Posted in Poetry

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