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by Bridget Boakye, at 10:03 am, March 13, 2018, Women

[Poetic Attack] ‘For My Mother in Her Mid-90s’ by forebearer Ama Ata Aidoo

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, it is important to celebrate women writers who paved the way for many of the contemporary writers we have featured in this series. One such woman is Ama Ata Aidoo. The decorated Ghanaian author, poet, playwright and academic was the first published African woman dramatist with her first play, The Dilemma of a Ghost, in 1964.

In her lyrically powerful poem, For My Mother in Her Mid-90s, Aidoo speaks to an observing reader about the complexity of her relationship with her mother, which is at once familiar, warm, and still highly revered. Although Aidoo calls her mom “Aunt” due to some long histories, further complicated by the impact of colonialism, she knows intimately that this is the woman who gave her life, writing, “who was I to live? Then she who bore me?”.

You can taste the depth of gratitude Aidoo has for having experienced such a long life with her mother, having herself become a mother who has her own complex relationship with her children. What a blessing this must be! Aidoo concludes by thanking her mother deeply, alluding to the fact that she carries the name of her mother on the tip of her tongue, bringing her in conversation private and public.

Check out Ama Ata Aidoo’s metaphor-laden ode to her mother below, and be sure to share your understanding of it as well.

For My Mother in Her Mid-90s

Aunt.

Don’t ask

me how

I come to address my mother thus.

 

Long

complex, complicated stories:

heart-warmingly familial and

sadly colonial.

 

You know how

utterly, wonderfully

insensitive the young can be?

 

Oh no. We are not here talking adults

who should know better

but never do.

 

Aunt,

I thank you for

being alive today, alert, crisp.

 

Since we don’t know tomorrow,

see me touching wood,

clutching at timbers, hugging forests:

 

So I can enter young,

age, infirmities

defied.

 

Hear my offspring chirping:

“Mummy, touch plastic,

it lasts longer!”

 

O, she knows her mama well.

The queen of plastics a tropical Bedouin,

she must travel light.

 

Check out the wood,

feel its weight, its warmth

check out the beauty of its lines, and perfumed shavings.

 

Back to you, My Dear Mother,

I can hear the hailing chorus

at the drop of your name.

And don’t I love to drop it

here, there, and everywhere?

Not missing out by time of day,

not only when some chance provides,

but pulled and dragged into talks

private and public.

 

Listen to the “is-your-mother-still-alive” greeting,

eyes popping out,

mouth agape and trembling:

 

That here,

in narrow spaces and

not-much-time,

who was I to live?

Then she who bore me?

 

Me da ase. 

Ye de ase.

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