Benazir Bhutto’s Assassination: A Very Sad Day For All Peace Loving People in the World

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Anytime someone kills a world leader such as Benazi Bhutto, a woman fighter, a mother and a wife, it is a sad day for all women around the world. It certainly is also a sad day for all peace loving human beings, no matter their political or religious orientation. Let us all take off our beautiful garments and mourn the death of a great world heroin. Let’s all stand and sigh at how cruel the world is, and yet, how in all of the ashes of heroes, more powerful leaders spring forth much stronger than before.

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A Garden Beyond Paradise

Everything you see has its roots
in the unseen world.
The forms may change,
yet the essence remains the same.

Every wondrous sight will vanish,
every sweet word will fade.
But do not be disheartened,
The Source they come from is eternal—
growing, branching out,
giving new life and new joy.

Why do you weep?—
That Source is within you,
and this whole world
is springing up from it.

The Source is full,
its waters are ever-flowing;
Do not grieve,
drink your fill!
Don’t think it will ever run dry—
This is the endless Ocean!

From the moment you came into this world,
a ladder was placed in front of you
that you might transcend it.

From earth, you became plant,
from plant you became animal.
Afterwards you became a human being,
endowed with knowledge, intellect and faith.

Behold the body, born of dust—
how perfect it has become!

Why should you fear its end?
When were you ever made less by dying?

When you pass beyond this human form,
no doubt you will become an angel
and soar through the heavens!

But don’t stop there.
Even heavenly bodies grow old.

Pass again from the heavenly realm
and plunge into the ocean of Consciousness.
Let the drop of water that is you
become a hundred mighty seas.

But do not think that the drop alone
becomes the Ocean—
the Ocean, too, becomes the drop!


The assassination of Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan is a very sad day in the world. This brutal bloodshed comes at a time in history when women are venturing out to take on more roles as world leaders. She was not only a powerful political person in the world and could have been the next President of Pakistan had she lived, but she was also a mother and a wife.

I came to Chicago to attend a conference and arrived in my room here downtown Chicago after a long flight from Pittsburgh. As usual, I turned on the TV to find check up on the news in this Midwestern town before getting out on business, and to my surprise, there is the grim news of the death of another world leader, a woman, and a mother of tremendous courage. As a woman myself, a mother, a wife, a peace loving individual, I take this time to salute a heroin who died for what she believed. She may not have been the most perfect person on earth, but her death is a loss to the world and to the Middle East.

May her soul rest in peace.

Poem taken from Jelaluddin Rumi, “A Garden Beyond Paradise”,
A Garden Beyond Paradise: The Mystical Poetry of Rumi
(translated by Jonathan Star), Bantam Books, NY, 1992, pp. 148-149

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I WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS & A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Unto us a child is born. Unto to us a son is given.

May the grace of the coming of Christ bring peace to your heart and to your life this Christmas 2007. This is our faith, our belief, our hope as Christians. I was preparing to fix up my hot and spicy turkey this evening when I began to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas, to reflect on the Christmas story and my place in the larger belief in Christmas. The belief we share as Christians that God himself left his Heavenly seat to be born by a woman because the world was in such a mess, is a very powerful belief to behold.

The idea of setting aside a day to celebrate that faith and that birth however, has taken hold of the world in such a way, Christmas, as Christians call it has become one of the most internationally confused days on our globe. All over the world, the idea of gift giving and receiving, peace and goodwill, the gathering of friends and family, etc. etc. has been confused. All of our busy gift giving has replaced much of the faith that we have that Jesus actually came to give us peace and hope and rest.

Christmas therefore has become for many around the world a time of worry and fear and pain and sorrow because of the worry that they may not find that gift or receive that gift or have time to visit that family member or see that family member. Christmas that is meant to remind us of the tremendous peace we can have has become a time of stress, whether or not we know it.

