By Juliet J. A. Otieno

That woman means the whole world to me.
Many are quick to criticize her,
She is more than grandma to me, she’s Ma,
She taught me values in life.
Yes, I am proud of Ma,
Despite what you may call her.

I overheard her telling her sister.
How her daughter killed my brothers and sisters.
That day, Ma walked in just in the nick of time.
Found me crying on the hands of my ma,
About to be baptized in a basin full of water.
“Don’t do it!” she shouted at ma.
She saved me from sharing in my siblings’ fate.

I know she has her weaknesses, who doesn’t?
You dare call her whore, prostitute, loose,
spit unutterable obscenities at her.
You even gossip that she has AIDS,
I simply call her Ma, for she has more than earned that title.
She stepped in when ma wanted me dead.
That’s enough reason to stick my neck for her.

She leaves each morning for work.
Imagined she works in a busy office,
Ma must have had a lot of work daily.
She comes back home tired, hair to toe nail.

Sometimes I pray to God I grow up faster.
At least I would get a job,
At last I would help my Ma out.
Ma wants to hear none of it.
Ma does not make things sound so easy.
“Jobs are hard to come by.” She says.
Focus on books, get a good job in the future
what good is the future without Ma?

A future, taking forever to get here,
Does the future know what Ma goes through?
To bring bread back home,
The bed, her tool, to bring bread to her brood,
A tool that’s left her permanently scarred,
I know it but would rather keep silent,
Ma thinks she’s protecting me, keeping secrets,
I am the one protecting her, feigning ignorance.


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