conversations with mother

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Nigerian poet Chisom Irechukwu shares her series of writing inspired by sisterhood, through poems of feminine notability. 

"My poetry is inspired by women, whether it be conversations with my mother who is a widow with a fearlessness I crave to own, or my grandmother who tells me stories of how her father used her as collateral to marry more wives in his crazed quest for a son or me and my friends, women born in a world where we want the 'D' and men finally have a word for women with questions. And yes, I am proud to be a feminist."

1. Conversations With Mother

I am my mother's daughter
My mother is earth
And fire
My mother is the firmness of breasts
My mother is the softness of breasts

She learnt from her mother
To be woman
She learnt from death
To be man
She learnt from life 
That there is no difference

On some days 
My mother questions what life 
Has taught her
On those days
She will say to me
"No man will make a wife out of you"
"You are too loud, too proud"

On those days
I look at her
Moonshine and tired feet
I want to tell her
"I learnt all I know from you"
"To be woman"
"To be man"
"To know that there is no difference"
"To question all that I am taught"
"I am You"

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2. Mother says she writes him a letter. Everyday. We just sit there, holding our breaths, willing her not to cry again. Mother has hurricanes inside of her you see, we should know, we have all seen it, felt what it is to be swallowed by the tempest she keeps hidden behind her smile.

Uloma says mother must have been a geisha. Must have danced her way into the hearts of strangers, of men who whispered prayers under the frenzied rhythm of hands and skin, burnt incense at her feet until they became little sand dunes. Men who worshipped her like holy, like church but never became priest. 

Ebere says mother must have been a nomad. Been the Visitor, the Traveller. Must have made scrapbooks of the men she had been with, how each of them were so different. How none of them felt like home enough to make her stay.

Mother says she met him on a plane to China. Says he looked at her like she was more than breasts and porcelain skin and long legs. More than the sum of her parts. She looks at her hands often and I wonder how many times he held them, how many times her fingers had traced patterns on his skin. I want to ask her about the postcards, about how he smelled, smiled.

Mother closes her eyes, lets out a sigh. And we just sit there, like I imagine he did. Holding his breath, wanting to do everything so she'd never cry again. I imagine he drowned in the tempest, not like the others who turned and ran when the water got to their knees.  No, not this one. I imagine him swimming against the tide.

Mother looks down at us. Smiles. Her face looks like the heavens waking up after a hailstorm. What do you give a woman with a sinkhole for a smile? I imagine his limp body floating in the sea of my mother's soul.

(image via tumblr)
3. For Us Girls

My love
they say you are gunpowder
that your smile is a dwelling place for all your lonely
that you do not let anyone stay
Like you were made to be house
or hospital 
or something other than you

You do not fight or question it
how they say that you are a soul with many cigarette burns 
many marks left by men with ordinary faces. 
But what do we do to men 
who have known the most intimate parts of us 
and yet call our names like we are strangers?

And how did you become this woman?
filled with such maddening wanderlust 
always traveling between bodies
planting flowers but never staying long enough to watch them grow.

Some have said you are like the ocean
gracefully swallowing things in your wake.
Said there is no space for home here
no chance,no way 
I know they must have told you
I'm sure you must have heard. 
How you let yourself into hearts.
Like spaces, open doors.
Like cups craving to be filled
And how you am saltwater
Fluid, nimble, stockings-clad vixen. 

On humid nights
I imagine you away at sea
imagine your toes
each one of them with a bit of grime
a bit of land from where you have been.

But baby didn't anyone ever beg you to stay? Didn't they tell you that there is nothing more beautiful than you? 
Nothing more silver, more gold.


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