In my home country of Liberia, there is a strange twist to the idea of Christmas. Weeks before the actual day, people go around their everyday life asking others the inevitable Liberian Christmas question: “Where is my Christmas?” Sometimes they may emphatically say, “My Christmas on you-oh,” meaning that you are responsible to give them a gift this year for Christmas. Most often, those asking the question expect a gift in money or kind, and most often, the person being asked is in the position of power or is the wealthier one, and therefore has the burden of helping the friend or the person who is asking for “their Christmas.”

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Another twist to the story is that the individuals who usually feel the need to ask people for their Christmas usually do not think they have anything to give. They believe that their Christmas is much more important than the other person’s need to receive or whatever. But Christmas is neither about receiving gifts or giving gifts in the sense that we practice here in the US or in Liberia, West Africa. The gift that has been given us by God is Christ, and we celebrate that gift by giving of ourselves and of our possessions willingly without being asked. Most often, in the United States, we give gifts to our family members and sometimes to our friends. But there is a problem here too. In our need to give gifts to our family and friends, we have turned a spiritual occasion into a capitalistic one of selling and buying and stressing over the unnecessary. I am as guilty of this as everyone else, believe me. As I sit here, I am very exhausted because I have been trying to fit shopping and cooking and cleaning and welcoming my children back home from college, decorating the Christmas tree and wrapping gifts, sending money home, and all the other stuff in preparation for this good day into my already busy and professional lifestyle.

But if you ask me whether I really wanted to do all of that stuff, I’d say all I really really wanted to do was to go upstairs to my room and wrap myself under my soft comforters and sleep for two days, get up in pajamas and get some tea and get back to sleep while Christmas music played. I really would like to find that rest, to run from all the Christmas lights, from the over-decorative street blocks in my neighborhood, all the fake happiness and the lack of peace reflected in the over-doing of Christmas. I say “fake” happiness because I wonder how much of the happy jolly spirit we have allows us to just know our neighbors, to know the unfortunate in our town, to care about those we give cans of food to if we really had the opportunity to know them. But this is what Christmas is really about- knowing the people around us and being human beings to them.

But if I wanted to simply rest, I can’t do that, of course, and you can’t do that too… okay. I was just trying to be honest with you. Tell me, do we really want to go through all the stuffing of turkeys, the baking, the happy-jolly holiday singing or do we just want to have peace, to know peace, to really find peace? It is only when we find that peace that “transcends all understanding” that the true meaning of Christmas becomes relevant. It is only then that all of the “happy jolly” feelings, the festivities and the reality of the season become real and beautiful.

What is peace? What is peace really? When Christ came into the world, it was to bring peace, of course, not through war and violence, not through the destruction of human life or the destruction of our enemies. It was to bring peace to the troubled heart that causes wars. The peace of Christmas should be the peace that knows calm when all of the material things of the world are not there, when one’s world has fallen apart, when there are no gifts to give, when the bills need to be paid…peace.

Because I am talking about Christmas, I know I have already lost some of my best friends. Some of my friends do not believe in Christmas. They believe in the entire festive season as “Happy Holiday” season, and I do not blame them. Those who think of the day as a holiday may be telling it as it is because really, Christmas has been taken out of Christmas, and has become a holiday, of course. For some of these friends, it is not the faith of the day that matters since for them, Christmas is not a faith issue. I agree with them on that. But for me, Christmas is a faith issue, but I know that Christmas has been taken out of Christmas for most of the world.

There is hope however, because if nothing else, the idea of family, goodwill, and gathering continues to be a strong Christmas tradition around the world. Yes, cooking and cleaning and preparing for family can be burdensome, but after all the hard work and stress, there is always something wonderful about having everyone together under one roof.

One of the ways I have reduced my Christmas stress is by reducing the number of people I have to entertain, the number of gifts my own children get, and by shopping later, not earlier. This year, our Christmas tree was up for two weeks without any gifts under the tree. In fact, I’ve just completed wrapping the last gift ad placed it under our artificial Christmas tree. Our children were amazed that there was a Christmas tree with no gifts under it. Maybe they learned something new by that this year.

