Mother of Equiano - L.S. Mensah



I would howl, but my throat
Is a gravel bridge, worn
Weak, where the thunder
Broke its scapula.

Hear me, you gods of
Childbirth, before my cry,
Hard-edged as Gbawe stone, hurls
Itself over the edge of this dirge;

For the Atlantic complains: that
My grief graffities the seas
With acoustic smog, disturbs
The sleep of off-duty fishes.

So I hide my threnody
In the spear tips of grasses
And I settle for a sob.
Shame! Shame! On the Atlantic!

What day is today?
It is the day of childbirth.
But in the breast milk that sours,
I hear my children cry.

In the raw lick of harmattan fires,
Is their cry: “Mother, we're cold.”
Were I an alchemist, I would dig
Up their after-births,

I would breathe life into them,
I would water them with my tears,
I would keep vigil
Till they return.

No one knows the shape of grief
Until it acquires land in your throat,
Saying; “do what you will
Your forever begins today.”

And what day is today?
It is the day the snatch-and-carry
Carried off my children on the wings of salt.
Tell me saw-wing swallows,

Did they pass by?
Point out the ground they trod,
So I may collect and keep the dust
Till they return.

They must return; they only
Stepped out to play.
No one turns to ash.
I only went to farm that day.

Often the songs of saw-wing swallows
Populate my dreams; often in fragments --
They skim the surface of things --
They remind me of young

Water – brooks, streams,
Rivulets and such
Where once you played.
They remind me of you.

The saw-wing swallows lend
Me their voice-boxes, to call you
Out from across the Middle
Passage -- only the silence returns.

If you should return
And find me gone, know this:
I searched. I looked. Found not a fragment.
Of you.


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