Hardship

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I wrote this poem in 2013. It is the title poem of my Hardship collection (unpublished)

They, all four of them, would sit

huddled around the only heat

in the house, a flickering

candle flame whose tongue

throws long ghost-like shadows

over the walls, shadows

with scythes and spitters¹

and howls that turn the inside hollow.

 

There is no food in the house:

mother left six years back

to cut the rope the children

had woven around her neck

like a hangman’s noose;

father is unemployed, his

life stayed like a still pond:

 

He drinks and drinks every benefit,

while the children scavenges

when not trawling the shops

for food or begging neighbours

for remnants like almajirins².

 

The schools stand like clay fields,

fallow, their hands buried

deep in their pockets like

the future the children wear like a curse.

 

If the children know any life

it will be the pain that skulks like a fixation.

If they know any living

it will be the lives their parents live.

If they know any happiness

it will be the death that takes

their father before his time.

If they know any sadness

it will be the flame that flickers and dies

and the shadows that fall off

the walls like spent waves.

Note

1. Somerset Dialect: long handled tool for cutting weed 

2. Northern Nigeria: children-beggars who go from house- to-house, in the evenings, begging for leftovers food. 

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