Writing as A Tool in Healing: Poetryforpeace Celebrates More than 100,000 Hits, Hundreds of Comments & A Loyal Group of International Readers: Here’s to You, My Poetry from Around the Web


                  —Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

The calabash
now shattered

her contents
like palm wine

across the regions
of the world.

                     I began blogging Poetryforpeace in late July of 2007 as an outlet for my overwhelming excitement after visiting Medellin, Colombia, a guest of the International Poetry Festival of Medellin in Colombia, South America, where I was one of 75 international world poets featured in that celebration of poetry. There, in Colombia, I saw a confirmation of my belief in writing as a source of healing all of the traumas we can experience as people. The Colombian people who by that year had seen 40 years of brutal fighting and disintegration of its people were confirming my belief that no matter how bitter the trauma, the pen is more powerful than the bullet and that writing can heal. This is because throughout my life, even as a child, I wrote to get rid of whatever bad feelings I had during those childhood and adolescent years, so now, this was another stage for me in the writing process.


——— Patiricia Jabbeh Wesley (Copyright: Where the Road Turns, Autumn House Press, 2010)

On the side walk, patches of people
linger late.

In the day, they are like rice grains
along the roadways,

and at night,
they wallpaper lame bodies
in the draft darkness
of the broken city.

Crowds of war returnees,
waiting for nothing,
day after day,

waiting for nothing
after refugee camp,
after their former cities
of refuge

spewed them out like dirt,
after wandering the globe.
After death’s passing,
they have returned

looking like returnees
from the dead.

The city is hot, burning like steel
with hunger.

The air used to belong to us here
one woman said,
there used to be a road
to take us back home.

Today, the road homeward is now lost
The road to Cape Palmas, filled
with dry bones.

But on the street,
a motorcade is coming.
Someone is living.
Someone is living on these bones.

     I was in the middle of the Liberian civil war when I began to use my talent in writing Poetry and prose to search for healing from the traumatic experience of the bloody Liberian civil war I was in. After my husband, children and I survived those first two years and moved to the US, I was so devastated, I needed something more than prayer to help me. I was so emotionally traumatized by the killing of numerous people we had witnessed, the torture my family and I had experienced, the ugliness of war revealed in the starvation many of us war refugees experienced,  the pain from watching children and the elderly die in the war, the bombs and the burning buildings, and all that war can bring upon any people, I could not stop crying. During my first years out of the war, even as a mother of then three little children, a wife and a professional person, I broke down every time anyone wanted me to say something about my experience of the then on-going Liberian civil war.

This was when I returned to writing. I decided in that first year of my arrival in the US, in 1991, to write down my memories of the war, to tell it all, first in a narrative of five hundred pages, writing that entire year. Later on, I found the strength to begin writing poetry again, my favorite genre in the writing process. I wrote endlessly, writing first about the war that had happened to Liberia, to its people, people other than myself. I was too hurt to bring images of the war close to myself in the poetry I wrote in those early years, poetry, that became part of my first book, Before the Palm Could Bloom: Poems of Africa.   


                     —–Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

At night, it is like fire
spreading beneath us.
This vast city
aflame, and the plane groaning.

The city is more beautiful
from the sky at night.
At noon, it looks like
a worn-out garage,
a thing in the middle
of swamp country.

All the buildings are worn-out,
rusted to the bone
of steel, twisted
to make way so life
can go on.

Everything is bent and broken
along the hilltops.
I touch air to see if air
is still there.
The touchdown,

and we appear all worn-out,
too, like the city, broken.
All the birds
moved out long ago.
The trees too.

      It was then I discovered that the more I wrote down my hurt feelings, my sorrow, and bitterness from the torture I’d experienced, the less I cried, the less angry I was, and the more I could reason and accept my and my country’s situation for what was happening to us. I was becoming healed even though the war still raged. I know that healing for me also involved prayer and spiritual healing, but writing down my feelings meant that I was admitting that indeed, these things had happened to me and to my people, and yes, indeed, it was okay to feel hurt, and yes, I could indeed be healed. 

    Writing poetry set me free from all of the anger from watching the devastation of my beloved Liberia, dulled the pain of losing so many relatives and all I had worked so hard for, including losing my mother and stepmother, and even as more family members and friends were killed in that prolonged war, I would turn to my computer and write, using powerful images as they came to me to express my feelings. I wrote about everything, my anger, my fears, my hope, my prophesies about the end of the war and hopes of a day when we would no longer be at war. 


     So, again when I found another means of writing to find healing in blogging, I added this form of creativity to my poetry. Here, today, I celebrate Poetryforpeace, an international blog and its high traffic of my faithful readers and those seeking for something, many stumbling upon this site accidentally. I don’t feel deserving of your words of encouragement or your time taken out for this blog, but I feel a kind of connection to you. I feel like you are part of my life, and you do know where I am and where you are. It is for you that I write. When I write, I often think of people across the world who will read every word, even if those are few, even if those will find my accidentally. You and I are going to change the world.  My hope is that despite my slow posting in the past couple years, you will find something within the past of my blogging to hold on to until I find the time to revisit you with a few new words.

I want the site to bring everything to everyone. