The Pigeon-Hole

Mabel Segun
Nigerian
b. 1930

 

How I wish I could pigeon-hole myself
and neatly fix a label on!
But self-knowledge comes too late
And by the time I’ve known myself
I am no longer what I was.

I knew a woman once
who had a delinquent child.
She never had a moment’s peace of mind
waiting in constant fear,
listening for the dreaded knock
and the cold tones of policeman:
“Madam, you’re wanted at the station”
I don’t know if the knock ever came
but she feared on right till
we moved away from the street.
She used to say
“It’s the uncertainty that worries me –
if only I knew for certain…”

If I only knew for certain
What my delinquent self would do…
But I never know until the deed is done
And I live on fearing,
wondering which part of me will be supreme –
the old and tested one, the present
or the future unknown.
Sometimes all three have equal power
and then
how I long for a pigeon-hole.

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