(For Igirigi Ututu)
By Nnorom Azuonye
Mama, at the very moment you passed away,
I was at The Minstrel’s wake, reading ‘A Ceramic Life’
- a poem he had written for his own friend, Chukwudi
who like Chidi, your son, my brother, had walked
the world to dark, young, in an automobile accident.
I did not know it then that the cord of life
that bound us together as two living beings
was being seared out of me by unseen hands;
I burnt up inside for close to an hour.
I thought I was dying as I drank, one cold drink
after another, to cool my insides.
Mother, I didn’t know I was combusting inside
because you were dying in Port Harcourt.
At five minutes to two in the morning
of the 12th of June, I stepped into my home.
My wife’s face, normally beautiful, looked
like the middle of night defaced
by a mischievous graffiti rascal.
‘Has my mother died?’
Like a zombie, I waltzed into the kitchen
and I put on the kettle. Two minutes later,
I was lost in the warm arms of coffee.
In my heart, I hummed a song:
Nnem ejejie la uwa chi o.
Igirigi ututu ejejie la uwa chi o.
Na Port Harcourt.
‘Feel something, Nnorom. Say something.
Mourn your mother.’
The truth, Igirigi Ututu, was I did not know
what would have been right:
To mourn you, I had to accept that you had died.
Done. Gone. Expired.
Passed away like an un-eternal song.
Or to celebrate you, to open my mind
to the endlessness and wonders of our existences,
and sing you – the eternal song, morning dew
now forever dew that neither sunshine nor end
of earthly life could dry, corrupt, or dissipate.
This is how I shall forever remember you,
the way you were in life; cool, comforting,
soothing, loving, forgiving, inspiring.
That very day, I chose to celebrate you.
I even bragged on Facebook
that I had succeeded not to cry,
that I was off to buy dancing shoes
to thank the Almighty for your long life
and for the great privilege of being your son.
Five days after you passed away
I suddenly understood the content of the news:
I would never see you alive or hear your voice again
in this lifetime. The weight of passing’s finality
landed on my heart like a heavyweight punch
and I wept. I wept and wept and wept
until I felt a presence that might have been you;
calming, reassuring, peaceful like morning dew.
Then I bought those dancing shoes.
London. July 15th, 2010