I’m busy at work, collecting, accepting, reading, editing, working with my team of readers and helpers as we begin the long process of putting together what will be the first comprehensive anthology of literary works from the small African Republic of Liberia, West Africa. The book will include works from the early days of the republic to the present, with key authors whose work have never been seen outside of Liberia, but who are the foundation of some of us contemporary writers. Manuscripts are coming in, an October 31st deadline, fast approaching. Already, we are accepting and rejecting, a rolling process to give writers the opportunity to edit, revise or send in new work. What keeps me excited is not what we who are now the older generation of living writers from Liberia have done, in Liberia, and the diaspora; what excites me, rather, is the new group of young, aspiring writers, most, who have been my mentees, a new generation of millennials, college students and recent graduates who in trying to make sense of the struggling economy and lack of opportunities, are turning to writing their own stories as a means of survival. These young people who did not experience the Liberian civil war as some of us older generation of writers, are the inheritors of that war, its crumbled buildings, broken streets, poor schools, the long road out of a war that devastated the country for fourteen years. These young people are the future. They are the future of not only the nation, but also its literature. This is why I stay awake at night. One of such young aspiring writers who does not get enough attention, is Kerry Adama, a very talented, humbled and descent young man, who describes himself as a Servant Leader in the Campus Christian Fellowship at Cuttington University, where is is currently studying. He is 0ne of our young ones who gives us hope of another great Liberian writer. Below his photo is his poem, ” I Live Where Billboards are Broken.”
I Live Where Billboards are Broken
BY KERRY ADAMAH KENNEDY
I live where billboards are broken,
my sweet home,
where cotton blooms and snapper fish lives.
This home, where our coconut trees
know our history.
I live with mice running up and down my home.
I live here where we dance to the sound of the Samba,
where kola nuts and pepper welcome us.
This land, of beautiful lakes and mountains.
I live here,
Where we don’t hear birds chirping in the morning.
My home isn’t like that.
We don’t wake to the singing of birds,
but we wake to the tussle of mice in our rooms,
and ripping apart our documents.
In my room, I hear two mice discuss
How they will eat my black shoes.
One says he’s making his lair in them.
Another says my passport on the table
is good food
so he helps himself.
He chews on, but discovers the shoes too hard
for his old teeth. So, he stops,
and I laugh hearing them talk,
but I’m scared to approach them.
I wake to mice running,
and my mom making breadfruit soup
in the hot morning.
Here is Jee-Won’s Poem, My Mother’s Tale
My Mother’s Tale:
for My Mother
JEE-WON M.E. ARKOI
She stood there on a Saturday morning,
painting a mental picture in her mind,
watching the heavy downpour
that had begun the day before
but still didn’t seem to be near the end.
Our bag of rice is empty, and if you know,
you know that you shouldn’t play
with Liberian people’s rice business.
In this Liberian household,
we eat country rice only.
She imagines the hassle she’ll go through
to “find car.” On this rainy, cold,
wet Saturday morning, she thinks
of the beans she cooked on Thursday,
the one Baby Arkoi likes, but didn’t enjoy
because she likes it with country rice
not the imported nyanmanyama.
She imagines Gorbachev market, Red-Light,
where the zogoes hustle rain or shine,
where there is mud, red, thick, stinking mud.
She imagines the portor, portor,
but like a hen who has waited for the rain
that refuses to cease, like a hen,
that keeps her children warm
under her wings while her heart breaks
from watching them starve,
like a hen, that goes into the rain ignoring
the cold, searching for the last rice grain,
Mama Arkoi put on her boots, got herself ready,
and ran through our flooded yard, into the rain.
Looking for rice for us her chicks,
my wonderful mother.
It’s Sunday morning, and it’s raining still,
Rev. Arkoi looks out the window,
pointing at the chickens in the rain.
Our Desse, my Esika though from another world,
relates to that country chicken
more than Mawein, the Lorma people’s stranger,
more than Sumowuo, a son of the soil,
Mama Arkoi looks at the chickens, and smiles
and then laughs, her laughter so alive
and sweet like the melodies of her people,
like the Lingala songs from her people,
the Congolese people, who know how to sing
so well, songs I don’t understand, but try to sing.
She laughs, thinking about yesterday’s
trip to Red-light Market.
Looking out the window, she says, “I remember.”