Take Me Back Home
Take Me Back Home
Who am I?
Who should I be?
What is it that you see when you look at me?
What do you notice first when you gaze upon my face?
My lips? my eyes? my skin? my race?
And when I look into the mirror, why do I feel so out of place?
Could it be because I simply do not understand?
How amazing I truly am?
That’s what Mama says,
Though I’m not so sure.
I don’t know if I can believe anything she tells me anymore.
For she says I’m beautiful, and my skin is of a wondrous shade.
But the kids in my class only make me wish that this colour would fade.
To something lighter,
Something that would make me fit in.
Because contrary to what Mama thinks, not everyone loves my skin.
I hear it in the hallways, in the classroom, in the street
“Look at that!” and sometimes even “Look at it!”
Adults stare, but children point the finger.
I miss my homeland where everyone looked just the same as I.
Where no one could simply stare at me and make me want to cry.
Where no one asked me what was wrong with my hair
And why it never lay down flat.
And teased “Kianga! What kind of name is that?!”
Where I could stand in the open fields and hear birds call on high
Where the sky was so big and blue it made me yearn to fly.
I long to be surrounded by the bush, listening to the sounds of the wild.
In this foreign land all I want to do is hide!
Hide from the stares, the jeers, the obvious disdain.
More than anything I just want to go home again.
Mother lied when she said life would be better here.
She lied again when she said that I have nothing to fear.
Not everyone in this place is as friendly as she pretends.
She also lied when she said it would be easy to make friends.
I haven’t made one since we moved to this place.
All my efforts result in a pointless chase.
I long for all the friends that I once had.
True friends who would have never made me feel this bad.
Mama promised “more opportunity”. I have yet to see how.
In this forsaken country she owns not even ONE cow!
No pastures to tend, no animals to feed.
Only surrounded by stone buildings, filth, hatred and greed.
Our neighbours do not even have gardens with produce to share
They don’t greet us, don’t visit, don’t mingle. They don’t care.
I want to believe in Mama, but feel she remains blind
To the people around here who are selfish and unkind.
She is always positive in times when I weep
She tells me stories from back home while I lay down to sleep.
But this only makes me more melancholy in the cold night-time hours
As I reminisce about Mount Bêngo and Bell Bean Flowers
On occasion, when she’s finished, I feel worse than before
And many times wonder aloud what we came here for.
I know she is frustrated that I can’t seem to adapt,
But I was happier in Africa and that is a fact!
Now I look upon my face in the mirror on the wall
And only then realise that I seem very small.
I haven’t been eating as much as I should
Because I’ve been so sad and, honestly, the food here is not very good.
That’s another thing I miss terribly about home.
Bolo Polana, Matata, Malasadas and Posho.
The expression on my face makes me break down and cry.
For many different reasons, though I can’t explain why.
“Take me back, take me back NOW!” I shout.
My mother comes running into the bathroom to see what the commotion is about.
“What is going on Kianga? What are you doing on the floor?”
I hadn’t even noticed that I wasn’t standing anymore.
“Take me back!” I repeat, a look of madness in my eyes.
“You cannot be serious,” Mama replied in surprise.
“Take me back to Mapai; I can’t survive here another day!
Look at me Mama! I am wasting away!”
She looks at me then, really looks at me for once
And sighs in despair because she hasn’t listened for months.
Now there is no denying the toll which this ordeal has taken on me.
I am indeed a mere shadow of what I once used to be.
“My darling,” she whispers, tears falling from her eyes
“Why can’t you see that this is a blessing in disguise?”
“And why, Mama?” I sighed
“Don’t you seem to realise
That all you are doing is feeding me lies?!”
I hadn’t meant to shout at my mother in this way.
My heart felt heavy and I looked up at her in dismay
“I’m not happy here Mama, I just can’t do it anymore.
Why can’t we go back to what life was like before?”
My voice was low now and my throat felt thick and tight
From tears which threatened to fall that I wanted to keep out of sight.
“Don’t you miss it? Don’t you miss home? Why can’t we go back?”
Mama turned to face me and replied,
“Kiki, you don’t understand, it’s not as simple as that.
Of course I miss home! I love Mapai, it’s the place of my birth!
But right now home is not exactly the safest place on Earth.”
“But neither is here….”
I started to say.
“It is safer than home. Please believe me my dear.
Things are happening at home that you cannot understand.
There is serious war waging within our homeland.
I did not want to leave, but felt that I had no choice.
Women in our village do not really have a voice
To say they are not happy or make decisions about their life.
I was only 14 myself when I was forced to become a wife”
My eyes widened in horror for I was almost 14 myself.
“Fathers sometimes use their daughters to accumulate wealth.
You see the wealthier the man, the better husband he is presumed to be.
I did not want that for you daughter, I want you to be FREE!”
Only then, with tears flowing down my Mama’s face, did I understand
She wasn’t trying to punish me, seeing me succeed was her only plan.
On that day something changed inside of me
I stopped focusing on feeling trapped and decided to be free.
The blood of the African people flows deep within my core.
I’ve chosen to not be afraid and I know I’m not alone anymore.
I stand proudly in any country as a proud African child.
And feel every one of my ancestors standing powerfully at my side.
I know now that no matter how far I may journey,
Africa will always be my home for she remains within me.
Poem Written By: Jashuan Williams – a teacher from Dominica. She loves writing and draws inspiration from the tropics. Her aspiration is to write stories that captivate readers from the first sentence. Check out her Facebook page here
Header Image: 22-year-old “P” arrived in Italy from Nigeria. Photographs by Enri Canaj/Magnum