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International Women’s Day!

When Camara Laye wrote this poem, he was studying abroad in Paris, faraway from Guinea where he was born.  When I read it in high school in Freetown, I didn’t really feel the sentiments he was expressing.  Though my mother, like his, was living in Guinea; it was just a stone-throw away from Sierra Leone.  But having lived in the West long enough, I now understand the feelings within these lines.  On this International Women’s day, I dedicate this poem to my own mother, who is currently on the great riverbanks Laye describes in his poem.  It is also dedicated to all other African women whose children have left home in pursuit of life’s promises.

To My Mother

-Camara Laye

Black woman, woman of Africa

O my mother, I am thinking of you…

 

O Daman, O my mother

You who bored me upon your back,

You who gave me suck,

You who watched over my first faltering steps,

You who were the first to open my eyes,

To the wonders of the earth,

I am thinking of you.

 

Woman of the fields, woman of the rivers,

Woman of the great riverbanks,

O you my mother, I am thinking of you…

 

O you, Daman, O you my mother,

You who dried my tears,

You who filled my heart with laughter,

You who patiently bore with all my many moods,

How I should love to be beside you once again,

To be a little child beside you!

 

Woman of great simplicity, woman of great resignation,

O my mother, I am thinking of you…

O Daman, Daman,

You of the great family of blacksmiths and goldsmiths,

My thoughts are always turning toward you,

And your own thoughts accompany me at every step

 

O Daman, my mother,

How I should love to be surrounded by your loving warmth again,

To be a little child beside you…

 

Black woman, woman of Africa,

O my mother, let me thank you;

Thank you for all that you have done for me, your son,

Who, though so far away, is still close to you.

 

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