John A. Agandin1

Unsung Heroines





The sun was searing hot and pitiless

Hurling down fuming fierce rays.

The earth roasting under his angry gaze

As meat over blazing coals.

Everything bowed in submission

Men, beasts, birds and beetles

Trees, shrubs and every blade of grass

Drooped in defeat and compliance.

On this sweltering March noon ablaze

Upon a deserted path in defiance

A solitary figure lumbered on.

With a double load over spine and skull

Bent forward with a stern grit

Stumbled and trod on towards

The distant din of a village market!

The loads were of wood and flesh,

Wood for the market to fetch a coin

And a precious tiny baby

Fastened with a tattered rag

Dangling asleep behind.

I stared in wonder at the wonder

Until my eyes watered from looking

So hard and long at the heat waves

Rising from the red-hot path.

A mother carrying her precious son

And a hefty load of firewood

Trudging to the market

To buy salt and pepper

That she may feed her household!

Her man, probably lounging in a bar

Had shoved at her a bowl of millet

With nothing else for soup.

She had gone to the mortar

To thresh that millet with sore palms

And upon her grinding stone

Milled it all into flour.

She went to the river with a big pot

Till all the bigger pots at home brimmed over.

But not before she had swept

All the house and compound,

Mended every crack and crevice,

Scrubbed every cheng2 and chimoin3 spotless

And pounded her rags in the river soap-less.

There she goes down the burning road!

With hardly enough cover for her feet

Which crack and bleed from the fiery rays.

For the journey did not start from home

Though it began there in the morning

When she rose at cock crow for the forest

And tore through thorns and stumps

To gather the precious firewood

That she cannot afford to use at home

But must of need send to the market

So that she can buy salt and pepper

That the children may not sleep hungry.

This little baby boy that she carries

She will feed and cuddle and treat

And blow his nose with her mouth

And clean and cover his lidless rectum

Until he becomes one day a man

To shout and rave and rant at her

And beat her up in drunkenness

To show that he is a man

Living in a man’s world.

She will return down this road again

Jostling with many other mothers

Destined for smoke-filled kitchens

Dimly lit by smoking kerosene lamps

To steer T.Z. for many hungry mouths.

Whilst the men wait upon the rooftops

With peppers and gin in their blood

Impatient to leap upon them

Like locusts upon fresh green saplings

And thrust them full of more little babies.

As I watched her slog on

Down the wearied unwavering road,

It suddenly grew dark and misty blur

I wondered where the light had gone

But as a droplet run down my cheek

I realized my eyes were covered with weeping

Weeping for that fiery revelation.

And I blessed the gods for that hazy noon

That opened my eyes to the light at last…

Hail the women, hail the mothers of Buluk,

Hail the unsung heroines of the land.

Yes indeed they are…

The blood that waters the plains green

The manure that feeds our crops

The donkeys that carry our loads

The wood that feeds our cooking fires

The menders that build our walls

The breasts that nourish our young

The nurses of our aged

The housekeepers

The dishwashers

The laundry machines

And etcetera without end…

They are the women that make us men

Hail the mothers! Hail!




1Concerning John B.A. Angadin’s biographical note, see BULUK 9, p. 70, Three poems

2Earthen ware bowl that usually holds soup

3Calabash bowl that usually holds T.Z.


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