POETRY: Misunderstanding, by Chinua Achebe

My old man had a little saying
he loved and as he neared
his end was prone to relish
more and more. Wherever Something
stands, he’d say, there also Something
Else will stand. Heedless at first
I waved it aside as mere
elderly prattle that youth have to bear
till sharply one day it hit home to me
that never before, not even
once, did I hear mother speak
again in their little disputes once
he’d said it. From then began
my long unrest: what was this
Thing so unanswerable and why
was it dogged by that
relentless Other? My mother
proved no help at all nor did
my father whose sole reply was just a solemn smile… Quietly
later of its own will it showed
its face, so slowly, to me though
not before they’d long been dead — my
little old man and my mother
also — and showed me too how
utterly vain my private quest
had been. Flushed by success
I spoke one day in a trifling
row: you see, my darling (to
my wife) where Something
stands — no matter what — there
Something Else will take its
stand. I knew, she said; she
pouted her lips like a gun
in my face. She knew, she said,
she’d known all along of that
other woman I was keeping in town.
And I fear, my friends,
I am yet to hear
the last of it.

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