The Pigeon -Hole, a poem by Mabel Segun

How I wish I could pigeon-hole myself

and neatly fix a label on!

But self-knowledge comes too late

And by the time I’ve known myself

I am no longer what I was.


I knew a woman once

who had a delinquent child.

She never had a moment’s peace of mind

waiting in constant fear,

listening for the dreaded knock

and the cold tones of policeman:

“Madam, you’re wanted at the station”

I don’t know if the knock ever came

but she feared on right till

we moved away from the street.

She used to say

“It’s the uncertainty that worries me –

if only I knew for certain…”


If I only knew for certain

What my delinquent self would do…

But I never know until the deed is done

And I live on fearing,

wondering which part of me will be supreme –

the old and tested one, the present

or the future unknown.

Sometimes all three have equal power

and then

how I long for a pigeon-hole.


I recently came across this poem when reading the book “Daughters of Africa: An international anthology of words and writings by women of African descent from the ancient Egyptian to the present”, Edited by Margaret Busby.  The first two lines really caught my attention and I carried on reading.

My first thought after reading the poem a couple of times  was who is Mabel Segun?  I was not familiar with the name. Thanks to the internet 🙂  I was able to quickly find out more….

Mabel Dorothy Segun is a versatile woman whose outstanding achievements in the fields of literature, broadcasting and sports have earned her Nigeria’s national honours which she was awarded in December 2004. In October 2007, she was proclaimed joint winner of Nigeria’s most prestigious prize for Literature – the LNG Nigeria Prize for Literature which was awarded for her children’s book,Readers’ Theatre: Twelve Plays for Young People. In 2009, her long literary and academic career was rewarded when she received the Nigerian National Order of Merit for academic excellence in the humanities.

For me this poem was a really interesting discovery both in content and finding out about the writer.


2 thoughts on “The Pigeon -Hole, a poem by Mabel Segun

  1. Reblogged this on glasgowmango and commented:

    This poem by Mabel Segun is a very popular post I am guess it’s on a number of reading lists. Time to enjoy it again.
    “But self-knowledge comes too late….” is one of my favourite lines of this this poem.


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