Of course, there are numerous ways of refocusing and reducing stress. One must find their own way of surviving the weeks before and after Christmas.

Whatever you do this Christmas, remember to keep peace in Christmas because it was to bring peace that the Christ child came. And even though he came to our world as a child, he was really God and creator of the world.

Let your Christmas this year be filled with peace and calm, and your new year be prosperous all year through.

“Sweet Mother”- Originally Sung by Prince Nico Mbarga of Nigeria, the Hit from the 1970s Brings Back Great Memories of Our Mothers This Holiday Season- Merry Christmas to all Y’All Out There- May All of Our Departed Mothers Be Remembered this Christmas and New Year

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SWEET MOTHER

Anyone growing up in Africa, particularly, West Africa in the 1970s will stop to reminisce their childhood or adolescent years upon hearing Prince Nico, as he was known, blarring on the radio. If you did not know what your mothers did to give you not just life, but a living in the hot sun of Africa, you would every now and then hear your mother singing the song to you when you came home from school. I recall even my best friend, Cynthia’s mom singing the song one day when we gathered to celebrate her birthday at her home. That memory of a mother so dedicated as I knew Cynthia’s mom, singing Prince Nico’s “Sweet Mother” to us prior to the singing of “Happy Birthday” to her daughter while we were still in high school at CWA comes back to me every time I recall my own mother, another woman who knew the very lyrics of the song when it pleased her. Prince Nico touched the hearts of mothers during that year. Now, being sung by another artist on video, I couldn’t help sharing it from Youtube when I discovered the song on my friend, Lola’s webblog. Of course, I have a copy, but I wouldn’t post it myself from the DVD, but it’s good to know that the legacy of the powerful Nigerian and African star, Prince Nico continues to influence the world, and more especially, the legacy of the African woman, the African mother, the hero of Africa still lives on in that song.

This is Mama, Hne Datedor Mary Williams who died in 2000, just eight years after that.

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Here is my own mother in 1992, despite war, she stopped to pose for this photo to send it to us and her grandchildren who had just immigrated to the United States to escape the Liberian civil war in 1992.

Here is me in 1980, in college, having been shaped a bit by the old song:

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The Christmas and New Year season, not to speak of the Thanksgiving American style usually brings back many sad memories, whether or not one has lost a mother or father. But this holiday season is supposed to make us merry, right? The whole idea of celebrating with huge families and friends can be depressing to immigrants who often come to the United States without their extended families, and therefore do not have huge families to gather with or cannot afford to send for extended families from their original home countries. As the holidays get closer, I often will revisit my own memories of growing up in Monrovia, the shiny holidays, the green holidays of music and flashy toys, of families who were there, but that alone is not sufficient. Today, I heard the old old song through Lola’s beautiful website, and thought hey, there is something great about memory, about the power of living to recall those who are no longer with us, about the beauty of life and art and God and everything.Many Americans who usually are used to having their mothers or fathers around during the holidays, and now no longer have them are also like many of us who have become accustomed to not having our mothers or fathers around. But memory can add to the beauty of the celebration. I know- I am going to be calling my father this week and sending him and the family my Christmas gift, which is expected, and he will tell me how much he misses me, but I will not see them and they will not see me or my children. What for me is most wonderful however, is that the story of Christmas is the same every where around the world. The good news of Christmas, the well wishing, the expectation of renewal because of the Christ child, the hope of seeing our loved ones again because of the hope that Christmas assures, and the faith of the everlasting is a great thing to hold on to whether one is in Africa now or in the US. For me, my mother’s love of God and her singing and her hope for her children are a great treasure this time of year when there is so much cold and so much spending of wealth that I don’t have. “Sweet Mother,” Prince Nico sang, “I never forget you, for de suffer wheh you suffer for me-oh.”

Early Holiday Greetings to all of my sweet readers out there. I love you.

