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Good Mothers Stay Home, Good Fathers Pay

LONGLISTED – POETRY JOURNAL 2024

My mother’s hand is a heavy tool, soft when she caresses my hair,
Sturdy when she scolds my indolence.
She looms yarn from crude cotton balls –
Separating & straightening strands whilst weaving & knitting fabrics –
Synchronously with her sonorous melodies.
When she peels cassava, she does so with dexterity,
seemingly showy, yet efficient.
She makes me think the skills of being a mother are intensive and specialised.
My mother carries raw flames with her bare palm to ignite a fire.

The delicate impressions of motherhood I had in my childhood formed a cloud
And followed me like insects hovering over nectar.
So, I made an ink from it and painted motherhood with it –
A portrait of my mother in farming attire –
And concealed it in a mind bag which I carry around like a hunchback.
Only opening it to assess a lady. I search for my mother in the women I love.
Who makes a good mother without sturdy hands that soften only upon her child’s hair?

My mother will cuss at my father when our fees are delayed.
Keeping the home is keeping her ends.
To my young mind, women who stayed home were the only good mothers.
Soon, I learned that Chima reveres his mum for her 9-5 that sees him through school.
I would think that my mother’s speed in threshing corn crowns her.
It was a comparison haunting my head like a billiard ball bouncing on a sloppy surface.
Chima’s mother or mine? It seemed my mother had lost.
It poured acid down my throat.

Mother did not hate biscuits as she made us believe,
She hated that she could not provide them as often as we asked.
Mother did not enjoy pestering Father to pay our fees,
That was the only way she could get them paid.
Mother was no standard.

I broke into the mind bag where I hung my portrait of motherhood,
Erased that image of my mother on farming rags,
And repainted it with the picture our family took on Christmas Day,
A day she couldn’t buy us the wafer we asked for,
But she was there with us, and our faces were bright.
That is what I now carry around as my symbol of motherhood –

Presence.

Henry Chukwuma

Chukwuma Henry Onyekachi is a Nigerian pharmacist and poet. His works have been published by/coming up in Brittle Paper, ReadWrite Strategies’ Workplace Anthology, SHIFT, Providus Bank Writing Café Anthology, PIN, Rice and elsewhere.

PJ2024 Longlist
1. Blood Ties
2. Born Again
3. Entreaty
4. Good Mothers Stay Home, Good Fathers Pay
5. Pain Is A Place
6. Postpartum Depression in Men
7. Prayers
8. Premonition
9. The Hood
10. What Came Out as a Poem

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