Nearing the threshold of a new decade
I set out for a walk, this crisp September morning

It is the first day of school today,
And even though my children are long grown and gone
I feel again the season’s promise, as I walk
Past mothers and children at school bus stops

At the driveway to the international school,
Traffic is busy. I pause to watch
As well-dressed parents from around the world
Emerge from SUV’s with their children, hand in hand.

The crossing guard, Nigerian, turns toward me.
He sees me lingering, raises his hand,
And says, with deep respect,
Mama, will you cross now?

Mama: that’s the name
Of the wise women at the church,
Older and wiser, I have always thought, than I
Mama, they are called by the younger men,
Preserving the courtesies of African life.

Mama,” says the guard, as he holds up his hand
I am holding the cars for you: will you cross?
Mama, will you cross?” He is speaking to me.
Renamed, I am crossing now.

from Good Places (2017)