Mass Graves Found In Liberia: Hello? The Massacred, Now Making Their Voices Heard Once More So Survivors Will Take Heed

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Lest we forget that hundreds of thousands of Liberians were massacred, killed, and mutilated, that whole families were lined up and executed, blown up, bombed, that whole villages, cities, and towns were burnt to the ground, the dead have returned to help us remember. This should be the time to remember, to reflect that no matter how hard we try to forget, we will have to slow down and remember that for one reason or the other, all the world sat by as hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters were massacred, dumped into mass holes, and forgotten, but we should not forget that it happened.

Liberian news writer, Jonathan Paye-Layleh quotes the chairman of Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Jerome Verdier as saying that “The mass graves that we saw are something the people are living with.” Chairman Verdier goes on to add, “In some places, they have the full names of those who were buried.” Yes, villagers in this part of Loffa County are the custodians of the silent history buried beneath their feet, and have refused to allow these masses of our people to be forgotten.

“The mass graves that we saw are something the people are living with.” What a powerful statement to know that throughout Liberia, survivors have come home to mass graves of sometimes hundreds, maybe someone will discover thousands someday, and who are we to set those perpetrators of this evil free? Who are we to say that Charles Taylor’s crimes committed against humanity only happened to Sierra Leoneans? Who are we to hand over his wealth to him when masses of Liberians who were probably buried alive are being discovered in a nation that is still trying to find a new footing after fourteen years of war? Who are we to set free those who have not even been brought to trial when hundreds of thousands of Liberians will never return home again? Who are we?

I do not like to play around with politics, most specifically, Liberian politics because it can get rotten.

I do not see myself in politics ever because I cannot bear what politics can do to a person when power is given to them, especially, in Africa. But every now and then, the Liberian civil war that is so close to my heart comes up, and my blood boils over with pain. Maybe this is because living through and watching bombs fall and watching people die in my presence or watching my own family starve or watching politicians and warlords destroy Liberia is something that I will never forget.

Therefore, the news today of the discovery of more mass graves, though not surprising to me, reminds me of how we need to dig up the past in order to bury the past, and after burying the past, we can then move on into the future. Until we do that, there is no forgetting.

I often hear people say, “Oh, we need to forget the past- or we need not talk about what happend, oh.” But I will say, we need to talk about the past; we need to dig up the evil past and examine the past, debate the past, be guarded by the past, look at the past so we do not have to repeat its mistakes. There are many other things we may not dig up, like mountains of bones and human skulls that were left in the slaughter jungles of Charles Taylor’s war. They were not buried, and cannot therefore be dug up. Maybe we will discover the skulls and bones of our relatives left in the killing bushes, and then bury them, but they must be reckoned with sooner than later, if you ask me.

The dead do not die in such mass numbers as did Liberians just for us to forget what Liberia’s war lovers did to destroy hundreds of thousands of our people. I am not saying that Liberians should continue to be angry and hateful of those who massacred our people. No. I am saying rather that many among us would rather forget that hundreds of thousands of Liberians died for what little freedom the country has experienced these two years, and because so much blood was shed and because such a high price was paid, we should not forget for one moment.

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Hospital workers dig mass graves in this file photo from 2003, when hundreds of people in Monrovia were killed.

I recall the day of the inauguration of our President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the frist female President in Africa. Everyone I know was going crazy about the idea of Africa’s first female president, and not about the end of the bloody warfare. I was surprised that people were trying to politicize a very serious matter that had resulted in this historical event. For me, it was a tearful moment just to know that the horrible war that had eaten away at our hearts was now over, that Charles Taylor was gone even if not forever, and that a new hope was born. That afternoon of the inauguration, I was sitting in my office at Penn State University’s Altoona campus where I teach, when I received a phone call from the BBC producer, Kirsty Pope in London.

