This poem by Arinze Ifeakandu is longlisted for BN Poetry Award.


I used to like the quiet in this place
Both of us
Seated under the mango tree
Sipping our tea in paper cups
Mum used to come and check on us
—Don’t climb up the mango tree, she said
But after she left you sprinted up
Agile as a monkey
And climbed branch after branch
The sunlight bathing you in the finest gold
And between us the scent of rotting mangoes
I was the fearful little one
Who watched with longing from below
As, balanced on a sturdy branch, you stared down at me
And smiled—You see? You see?
And then, clambering down, we stood side by side
Watching the sunset turn all bloody red

We have grown up too quickly
And I have traveled the world
Tokyo, Japan
Accra, Ghana
America, Everywhere
I have returned to this place
Where the silence now gnaws like rats’ teeth
Gentle-gentle, coolly-coolly
Between us, distance like scented mangoes
Mum’s grave white and marble
Behind the shrubs
Where once we lay side by side
And tasted the fading tea on each other’s tongue
Hands lingering at certain places
Your breath on my neck like warm-water air—
In Memory of a Loving Mother
—Memory like a frozen smile on a fading picture
Like childhood music at Sunday School
La lala
I look up and the flowers are budding between green leafs
Two paper cups lie buried in sand and twigs
I squat to pick them up
But I pick only dust.

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