I paint pictures of many things
I give the plastered walls of our home real paint on my canvas
sometimes I paint my face without my ugly tribal marks.
I also paint pictures of my father and break his leg in the picture
in moments like this I am god. I punish him for abandoning my mum and me,
but I have never painted my mother
without including myself in the picture.
I did not know that a woman may change when she brings a child to earth,
but the change is not irrevocable.
when my mother had me and my sister, her stomach did not flatten completely
it did not go back to how it used to be before
so I thought she had transformed forever.
I thought she disposed of her “woman” identity,
and started to only answer to only “mother”.
my mother crosses many fires barefoot
her body is the north and south of a country torn apart by war
but being forced to stay together
my father once said peace does not settle every crisis and distance will resolve many wars. then he proceeded, “marriage should not be a thing of force. I am going.”
the wrinkles on my mother’s stomach and thighs are like roots
where trees develop
and she waters her own herself too
I have never seen
my mother sweat.
although sometimes I see her cry
and I cry too, but only out of exasperation
because she should be tending to my own tears
and I am the only one allowed to cry
and she is stronger than me
so she stops weeping, wipes her face with a wrapper, and cradles my head
while nursing agony in her stomach
and swallowing back wails
deep into her throat.