BBC wanted to know how I, a Liberian woman and a Liberian poet felt about the great news taking place in my homeland of Liberia, how I wanted to express my opinion about such a great historical moment. “We have been trying to locate you,” Kirsty Pope’s beautiful British accent sounded clear over the phone waves. I was about to attend a workshop on grant proposal making that Penn State’s Associate Vice President of Research and Grant, Bob Killeron was conducting on my campus that day. I was running late, I thought, but a call from the BBC was much more important at that moment, and a call about Liberia’s inauguration after fourteen years of warfare was more important. As a mother, wife, teacher, writer, scholar, driver of teenagers, family cook and line backer, I know how to negotiate my minutes and moments, so I crossed out the workshop which was being conducted by not just my Vice President, but a good friend of mine. Later on, the VP finished his workshop, and was brought over to find me in my office. And even as I went to the door, and told him that I was on the phone with BBC, discussing Liberia after all these years, I felt that my VP was important, but Liberia deserved this one moment on BBC.

Of course, I was happy that after fourteen years of violence, Liberia was at least seeing its first signs of peace. But telling Kirsty Pope or the BBC that I was happy was putting it too simply, and I was not about to do so. The matter at hand was not that simple, and the dead are saying just that once more. My response would need a two page write up, a poem, and time on the radio and then on the internet for about a month. It was not that simple.

I was saddened and happy at the same time. I was saddened that so many Liberians had died just for us to realize this day. I was saddened that an entire nation had been leveled to the ground, and I was saddened that Liberia would never ever be the same again and that Liberians were forever changed by that ugly fourteen-year warfare. I knew that even though I was glad that we now had a new leader, glad that that leader was a woman like myself, I was however grieved that we had allowed warfare to destroy us as a people, and as much as I was hopeful, I knew one thing: that the dead would not rest until we one day decided to give them their proper burial once we found their graves.

For me, that burial is not the burial of individual unburied bones or of masses who were buried in huge invisible graves. For me, burial means that we will not hide the truth or cover up for war criminals or try to protect our friends who are war criminals, but that we would build a nation on transparency, fair play and honesty. Maybe that moment is dawning for us in the Diaspora as well as in the country with this new discovery.

And to me, not forgetting means that those who are now the new leaders take heed, listen, and refrain from the news now coming out of the country, the news of new corruption deals and new contracts. The discovery of the first set of mass graves is only the beginning of things to come, and if anything, we need to take account and be accountable to the world so that the violence we saw for fourteen years never happens again.

Yes, Liberians were buried alive by Samuel Kanyon Doe and his soldiers, massacred and buried alive by Charles Taylor’s rebels, by Prince Johnson’s soldiers, and by several other Liberian war lords and warriors, some of whom are serving today as officials of government. Those statement takers for the LT RC in Liberia and in the Diaspora are doing a good job, but after all is uncovered, there should follow the necessary action so those who must be prosecuted will face prosecution. Those who must be pardoned are pardoned, and those who need to give back monies from the war gains, will return the money to our country. The dead who were crowded into graves dug by greedy warlords are making their voices heard if we the living cannot do it for them.

Maybe some would love to forget that Charles Taylor and his rebels/soldiers along with their opposing enemies killed Liberians in mass numbers and buried them in mass graves across our country. Today, Charles Taylor has not yet been charged by Liberia, by the United Nations or by anyone for the crimes he committed against Liberians. Today, he sits in a beautiful jail, having of his own desire, postponed his trial for another year. And today, Liberia is discovering just a few of the many mass graves of Liberians that were massacred in that bloody war.

Is it any wonder that government officials and Human Rights Investigators have discovered mass graves in villages in Loffa County? Is it any wonder that the smallest of the graves contains 78 bodies and one of the largest, 500 bodies? But this is the beginning of the digging, the beginning of the search for the ugly past of an ugly war that we would all love to forget, to cover up, to put behind us as we go on with our new future. But as the Africans believe, “The dead are not really dead.” The dead will come back to haunt us if we do not stop to dig up those masses of innocent civilians that were massacred by ugly warlords and government zealots. We would like to pretend that we did not know that these things did happen.

