#8. Ogbanje Chelu!
Nwam, chelu! Chelu!
Child of my womb, wait! wait!
Do not be in such haste
As you find your path to the other world again.
Sit here, on my laps, beside your father’s fireplace.
You shiver so,
Your lips whiten so.
Come closer; let me feel your forehead.
Ewoo! So hot, you burn so,
But with what do you burn, O child of my womb?
Do you burn with anticipation or with anxiety?
Nwam, Sit down! Sit down!
And let us talk.
Let us talk, from one lost soul to another.
Is it the cold or the harmattan winds?
Do they bother you?
Tell me fast, and watch me make my home
A haven of comfort for you, my child.
Your intestines vomit everything within,
See how sickly you look.
Okay, whisper softly in my ears,
I shall not be vexed
Does my soup taste that bad?
I will make it tastier than Nne Ike’s cooking.
With special dry fish and ogiri.
Tell me! Tell me!
Eh, child of my womb.
Should I dance the ijele naked in the market square?
Should I cleanse and renew myself?
Or do I ask Asa, the beautiful one, who shames angels with her voice,
To sing lullabies all night for you?
Did I trouble and give you discomfort when you were within me
When I bent to plant my seeds in the seasons past?
Is the sac of womanhood too hot or too cold?
Or is it so comfortable that you seek to go back inside me
Over and over again!
Answer me! Answer me!
What angers you? Why this anguish?
Did we walk the earth together in lives past?
Was I your foe who did you grave wrong?
Is this justice? Is this retribution?
Nwam, child of my womb,
Nnennem! Nnennam! Nnedim!
Are you your grandmothers come back to life?
Did your children forsake you? Did we dishonor you?
The linings of my womb grow old and wrinkled
The gifts of time shower heavily on your mother,
This vessel cannot hold you for another nine moons.
Oh child of my womb!
Do not drive me faster to my tomb.
I have cried tears of blood
I have bled waters of pain.
Tell them, those spirits of Ogbanje,
To stop the beating of the seductive drums,
There shall be no homecoming this time around.
Plead with them!
Nwam, tell them that which is in your heart:
Tell them that you are finally home.
© Juliet ‘Kego Ume-Onyido (All rights reserved).