Don’t bother deciphering the title of a poem. The best poems are inspired by the concrete, by the tangible, by the touchable.
Good titles to good poems arise from feelings and moods. Ask a poet about the poems they keep hidden in their desk drawers, those that they judge unworthy of the reader’s eye. Those are the poems that tell the best stories.
They are locked inside dusty drawers so they don’t bother with form. They don’t struggle with abstract ideas. They only state what they see. And alas! how we’ll be astounded to have descriptions of things right in front of our eyes. These poems, they describe and look for the exit. They don’t force their ideas on you. They leave the pulpit for the preachers.
A good poem, like a good storyteller, teases you before dishing out the details. A good poem, like a good amant, touches you where it feels best.
I became a woman on the morning of the last day of the year. It was exactly five o’clock in the morning and I was asleep on a mat on the floor. Had it been the previous day or the day after, I would have been on my bed. But on this day, the bed I usually slept on had sunk in the middle because the ropes at its lower part had come undone and this made sleeping unnecessarily difficult. I couldn’t sleep with my sister on the bed near the window because she left one eye open while sleeping. Once, when we had visitors, I’d been forced to sleep with her only to wake up in the night to find one eye staring back at me. I’ve never slept with her since. The other bed was full of washing from the previous day and I was not willing to waste precious minutes of sleep time to push them out of the way. So I took the mat we usually used to sit on outside the house and spread it on the floor. It did not matter to me that I would wake up with the mat’s patterns on my body. I just had to sleep, and if Mama was in a good mood tomorrow perhaps I would tell her about my bad bed.
Two things woke me up at exactly five o’clock in the morning. My sister’s Nokia something something was ringing. Tatu was in the habit of setting alarms that she never woke up to. Yet, as if a ritual, every night before she slept she made sure her alarm was set right. The other thing that woke me up was a slow, lingering pain in my lower stomach. This left me confused as had it been my upper stomach, I would have known it was a hunger related stomachache. But this was something different.