Poem: “Our Mothers”

Author Khadijo Abdi shared an essay in our September 2021 issue.

Do you ever wonder about the mother of Moses? 

I do. I think about what was going on in her head 

and what was happening in her hometown 

for her to find the river Nile safer for her infant than her own loving arms. 

Same thing, I am guessing, going through the head of the Afghan father 

Who lifted his baby over barbed wire into the arms of an American soldier 

Or that long ago mother from Vietnam who raised her baby to the blades of a chopper to safety. 

Same thing as thousands of parents on creaky overcrowded boats across oceans or wading the Rio Grande. 

Same thing as my own mother who walked us across a desert with little water in tow and jungles as lions roared on. 

My mother, who climbed with us into the belly of a truck and pretended to be deaf when Kenyan police stopped us. 

My mother, who boiled dirty lake water to fend off cholera, 

Who went out one night to relieve herself outside the tents and returned to a tent city she didn’t notice when she left us and couldn’t find the tent we slept under. 

My mother, who panicked and walked in circles for an hour, looked into each tent till she found us. 

My mother, who endured that and more, and who to this day, is afraid of uniformed men. 

My mother, who two and a half decades later went to hajj funded by those same babies from that night, those babies she sacrificed everything to keep safe, to keep sane, and succeeded. 

My mother was sleeping in a tent on the eighth day of the pilgrimage; she got up to use the restroom and was right back to the refugee tent city and fell into a panic, thinking to save those babies who have long grown and are raising their own back in America. 

My mother, your mother, the mother of Alan Shenu Kurdi; our mothers are not different from Moses’s mother. 

And even you, if you really ponder it, will place your babies 

your tender sweet babies 

In the jaws of a crocodile, if a crocodile’s mouth is safer than your hands. 

Khadijo Abdi (she/her) is a Minneapolis-based Somali writer and medical interpreter.