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Photo by Marco Galasso. Title: MBS coming 2012. Source: Flickr.

Mama says memories are wrappers –
She ties them.
She said memories are babies –
She’s had them.
I was her fourth ‘memory’ –
The one that came to her under the Niger bridge,
When a car with three men skidded off the rails
And the drowning men she came to rescue
Found her body too sexy.

Mama says memories are teardrops –
The ones that mingle with the rain,
The one she sheds like old skin
And bounces back to her prime
With artificial joy.
Memory grows like hairs betwixt her thighs,
And she spits them out nine months later.
Memories hide in a woman’s lungs,
Not as air, but as heavy teary sighs.

Mama says you don’t put memories in bottles,
Or little Arab kettles
And rub them up
And send them on errands
Like genies –
You carry them on your back
Till they can walk.
You give them their names when they begin to hear.
You teach them how to taste water
With their noses pushed against the jar.
You teach them life – as if you know it yourself.
You tell them life is water,
You tell them they can never hold it –
It’ll always trickle away.

Mama says memories are made in the nights
When a man makes a woman scream and her babies cry.
Mama says memories are prophecies –
They come when you don’t want to die.
Memories aren’t the green fields,
They’re the many animals which became manure so they could grow.
Memories aren’t the sunflowers,
They are the ants running back into their holes when the sun is up,
Because they’re scared of light and love,
Of having to die before reaching home.

Mama says memories are children –
All of us that she has borne.
Kunle was the one that came to her
The night her father first saw her thighs,
The night her innocence paved way
For a thousand hungry men.
Tunde was the house men built in her
When she fled to the unfinished building in her village.
Ajayi is the smell of heavy thunders,
Her fragile fruit – a reckless spillage.
Segun is the night Uncle gave her refuge;
He is a sleeping pill and a broken promise –
The thigh apart when the eyes are closed,
A forbidden pleasure in a quiet, lonely room.
I am Niger. Just Niger.
I am the boy the bridge christened.
I am water. Toxic water.
I am the memory she can’t but drink.

Mama says memories are many things to many people,
And many people to many things.
But the strong woman forgets
How she has cried to get them.
Mama says that the memories of an old woman
Is different from that of the young –
The young think they’ll become stronger the older they get,
The old know that a broken heart is no sign of strength.
Mama says she’s River. Just River.
The one that flows forward
Even when the road has reached the end.
The one that wouldn’t circle about the hill,
But moves on, gently, through the peak.

A memory is a woman.
A memory is a man.
Mama says memories are many things to many people,
Many people to many things.

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4 Responses to “Memories Mama Made | By Azu-Ume Emmanuel | Poetry” Subscribe

  1. AdaUgo 2017/04/19 at 16:46 #

    This is simply beautiful.

  2. king-isah 2017/04/24 at 04:28 #

    one word for this is “beautiful”
    am glad to have come across this beautiful piece.

  3. chikez 2017/06/03 at 18:51 #

    Beautiful

  4. Ndifreke George 2018/02/01 at 03:06 #

    This one caught me. Great piece.

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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