where are those songs?

‘Where are those songs’ is a poem by Micere Githae Mugo (1972) that I like and find inspirational especially in light of a quest for memory and recovery of once remembered things.

It starts off a bit despondent, the narrator is seeking songs and memories only to find them lost- unremembered. But it ends on an inspirational note, that one must begin singing and fashioning songs of life in the present. It reminds me that ‘there is a special energy in just doing, in beginning’ as Eve Annecke of the Sustainability Institute in South Africa once said to me.

Where are those songs
my mother and yours
always sang
fitting rhythms
to the whole
vast span of life?

What was it again
they sang
harvesting maize, threshing millet, storing the grain…

What did they sing
bathing us, rocking us to sleep…
and the one they sang
stirring the pot
(swallowed in parts by choking smoke?)

What was it
the woods echoed
as in long file
my mother and yours and all the women on our ridge
beat out the rhythms
trudging gaily
as they carried
piles of wood
through those forests
miles from home

What song was it?

And the row of bending women
hoeing our fields
to what beat
did they
break the stubborn ground
as they weeded
our shambas?

What did they sing
at the ceremonies
second birth
how did they trill the ngemi
what was the warrior’s song?
how did the wedding song go?
sing me the funeral song.

What do you remember?

I have forgotten
my mother’s song
my children
my children will never know.
This I remember:
Mother always said
sing child sing
make a song
and sing
beat out your own rhythms
the rhythms of your life
but make the song soulful
and make life

Sing daughter sing
around you are
uncountable tunes
some sung
others unsung
sing them
to your rhythms
soak yourself
in the stream of life
and then sing
simple songs
for the people
for all to hear
and learn
and sing
with you

Talk to me