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Captive No More (Part II)

Captive No More (Part II)


When they snatched my grandfather

from the breasts of his mother,

he lacked the language

to grasp or describe

what did happen

and was happening to him


In those days,

mothers breastfed their infants

for three solid seasons,

some four, some longer.

My grandfather was barely four seasons old

when they drugged and dragged him

from his mother’s apron.

He was a spoilt child.

Everybody in the agboole

had warned his mother

that she was spoiling

her only child to death;

that she should no longer

breastfeed him at his age;

that he was big enough

to get out and play

with his age mates;

that he should not be spending

so much time hiding

under her yeri and tobi;

that he should be out

in the field

gathering mushrooms and vegetables,

hunting for crabs,

hounding rabbits and fishing snails;

that boys his age were already

killing small snakes,

that nobody that big

should be sitting around the homestead

sucking his mother’s breasts.


But his mother did not listen

to all the criticisms and grumblings

of the community gossips

nor did she budge one inch.

“None of you know

what it feels like,”

she always said,

when they taunted her,

“to have just one child,

and to have lost

so many babies,

to the heartless harvests

of infant mortality

and to sudden deaths.”

A woman who has

just one child,

does not let an ant

crawl on his feet.

She therefore made sure that

he did not leave the vicinity

of her earshot,

or walk beyond the distance

where her regular yells

couldn’t easily reach him.


She was therefore unable

to believe her ears,

when she first called his name

and got no response.

It is not a disaster

that the language of the white man

could describe,

when a black mother called her child,

and heard no returning word

no sound, no answer.

No European tongues can capture

The gravity of that loss

No western logic is suitable

For making that connection

for discussing the meaning,

for understanding the disorientation

the pain and the pang

or the total collapse of sanity

of what they have decided

to call “slavery.” You cannot use

the abusers’ tongue to speak

for the abused.


You cannot use the language

of the oppressor

to contemplate the suffering

and pain of the oppressed.

You cannot use the eyes

of enslavers to view the wounds

of the enslaved.

You cannot describe in a foreign tongue

the wailing and the moaning

that escaped his mother’s throat

when she discovered

her baby was gone.

(To be continued)

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