A new poem by Ghanaian poet, Adjei Agyei-Baah, on the challenges that widows often face. As well as experiencing the trauma of the death of their spouce, widows can find themselves forced out of extended familial relationships and have to fight to maintain their position in society and their dignity. Some become viewed with suspicion as they take on the role of the outcast.
To The Widow
You are the sleepless duck
Who rests on a single leg
Keeps vigil over a silent compound
And wait upon the ancestral spirits
To come for the last morsel of the day.
You are the abandoned lover
Who plies the memory lane in acidic tears
Walking the footpath that closes in with weeds
And mull over multiple mouths meowing to be muted.
Your bed is that of a bamboo
Denied of warmth by the icy hands of fate
Its discomfort turning you into an early morn bird
That wakes to catch no worm.
You are the quivering lamb at the kangaroo court
Around you the predatory pride prowl
The ripen pawpaw by the roadside
That the wayfarer chances upon with joy.
You whom tradition mocks with hyena’s laughter:
The wicked witch who killed the breadwinner
The half-dark moon that must be caged in the murky skies
And forced to take an oath of innocence
By gulping down bath water from your husband’s corpse.
But you are now the desert cactus
Who once nursed your seeds in the hooves of the passing caravan
And prayed for the rains to water them anywhere they fell
For now your children have returned through the stormy weathers
With a tearful joy for your crackle lips.
by Adjei Agyei-Baah
Adjei Agyei-Baah is the author of Afriku (Red Moon Press, 2016), Ghana, 21 Haiku (Mamba Africa Press, 2017), Piece of My Fart (2018), Finding the Other Door (Mamba Africa Press, 2021) Mamelon a Mamelon (Edition Unicite, 2021), Scaring Crow (Buttonhook Press, 2022) and Tales of the Kite published by Buttonhook Press 2023. Adjei is the primary author of the four Haikupedia articles about African haiku. He is the co-founder of the Africa Haiku Network and The Mamba (Africa’s premiere haiku journal). He teaches English and Literature at the University of Ghana’s School of Continuing and Distance Education and is currently pursuing his PhD studies at the University of Waikato.