They were disliked on earth and forsaken among the clouds.
Mother, you haven’t sent me a single photograph
so I almost forgot what your face looks like.
You’ll cry, I know, I have caused you distress
but each trouble is just a tiny speck of blood
on a Sunday dress.
Life is a house on the side of the road,
old-world style, like our peasant house, divided into two parts.
In one, they wash the dead man’s body and weep.
In the other, they dress a bride.
Mother, I want you to have a dream in which I come
and sit in the part with more light.
You cry so much mother, you don’t stop sobbing.
I can’t see your face well, but faces don’t matter much,
Your hair, I still remember, smells of cornflowers.
They all want something from us and keep stirring
the anthill of the army, in which the country lies like a rotting fish.
I wrote to Andrew, a long soulful letter,
but didn’t get a reply, maybe I got the address wrong.
And before that Andrew wrote: how he remembers the taste of
the toffee that Dad used to bring from town, also the slippery ravine
behind our house. Peter, he wrote, if we ever return, it will be on
Mother was right — we should have remained fishermen.
Rain drums loudly, mud covers the front lines.
We march hopelessly along rivers and under the clouds.
I’m forgetting everything, as if memories were leaking out of me.
. . . Mother, does that girl Hafiya still sing in the church choir?