Mother’s Touch

In the village compound
which was cleanly swept and tidy
a compound not easily accessible by road
a group of old women sat huddled together.
Sticks and pipes jutted out of their mouths
which occasionally moved in unison.
A sigh here and a look to the sky up here.
Some sat with their chins in their palms
a look of sadness about them
They spoke.

This is the time that I should be
with my sons and their wives
With my daughters, and their husbands.
My children should be looking after me now
After all the blood, sweat and tears
that I have shed for many days and nights
in their time of illness
their time of pain, their time of sorrow.

I felt pain when they were born
but it was such sweet pain
when I looked into the faces
of the new life that I had borne
I felt joy when they were growing up
and happiness when they became adults
I felt pain when they left home
to set up their new lives
but joy when they came to visit
sitting and laughing
while they enjoyed their mother’s cooking
I felt pain when
they were going through difficulties
but joy when they overcame their hurdles.

Now I sit alone
Some stranger, a so called prophet
in the name of religion
Put their struggles and problems on my head
“Your mother is a witch, she wants to destroy you”
Just because I am old, a widow, helpless and defenceless
Just because my poverty and suffering is drawn on my face
I am the scourge of my village.
Would I destroy my life?
Life that came out of me?
I may have lost my youth but not my mind

Now I don’t see my children
I don’t know some of my grandchildren
My husband’s family don’t remember me.
There is a pain that never goes
It just stays there in the heart, in the womb
And gradually eats away at life itself
Oh the pain.

When I die it will be too late
for anyone to say “I am sorry”
But I continue to love my children
I continue to feel them in my arms
I continue to see their laughter and joy
I continue to live for the day
when I would be called “Maame” again
Aye! The pain”.

Old men don’t get called witches
They just marry younger women and continue with life
What is it that women do wrong in their lives?
Maybe they love and care too much
Maybe they sacrifice too much and feel too much

One day, someone somewhere will weep
because they can no longer
get back that mother’s touch
that mother’s love, that mother’s smile
Oh the pain.

***

Link to the Italian translation

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