Mothers and Daughters
Three poems by Khadra Nuh (Somalia/UK)
Young Mum, Young Daughter
Mum, you know I'm right
So just quit!
Don’t tell me to quit, girly,
And don’t talk to me with
That tone of yours!
Oh mum, there you go again!
This morning’s words
Ring irritably around my ear
And the thud of the door
That you left through
Reverberates in the depths of my mind.
I sit here, cup of tea in hand
Cloaked by hindsight
Asking myself why I had
Let it escalate,
Why I didn’t talk
And listen more,
Especially when all you want is to
And the expression on my face
Says I’d rather the air was sucked from beneath them −
Or worse, my words set out to clip them −
Your newly grown wings, that is.
I guess I was overtaken by the fear
That you’ll fly too far
And I’ll be here
You see, so much of me
Is defined by you
So forgive me when I overemphasize
I know that you are your own person,
A beautiful young Wa-wa-Woman,
There, I’ve said it now, though
You’ll always be my little girl.
Did I try to run before fully learning to walk?
Wading in to the waves of life too soon
Only to be pulled back by your
Roughened, toughened, life softened hands.
Did I insist that I knew it all?
Rolled naïve eyes in disdain
Told you all was assured
Only to have tears run down in torrents,
Left a patch on the shoulder of your blouse.
I guess I never paid attention to the fine lines
That mapped your own cheekbones;
If I had, I could have found the transcript
To my own mistakes there
Maybe even erased a few
Instead of adding to them.
But I was young
And you were older − also wiser
Though, I didn’t know it then.
You started with that word when I
Was really young, don't try to deny it,
mum, I can remember that far back you know:
"Wait a minute baby, it's too hot, it'll burn you"
"Absolutely not, it's far too late, off to bed now."
"Jemma's, you say? It's too far, your father will drop you."
"It's not that I don't like him, we just don’t know him,
He's too much of a mystery, you can't marry someone like that."
Yep mum, I think you’ve used that word
Too much over the years don’t you think!
There was a big grin on my face, sat at the kitchen table,
Thought I'd turned it too,
Mum stood at the sink, washing up.
She turned to me:
"That’s because I love you too much!"
It was the way she pulled the last bit, her tone.
My grin disappeared as I focused on the recollection −
Mum on the sofa, me on her lap, my arms wrapped around
"I love you too much!"
"I love you too pet."
She'd got that word from me
When I was three!