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A poem for Mother by Robin S Ngangom

Palem Apokpi, mother who gave birth to me,

to be a man how I hated leaving home

ten years ago. Now these hills

have grown on me.

But I’m still your painfully shy son

with a ravenous appetite,

the boy who lost many teeth after

emptying your larder. And

I am also your dreamy-eyed lad

who gave you difficult times

during his schooldays, romancing

every girl he wanted, even

when he still wore half-pants.

You told your children that

money and time do not grow on trees, and

I could never learn to keep up with them.

It isn’t that I’ve forgotten

what you’ve come to mean to me

though I abandoned much and left

so little of myself for others

to remember me.

I know how you work your fingers to the bone

as all mothers do, for unmarried sons,

ageing husband and liberated daughters-in-law.

Worried about us, for a long time

your lips couldn’t burgeon in a smile,

lines have furrowed your face and

first signs of snow are on your hair.

Today, as on every day you must have risen

with temple bells before cockcrow, swept

the floors and after the sacred bath

cooked for the remainder of us. I can see you

returning every dusk from the bazaar,

your head laden with baskets.

Must you end toiling forever?

I’m sorry Palem.

I’ve inherited nothing

of your stable ways or culinary skills.

Forgive me, for all your dreams

of peace during your remnant days

I turned out to be a small man

with small dreams, living a small life.

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