Suddenly, I became my mother
I could see the load she carried.
I felt it now, the shackles, bounds and
cage that kept her just the way she was,
crying and wanting more yet settling because
there was nothing she could do about it.
Most times, before the shoe fit my leg,
I was a little girl with dreams and ideals,
It was clear to all who met me.
“This child is going places”
Yet the shoe sat gloomily in the dusty corner of our one room,
cramped to full will clothes, odds and ends that met no use.
The shoes sat, watching and biding time when my feet will fit.
I think it was all a prank those times when I thought my time will be different,
a mere child’s play and wish.
Times have come and gone and I see that when Mama
is not awake to feed the family, the weight falls on me.
Why did I ever think mine will be different?
If I leave home it means nothing for me,
For one day I too will be hooked by a man
and carry tied across my chest a child whose nose weeps,
calling for the swift intervention of my lips to suck it dry.
I am seventeen and wiser than at fifteen,
the time when I smiled as Chima promised me the back side of a Jeep,
a flying helicopter– as if helicopters swim.
Now, I do not smile at such imperceptible nonsense,
all I seek is the practical outline of your life’s plan.
Tell me I say to the men “What plans do you have for your life?”
I try to see the future you speak of in your eyes.
At 24, my life they say draws near to death,
unmarried they say I am not fulfilling the role for which I was made.
I ask, the role of my mother?
Of provider, helper, keeper, protector and yet subservient?
Called untrustworthy and incapable of decision making?
I have come to detest this shoe that I wear,
from my father’s to my husband’s?
Maybe I will be better alone but this shoe has fitted around my leg,
sucks me in drowning me so that I cannot leave.
Let me find a better shoe, bigger to burn this that Mama has kept.
Maybe I can convince her to buy a new shoe,
to let go of the assumption that new things will kill.
New things I must say to her, is why we work, why we live,
why we see a bright sun.
I must bring her to the new mall in our hometown.
I must tell her to pick the girliest, finest and flashiest of things,
maybe that will tell me to chart a new course
to despise the old dusty shoe that watches me from the corner in our house.