I lived in Liberia those first two horrible years of the war. I read stories of people being loaded on to trucks and dumped somewhere by government, read of Charles Taylor’s men who burnt down whole towns and killed whole villages as they overran the country in their fight to take Liberia.

Yes, this is a good thing that the mass graves are being brought to the light. Those who were dumped in invisible mass graves were people with names, and we must remember that. There are many more graves to discover; we must never forget that.

Finding My Family


Good friend, please help me

Did you happen to see

two boys when you lived in Kataka?

One dark, chubby?

The other, light with dark eyes?

Good friend,

did you see them while you lived in Ganta?

One would have been ten

and the other this tall.

My big boy, Nyema, the small one, Doeteh.

Good friend, can you tell me

if they went to Tapeta?

Were they given weapons, did they kill?

Good friend, can you say

if they walked to Bassa?

Did they starve to death?

Good friend, can you say

if there was a mother walking by their side?

Was she healthy? was she treated well?

Oh, good friend, so this is where

they took them out of line?

Good friend, were they hungry

when they met their end?

Oh, good friend, I will follow

to wrap up their bones.

Thank you, good friend

But how will I know their bones?

—–By Patricia Jabbeh Wesley (Taken from Before the Palm Could Bloom: Poems of Africa)


When Last Did You Sit Down to Write A Poem? Poetry Has the Power to Heal, to be Universal, and to Be Eternal

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I was speaking to one of my students yesterday, and poetry as a subject came up as it usually does. She’d just written a poem that morning about certain things she felt so strongly about that only a poem could get to. “I discover that every time I feel terrible, I write a poem,” she said with that look students will give a teacher this time of year. These are the days for term papers and worries about exams and family needs and the holidays and more family and more family. “Poetry comes from deeply felt emotions,” I said to her as we walked the concrete walkway from my office to class.

Poetry is not religion, not faith, and unlike God, poetry cannot bring the kind of peace we seek when we draw close to God in our deepest moments of pain and sorrow. So, let’s not get things confused here. We are not talking about poetry in place of faith or God. And yet poetry heals. I am speaking from personal experience, I tell you. Poetry has the ability to dig deep inside our souls, inside our inner selves to find that little spot where nothing human or of human can reach. When one feels that sort of pain and anger, that feeling that seems to be of the incurable, then this is the moment to sit down quietly and reflect until a poem is birthed. Often, that poem about pain and sorrow may not be an Emily Dickinson poem or a T.S. Eliot sort of poem, and yet, something inside of such a poem is as worthy as Dickinson’s or Eliot’s or as of any other famous world poet whose fame is based on the power of their poetry.

This sort of poem written at such a moment is significant because it does something powerful for the writer who at a moment in a moment may only find strength and faith in the words expressed in a poem written in the moment. That poem can do so much as to console or bring out raw feelings, dig into the pain for that spot where healing may begin. Sometimes a poem can even keep the suicidal person from committing suicide since in that moment of wanting to write and finally writing down those feelings can empty the ill feelings out of the individual, and therefore bring about complete healing or the beginning of healing.

Poetry writing is an art of reaching deep inside to bring out what no one knows about, but the person writing the poem. That is a powerful thing- the ability to put on to paper something forbidden or evil or painful or taboo, angry or sad, the ability to empty the garbage that is destructive in a living person, therefore, purging that individual clean. That is the power of poetry. Everywhere in the world, people write poetry or recite poetry or sing poetry, and in that art, they find healing.

Another important thing about this thing, which is only an art, a simple art of reaching inside oneself is that it is Eternal. Poetry was in the beginning and will live on long after we are gone. When, according to the Christian Gospel, we read in Genesis that “In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the Earth,” it is poetry alive. The very word with which the earth was created according to the Gospel is scientifically poetic, and yet real for the believer. But the most powerful reality is that the poet, the true and powerful poet and the poetry of the poet are both eternal.

