'Mother of the Mountain'

a mountain is more than a tall hill

try as you must but there is no official difference between a mountain & a hill. many have speculated about this. the difference cannot be known only felt. still, the mountain does not care for statistics or numbers, metric or imperial. the mountain does not need speaking for, she announces herself. her might is her being, her fixedness to the earth. her crown is made of snow. her peaks are visible, sometimes. & only in clear weather can you admire her for her true height. only in blue skies & no clouds can you appreciate what the mountain means to the land, what her hardest edges offer you for a view. ask: who mothered the mountain? what made the earth sigh & rise; what thing within the abdomen of the earth pushed up & out through the skin of the soil? ask how it was managed & know that even answers are not enough. there is no need to understand how it was done, only a need to honour, to consider the mountain a beauty spot, a birth mark, a landmark—from which you know left and right, or this country and that, far, not far. her strength is a silent strength. her breath is wisp of cloud, passing unnoticed, without rain. the only true and most honest way to view a mountain is to do so from the peak of another mountain. many do not know or have what is required to climb there. but no other view will do.

‘but this was the biggest & the worst thing in the world’

It was like everything changed colour. You live your life up until a point understanding that there is a code. you look at the sky say blue. you look at the grass, you say dark green. you look at your blood, call it deep red. or you look up at the mountain, say rusty grey with some green & white. it all makes sense. it is communicable. the person you are talking to knows what you mean. they have an image in their head, you gave to them, & they can picture it. do you know what I mean? this is not like that. imagine one day you leave your house & the thing you call yellow is called _______ now. Or, say you try to describe the shade of paint in your home at the DIY shop, but the shopkeeper keeps saying, sorry, we don’t have that, but if you mean _______ , then yes, yes we have_______ , but that’s not what you mean at all. when I lost B, the colours changed. & as the years go by, it’s like they slipped & blended & haven’t been the same since. on better days, I know what I feel about my loss & the colours, they match it. the rest of the time, it hurts & it stays strange—how do I describe this pain that’s new again everyday? I have to pull myself together in a new language.

‘I look at mine, I sit & I look & I say: I made you!’

sometimes you sit & look, just stare at them & say wow. even when they’re small little things inside that you can’t even see, you’re clueless—utterly in awe. & then when they’re small, getting bigger, every now & again it still catches you off guard. & the whole time you’d be grateful for an instruction book—just one day with a manual that you could rip a page from knowing that if you followed the guidelines, it would work. & they’d never come to harm, never get sick. you are never not waiting for that book to come out, but it’s like the date of release keeps being pushed back, maybe they keep making edits, changing the font, the order, the case studies. you keep waiting. the book never comes. & sometimes you look at the mountain & know you did alright without the book entirely. & sometimes you look at the mountain & want to ask absolutely where you went wrong. but, all the same, you’d never take it back—you’d never remove the existence of this person you created from your life. they’re your heart. it’s like, when they were born, someone took your heart & said this, holding it up to the light, this lives outside of you now from now on, & you do whatever you can to keep it beating even though it’s no longer in your body. you don’t know how terrifying that is. & yet you would never take it back.


Victoria Adukwei Bulley

Victoria Adukwei Bulley is a poet, writer and filmmaker. A former Barbican Young Poet, her work has appeared variously in publications including The Poetry Review, in addition to featuring on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour. She won a Society of Authors Eric Gregory Award in 2018, and has held residencies internationally in the US, Brazil, and the V&A Museum in London. Victoria is the director of MOTHER TONGUES, an intergenerational poetry, film and translation project supported by Arts Council England and Autograph. She is a Complete Works Poetry and Instituto Sacatar fellow, and sits on the advisory board of the Poetry Translation Centre. Her debut pamphlet is Girl B.