you would love these women.
Maybe not at first,
maybe not all at once,
but oh, you would love them.
They would speak to your heart
the things you wouldn’t say
Like “maybe I should have left my husband.”
Maybe I should have loved myself enough
To say, out loud, because it is important:
“I married a wonderful man,
but the wonder didn’t last.”
They would celebrate you
and hug you out of the dark places
where you hid your doubts about a faithful God
Your questions about a faithless man
Your prayers for your straying children
Your tears at four a.m
and five a.m
and eleven p.m
They would tell you
“ah, mama, you look amazing today!”
Or, “take that trip, mama,
it will teach you what deserving is.”
You deserve – peace in the home you built
with your own two hands
The joy of your grandchildrens’ laughter
A good husband
Or at least, a better one than
the wonderful man you married
loved, fed, clothed – stayed with.
I have questions, ma’ami.
Why did you stay?
Did you not have sisters
to hold you as you shocked yourself with your own tears?
Did no one tell you;
this is where you can go
When none of the children pouring off the playground
because your husband has stolen them?
Where were your sisters
to teach you how
you sweep up the dust,
throw out the trash
that a kicked-out man will leave?
I have so many questions, ma’ami.
There is so much I don’t know.
Why did they leave you alone?
These big-talking, prayer-hawking
women who claimed your strength
was enough excuse.
Where were they?
At this point:
wry laughter over longer hair
from cracked skull and month-long hospital stay.
office-opening in Central Business District
and ‘Head-of-Firm’ on the door.
Did they love you at all?
Who did they think was holding your hand?
I have things I want to tell you, ma’ami.
Do you recognise the woman I’m becoming?
I would hold your hand now.
Do you see how your granddaughter laughs?
She will ask me about you
And I will hug her and tell her
at first, easy things, like
how I saw your face
In these women, in this place.
How it made me wish you were still here,
so I could be the one who finally told you:
You have to be more than a good woman, ma’ami
You have to be a selfish woman
and this is how…
This work was developed during the African Women’s Development Fund and Femrite African Women Creative Non-Fiction Writing Workshop in Uganda, July 2014.