No Madonna and Child could touch
that picture of a mother’s tenderness
for a son she soon would have to forget.
The air was heavy with odours
of diarrhoea of unwashed children
with washed-out ribs and dried-up
bottoms struggling in laboured
steps behind blown empty bellies. Most
mother’s there had long ceased
to care but not this one; she held
a ghost smile between her teeth
and in her eyes the ghost of a mother’s
pride as she combed the rust-coloured
hair left on his skull and then_
singing in her eyes – began carefully
to part it . . . In another life this
would have been a little daily
act of no consequence before his
breakfast and school; now she
did it like putting flowers
on a tiny grave.
This is a poem about the evils of war. It uses a piteous picture of emanciating children starving and suffering during a war. While most mother have lost hope and stopped caring for their wards, this particular mother caught the poet’s attention with her matchless unwavering tenderness for her son. This expression of affection is perhaps futile since she soon would have to forget the child. The Poem is not sentimental as the poet writes with caution.
Achebe was known as Africa’s leading novelist. This poem was taken from ” Johnson et al, New Poetry from Africa, 1996″.
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