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Rise and Fall of My Beloved is a collection of poetry and prose about resilience—about the experience of stigma and rejection, disease and suffering, love and care, loss and grief—and also a testimony of gratitude, forgiveness and togetherness. Each of its three parts is a journey through life's struggles, pain and loss, all of which require an inner force to overcome, build, rebuild, succeed and heal: resilience. It expresses an undercurrent to an imposed destiny or stigma.
Based on the life experience of my late brother, Rise and Fall of My Beloved is a tribute to mankind's resilience to overcome adversities. The book takes readers from his vulnerable childhood as a neglected orphan set to die, through a childhood in which he was bullied, to his rise as an accomplished engineer, and sadly to his fall as a dying patient of HIV/AIDS. Each poem depicts the essence of unconditional love and care, the dignity of dying of AIDS, forgiveness, and family bond. This book is a manifesto of my brother's exceptional resilience, the best memory of him that will live forever. It is an invitation, an inspiration, a reflection that, when mankind encounters struggles, disease, pain, death, loss, grief, we have to grieve and heal, and rebuild.
The Only Picture
The woman in the picture is our mother.
It is the only image of her we got
Many years following her sudden death.
But the woman in this picture has no face —
No face for us to admire and be excited by,
No face to capture and remember forever.
On this photo, there is just a glimpse of her back:
Elegant and classy, outstanding in her outfit,
Enough to watch with delight and feel very good.
Her visage is missing and left to imagine, forever,
But it is enough to say that she was a beautiful woman,
A thought of my mother that flattered us immensely.
This is the only picture found among hidden memories
After the few times when my brother questioned my father,
Screaming at him to show us even one picture of her,
Confronting my dad to express feelings long repressed
If he ever loved her or she existed. A longing outcry!
For even one ugly image or a faded old picture with scratches.
Crying out for Dad to tell us stories about her, even once,
Asking him to recall and tell us how and where he met her.
His head down, Dad did not reply to this torturing encounter
With his son, the same one who yesterday could not speak!
My father never talked about my mother even once.
Memories of her were hidden like a treasure, a sin, or an
She was since dead, now just dust and bones in any event,
A ghost or star in the universe: free, harmless, but protecting.
Yet people here do not talk of a deceased parent to a child;
It is subject of great chagrin to little ones, they say!
And children are not allowed to ask questions about it
Despite the curiosity and audacity to dare raising the topic,
Despite the search for sweet and comforting memories
To appease the longing heart of a sad, lonely, and anxious
Despite the sweet memories to please his ears and imagination
And to calm his wandering mind, secure his being and feelings.
Sweet memories would have flattered any child’s ego
When told what a great and kind teacher his mother was!
Or what a loving, caring, sweet, and good mother she was!
Sweet memories to comfort and please a little child’s ears
And calm his wandering mind, secure his being and feelings.
Indeed! We were flattered to know that she was a pioneer of her
A time where girls entered marriage at a younger age.
We were pleased that she was an educator who passed on
Moulding and preparing the next elite generation of young
Called to carry the torch of women’s emancipation movement.
We wanted just a simple story that she was real and existed in
times and places
Where she left some footprints marked on other people’s
minds, or a rock,
Or on a clear picture to tell us that she loved and was loved.
about Utanu Maa...
I am Utanu MAA. I live in Toronto and work as a public servant within the Ontario Court of Justice. Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa, where I studied French Literature and Law before migrating to Canada in 1991, and thereafter studied Fashion Marketing, Paralegal and Law (1year) programs. In 2004, I was a recipient of a prize for the Poetry contest organized by Canada Heritage during the celebration of the Francophonie. "Couleur d'une langue" (The Color of a language), my unpublished poem about the diversity and different accents that give rhythm and power to a language to become an umbrella of one identity. "Rise and Fall of My Beloved" is also my own journey into unconditional love and care, and the resilience to deal with pain, loss, grief, to grieve, heal and continue with life after my brother's death.
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