AZUIKE | The strength of your back

One of your fears is that you will grow up to be your mother, that her beauty- the movement and pride of it, has long been encased in your bones.

As a child you see your mother’s back


How life has taught her bones to be stubborn

One of your fears is that you will grow up to be your mother, that Her loudness- all her ehs, and ohs, her chinekes and her chi, has been stitched on your tongue.

But it is also one of your greatest fortunes: to be born by your mother, to live by your mother, to become your mother. That your mother lives inside of you, that the choruses she sings will be heard by your daughters from your mouth, with your mother’s voice.

You carry a suitcase as you journey. What you do not know is that it is of your mother, and whenever you stop in pain, whenever you stop to dance, whenever the business of living gets too tiring, you stop to unpack your mother.

You find the smell of her, and you remember when your whole face disappeared into her breasts; when you were a little girl and did not know you were turning into your mother.

That you were packing up your mother for moments like this,
That your mother is the ocean you can carry

You think of her first, as lightning
and then as thunder
and then sun
but you realize she is not one, not three,
that she is the whole and source of it all, that she is the earth in woman’s form

You have seen your mother in worship, her rumpled face in communication, the sharp edges of her nchafu as she jerks, as she demands from God, her chi, only to give back to you.

You have seen the brokenness of her, the smashing, the pestle hitting against mortar,
you witnessed the scattering of seeds
the harvest and rottening

her back bent into the labor


you have seen beauty silently find its way back home to the silent curves of her body.

Now, there is a knitting of times,
the past is tumbling into the future.
It is coming to you suddenly, in the form of a surprise: this is your mother speaking to you, your mother is your chi, she is communicating in sighs, in the tongue of men and cries of babies

She is the sound when your lips smacks, the breath and width of them red as you beautify yourself, as you prepare to resemble her

She is the hands finding their ways through your body, leaving fine scents of cocoa against your back

Your back
The spaces between your fingers
Your prominent forehead
The sides of your thighs
Your back

She is hands leaving you with the strength in which you carry your family, each of your children, from your womb, to the cradle or your arms, to the back of your spine.

Your back


So whenever you find that you are your mother, you will hold yourself with your hands, tightly,

Spread straight your back,


Your strength,

Then you will give into the miracle of the moment…

and exhale.

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