The Lost Child

In the midday heat
a speck appears on the lake.
The anxious mother runs down to the beach
to welcome her long-awaited child.
The boat takes shape.
As she stares her tears flow -
the child has come back from his journeying.
The moment he sets foot, mother embraces him.
Father sits at the centre of the house
as if he couldn't care less.
The child is crestfallen at his mother's side -
but men know to restrain their feelings.
The child sits down, is told to talk,
a chicken is slaughtered, rice cooks.
The whole village is asking,
'Are you married, any children?'
The lost child has come back
but now he knows no-one.
How many harvests have been and gone?
What has happened?
The whole village is asking,
'Any children, how many?'
The lost child is silent -
He has questions of his own.
At dusk after the meal
his mother moves closer, she wants him to speak.
The child stares, the mother asks
if it is cold in Europe.
The child is silent, remembering forgotten things -
the cold of Europe, the seasons of its cities.
His mother is quiet, has ceased talking -
no resentment, only joy.
Night has come, mother is asleep,
father has been snoring some time.
The waves swish on the beach.
They know the child has not returned.