my mother prepares ofe egusi

Where are you going, where have you been
my mother asks as i glide through the door.
feet swollen from traversing these infinite deserts
dry air turned oxygen, bleeding into veins
searing at my heart, no longer in accord
to her. gray matter in a shawl, silent space
that sits across from me, she,
aware of my absence, and the presence of this
heavy weight, reaches, pulling—
pulling my hand, a million miles reconvened
a single step turned a silent truce
silent praise for the return of a prodigal.
a steaming pot of egusi fills my void
and the space in this quaint kitchen.
her smile is weathered, our paths trodden
a mother once young sees herself in this shattered mirror,
piece by piece she picks me up, puts me back
together, even if her nimble figures are cut
offering her blood in the process.
she says Ada, tell me what’s wrong
tears swimming in her eyes, she knows, she fears
the paths we’ve taken have now diverged
an ocean separating our pasts—our stories.
i offer a smile, weak and abashed
tugging on fleeting hope, trying to be
a daughter to this shadow of a woman.
inching towards the bowl that sits patiently between us,
my fingers graze the pounded yam.
breaking this yam,
this silence,
i tell her i was lost.
drowning with time, passing like the wind.
she asks me where i am going.
i dip the yam in the soup, lifting the burning bite
to my lips.
here, i say,
home, i say.

From Poems from the 2022 National Student Poets (Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, 2022). Copyright © 2022 by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. Used with the permission of the author.