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A Tisket, A Tasket

Joan Owusu

Mama and I are sharing special moments

on the verandah.

A strange babbling streams towards us -

a big girl! a woman? (I'm not sure)

sways along the sun-strewn path from the back gate.


Mama, mouth slightly agape, stares at her

with silent questions.

At four years, I don't understand this

rare pantomime, but I know something's odd:

(now, I think she was hysterical, and about 18)

just laughing and crying, jabbering like mad!


Mama consoles and gives her something -

clothes? food? I'm guessing;

she becomes quiet - until - giggle, giggle, giggle -

she's off again!


I'm thinking it's not safe (she might be mad

and dangerous), but I'm sorry for her. Mama

can always shut the door quickly. Impatiently,

I'm willing for her to go - go on. Not go away;

that feels unkind.


She's made an impression on me, OK!


Her wild-woman shimmy, voiced into a cheerful

A tisket, a tasket, my brown and yellow basket,

bewilders me - it's funny - but I'm too awe-struck

and well-taught to laugh.

Mama mutters something about 'crazy' -

she's frowning a little, but not grumbling.


My tummy slackens when she shuts the gate

behind her. A soft fear lingers.

Will she come back?


Half a century later, I still see the red -

red, yellow, and other colours in her hair;

the red in her dress; the torn-woman's dervish;

hear the echoes, 'my brown and yellow basket'.


From Smoke No 50 (Summer 2002)