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The Widow

by N. Muma Alain

Rain on the roof, tears on her cheeks,
The widow listens to the only meaningful part of her existence
(Her daughter is singing)
The poison in her hand, fear in her bones,
The mother reaches for the loaves of bread inside her pocket
(A meal that is hoping to be just the next but expecting to be the last)
Tremors in her body, memories in her mind,
The lady of once surrenders to a pent-up grief
(She is gasping for air)
Conflict in her head, voices in her ears:
“Do it; you’ll both be free at last!” says the stronger voice. “Don’t; you’ll regret it.” says the weaker voice
(Their listener is wishing she could obey them both)
A dying hope in her heart, a great many prayers on her numb tongue,
The vagrant looks desperately around her
(A stranger’s unwelcoming back porch is staring coldly back at her)
Horrors on her mind, a voice from inside the rain’s sinister splattering […]
The woman flinches back into reality
(Her little girl is watching her)
Worry in those eyes, innocence in them, deeper,
The girl asks, “Are you crying again, Mama?”
(Her answerer is fidgeting, trying to avert a defeated face)
One calming touch on a trembling hand, a mesmerizing something inside two little eyes […]
The grownup reluctantly kneels before the child, lets her guilt sink in the moment’s eerie comfort
(Mother and daughter are staring at each other)
Two heartbeats in tandem, one brush on either side of a wet face [and]
The girl frames her mother’s face in her tiny hands and says cheerfully, “Can I tell you something?”
(Her mother is nodding distractedly)
A smile on a pair of parched little lips, the mesmerizing something still there on that accusingly-scrawny babyish face,
The girl says, “Sometimes…tears are nothing but pain for the eyes…I heard someone say.”
(Moment after moment passing in silence, the woman, kneeling there, unmoving, is wondering what it is that seems to be rising from the depths of her inner being, filling it with some kind of warmth)
Eyes in interlock, existences in synchrony,
The woman feels helplessly entranced
(She is beginning to recognize the feeling inside)
The vibrating wooden floor underfoot, a creaking door loud inside,
The exasperated house happily announces the return of its residents
(The drifters are barely paying attention; foreheads touching, they are grinning like fools)
An alarmed reality in a frenzy all around, the prodded Trespasser’s Urgency upon the scene at last,
The mother reveals and hastily unwraps the bread in her coat pocket; she knows it is time they find another shelter
(While the child is busy gobbling down the food, the woman is leaning over the porch to dump the poisonous powder into the surface runoff that is making its way to the sewerage)
A relief unimaginable within [at long last], the cruel, waiting world without [forever still],
The widow holds her chin high and pulls her daughter close
(She is homeless but no longer empty, wet but no longer cold, and is feeling something ethereal: her soul, once-dead, taking its first breaths since a seeming eternity)



96th Weekly Poetry Contest