Read the following poems taken from Before the Palm Could Bloom: Poems of Africa (New Issues, 1998) my first book of poetry, and see whether you will not recognize the process of healing taking place in the mind of the poet/individual at the moment of writing these poems. In one, the speaker is at a moment of reconciling anger from something, perhaps, pain with the reality of the sovereignty of God. In the second, there is so much pain, the speaker wrestles with the question of mourning after a tragedy, and yet, the last, the speaker’s anger takes the place of poking fun at a certain group of women. All of these are to me a way of seeking and finding healing. Poetry should heal both the writer and the reader, whatever form it takes, written or spoken.

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The International Poetry Festival of Medellin is one of the evidences that poetry indeed, heals!

Surrender

 

So often, I want to make you;
roll you, reshape you, a ball of clay
after my say
I want to squeeze you,
my play dough, an image,
into my image.
I want to melt you, shape you, like gold;
polish you, mold you into a charm
to be sold.

My little woodwork, carve you,
make you my Kissi ritual mask.
I want to hang you
so often, around these, my walls,
make you my little talisman,
swing you, my little magic wand.

My pungent, leafy voodoo,
my sum, my boiling pot of juju.
My little protective pin
about my fabric life, about my pieces.
I want to ride you, my cruising Pajaro.
Suddenly, there
you are, always God.

Now, it is your turn. here, roll me,
reshape me, pat me, mold me,
heating the clay on my flesh,
after your flesh.

Grip hold of my mascara cheeks, my charms
of gold bracelets, binding my life.
Melt all my magic wands,
my bulging, voodoo eyes.
Take hold of my big, bleeding heart,
my boiling pot of juju, my beads
of charms, my me.
And if I’m not yet surrendered,
my God, vanquish me.
—-Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

 

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What Dirge
__________________________________________

So what shall I use to wipe my brow?
To bring back a life
snatched away in its prime?
What shall I say, and what shall I lay hands
so helpless upon to wipe the sorrow
from my brow?

What shall I wear to mourn a life
whose end has dealt us this blow?
Shall I wear black, so when our townswomen,
hearing the drums, come wailing, wailing,
they shall see the sorrow
of my heart on my dark lappa?

Shall I tie a string around my forehead?
Shall I lie prostrate on The Mat?
Shall I cry tears for those you’ve left us to feed
when we ourselves cannot feed ourselves
in a land where the hungry, forever hungry,
keep the faith?

What dirge shall I sing?
Shall I recount the battles fought at Nganlun?
Shall I sing of blood shed at the cracking of a gun
when I myself am so afraid of the gun?
What shall I say when the women,
hearing my song, come wailing
and knocking at my door?

—-Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Monrovia Women
___________________________________


Monrovia women . . .
Here they come!
You see their colorful faces
before you know their hearts.
Shining, red lips, red cheeks,
painted eyelids and lashes.
Perhaps they would like
to paint their pupils, too!
Their eyebrows take to various routes
to suit their longing hearts.

Aye, Monrovia women . . .
Look at their necks!
You could build a mansion
from jewelry a single woman wears.
Sometimes, like Indians,
their noses wear gold rings,
while their ears themselves
wear several others too.

You have yet to see their hands . . .
Long nails painted
to match the various hues
their eyes and cheeks wear.
Fingers held apart
by heavy gold rings.
Oh, you should see them
walking down the road.

Monrovia women . . .
In evening gowns and dresses,
lappa suits and costly coats,
on their way to work.
You should see them at work!
They nurse and paint their nails all day,
and guide their skirts from hooking
on to a rustic nail.

Monrovia women . . .
Strolling in the humid sun
in high, expensive shoes.
If you would stop
to ask their toes
how much fun it really is,
walking in such heels,
I’m sure you’d say aye-yah,
for our poor Monrovia women.

—-Patricia Jabbeh Wesley
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