckled by the sound of happy progressing infancy,

bonding and binding to a child who stays

 

Victory, we rejoice and regale,

cakes and candles

celebrate another passing year new and many more to come

 

But let us beware,

one victory signals another battle

new Ogbanjes could be spawned in the emerging

sterile and suffocating space

where politicians with sterile policies

men and women caged by greed

minds manacled and shackled by corruption

the grabbing hand, ending up throttling life and sucking it

in resources siphoned and stolen

our red eyes survey the empty and emptying clinics

the dying and decaying social provisions

the death of vision, and we weep     

beware also of  kindred new spirits that end childhood

lurking in sprouting new religions that reinvent

the power of witches and wizards

selling smoke, suspicion and superstition

to unsuspecting slumbering followers,

shallow bewitched, emasculated by fear, minds entrapped

 

The bank accounts of preachers, politicians, public servants swell 

as ranks of new ogbanjes now begin to emerge,

to swell in ever increasing shallow graves,

and the soul draining groans of parents in pain.

Haiku – Ogbanje II

Dead child mum’s heart shreds

her breasts, spirits sore at loss

soul dripping hot tears

Haiku – Ogbanje I

Poor child trapped on trips

without end across the ghost

land of  life and death

***The Ogbanje is a spirit child – also known as Abiku

Mother and child

At term, he took Ugonma in,

the taxi had rattled, creaked, bounced

and chugged on the dirt road, all the way

to the maternity

 

A midwife, looking fazed in her faded uniform

walked Ugonma

feet and lips swollen,

screaming in pain, water breaking,

into the labour room

every dragging step slow,

laboured  and painful

 

A wait long and weighty like eternity,

and then a delivery attendant,

her face the picture of nonchalance,

eventually shuffled out of the labour room

to thrust roughly  into his trembling hands

a list of  items required

for the delivery.

 

 

The Okada rider, his machine idling,

spotted Obi as he hurried out from the maternity

signing and screaming

“chemist shop”, yes, “chemist”

the rider on sensing his desperation

doubled his fare, cursing the country,

swerving and swearing as he rode.

.

Places and people flew by and past on that mad rush

to the chemist shop, an airless suffocating place

running over in dirt and disorder

where a a dishevelled male plied a messy trade.

 

Items purchased,

Obi rushed back to the maternity,

straining his ears, lips moving in silent prayers

his hands trembling,

items handed over with haste

the attendant checking with  indifference and

troubling sluggishness, and then shuffling back

into the delivery room with the items.

Obi waited outside, counting the minutes,

the seconds as long as hours and twice as slow ,

his heart pounding,

fatherhood within reach at last ,

after seven heavy years of wearying waiting

 

Totally immersed in imagining what must be going on inside,

waiting for the beautiful moment, oblivious to everything else

vaguely aware of when his mother and Ugonma’s mum arrived

and how they both laughed at his fretting and fidgeting

assuring him that all will be well

saying that “God never sleeps”

 

 

He saw the midwife as she came out,

her apron all blood and stains

saw her signal the two women to follow her

and now alone, he dreaded his loneliness

soon he thought he heard a wail

that came from the soul, the wail of one broken

They brought the baby to show him,

looking so small,  fragile and delicate

and when he asked after Ugonma

Her mum,  her voice brave, but broken by pain

yet tinged with pride said

“Ugonma has left this world, “uwa nsi”, she spat out

“a woman at last,

to the shame of those gossiping tongues

who had chattered that she was a “male””

God gives and God takes, she said

and when Obi said “why, Ogom nwanyi, why”, she replied

“a man can never wrestle with his god, his personal chi

nor challenge the decision of God”

His groan was deep and heart rending

his voice saying slowly, chilled  numb

“This death cannot be a decision of God,

we wrong God when we blame Him for our failures

as humans”

 

“Chim, sudden total darkness has fallen on my life at high noon,

a driving torrential downpour has caught me in the middle of nowhere,

blinding me, my path has now become a thicket of dense inpenetrable prickly shrubs”

 

he cried and sang, inconsolable, lost and broken

His mum laid her hands on him and said slowly

“a woman who can do this,

who can abandon a new born at the moment of birth

must be an “Ogbanje””

and his look of pain, rage and disgust froze her.

 

He called the baby Chiwetalu (Brought by God)

and at night when Chiwetalu screamed from hunger

when Chiwetalu cried,

troubled by gripe and colic from formula milk

his heart bled, he cried and held her

and rememered Ugonma and still asked her why

even though his age mates had warned him not to,

had advised him to reject any advances from her

if she walked into his dreams from the land of dead

They had advised him to wear two tight underwears to bed

as she may return to seduce him

and then tear off his manhood

since they all knew how much she loved him in life.

 

In Obi’s mother’s village,

an unmarried teenage girl had lost her  baby

to fever and diarrhoea

one month after delivery,

 

a girl lost,  Nwadiuto

who had now lost virtually everything

– her baby

– her innocence in a moment of madness,

– her schooling as she was expelled from school

once her pregnancy was noticed

– and the support of parents

who had thrown her out for disgracing them.

 

Her mother’s village proved to be her sanctuary

there they welcomed her, kind aunts helped her

manage her shame and the pains of pregnancy

 

Her mother frequently visited her there

whenever she thought her dad was not looking

(her tough and puritan dad saw all,

looked the other way, said nothing,

but silently thanked God that she did)

 

Now her chest full of grief and still sore from her loss

her breasts full, swollen and tender,

her life emptied of meaning and attachment

she agreed to nurse and breast feed Chiwetalu,

this life so fragile, so trusting

 

The hungry ruby lips needed some coaching and guiding

flesh and rubber feel and smell differently

but soon the hungry lips tugged and sucked at nipples

engorged, tender, touching her,

awakening her and flooding

her with images of her own child

who now sleeps forever

 

and Nwadiuto cries for him,

for a father he never knew and would never know

a man whose heat she had felt

but not his love nor his affection

regretting their brief interaction,

rushed and unfulfilling for her

 

She laments this and her loss

laments her parents

who further lost her

when they threw her out

when she felt most lost and needed them most

and occasionally when Chiwetalu cried from hunger

she would also think of his mother

that the hungry earth had claimed and swallowed

 

 

And from a distance,

heart still broken, but filled with gratitude to Nwadiuto,

Obi watches these two lives and surveys his

united by loss, by losses that could have been avoided

 

And he ponders how one life had in coming

taken another life,

how another young life had flown

emptied the life of a teenage mum

but leaving her full sorrow and milk

how that milk now bonded

two lives and a third

and His tears never cease to flow

from a mixture of missing, thanking and wishing.

 

*****First raw and rough cut of a song  that invaded me in its inchoate form, begging to trapped on paper. MMR and IMR are my targets here – and I now agree that overt didactism ruins creative writing. This shambolic song is one good example. OK, I pack it here for now and will come back to retouch it later, hopefully. Noel


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