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.
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