Aya ~ Carl Terver


I learnt that a mother that breastfeeds

wakes the compound at dawn with smoke from the kitchen hut

before the first cock’s crow


I learnt that you should never plant a seed yam

with its anus facing where the sun rises


And not to wrestle fingers for the meat in the soup

When eating with an elder.


But those were the days when Aya was around



Our daughters have wandered from the homestead.

The compound is unkempt and weed infested.

The younglings are a-crying

We see, no more, early morning smoke from the kitchen hut


When the suitors come

Who will they find?

I shall tell them,

‘Our goats too are beautiful’


When we need thatch for our roofs,

The young men say spear grass bruises their palms;

For our fence, they say, the bamboo forest is too far.


When I lament, they call me names.

But who is to blame?

The teachers of our traditions, too, have strayed.


I know Aya would have agreed with me.

But Aya is no longer around.


Author’s note

Aya is the name for the eldest woman in an extended family among the Tiv people of Nigeria.


Carl Terver, b. ’91, loves to listen to Bob Marley’s Who The Cap Fits. He likes the good use of commas. A fan of Adam Gopnik’s writings, he is an in-house writer and asst. Digital Editor at Praxis Magazine. He uses his pastime to play Chess Time online.

Photo Credit: Photo by Ian Macharia on Unsplash

One thought on “Aya ~ Carl Terver

  1. A lot has happened since the epiphany of imperialism; it is no longer news. We have left our cultures forlon to ingratiate ourselves with the lush goodies of civilisation. Real treagedy is not when a man dies, but when he loses his true identity while still alive.
    There is a dire need to return to our roots. There is.
    Beautiful one, Carl.


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