my mother.

my mother made it known to me
immigration was the manner of evasion
that saved us from a precarious fate

some are born there but somehow get here,
though most are condemned to stay
who stays? who goes? who is left behind? who grows?

citizenship is a crap shoot, one in 6 billion shot. As a child, new to this Canada, my mother's words weighed heavy on me each time we hurried past a weary woman pushing a squeaky cart of worthless belongings or a barely conscious beggar muttering madness, my mother would say these words with the hallowed reverence of a benediction, a mantra for our protection, "Om Sai Ram. That could have been us, child, that could have been us."

Instead of envisioning a life of impoverishment in Canada (how odd it seemed here in these paved streets, how entirely incongruous to the reasoning which I understood had led us here) I pictured my mother and I clutching at faded scarves under our chins with one hand and each other with the other by the roadside outside the quiet compound in Qatar that we fled upon returning home to find it empty - no daughters, no husband, no sisters, no father, nobody.

Or sometimes I'd try to conjure up buried memories of the country of my birth and imagine the two of us squatting in stationary silence with lowered eyes as the nameless Lagos market bustles all around and we are lashed over and over by dust and dirty looks of pity, disgust or vacant disinterest. "That could have been us, child, that could have been us."

It wasn't until years later that I began to understand what my mother shared with me in the same breath: compassion, empathy and humanity and a deep understanding that we are all susceptible to, vulnerable to, can fall victim to life, to this very life. It holds as much pain as joy but it is yours to live and change and mold and grow.

i love you mumma.
Jamilah Malika


pomegranate queen said...

this piece gave me goosebumps. and it wasn't just what you wrote about (which is something that's close to my heart). it's how you wrote it. this is powerful writing jamilah, for real. your voice is so strong in this piece. YES. more! more! (says selfish PQ)

Anonymous said...

Djam, ma cherie! Ur voice is so strong , I m speechless..!
Tu es geniale ma puce