Mother's Touch - Mariska Taylor-Darko

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 there.
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 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 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 defenseless,
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,
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,
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.
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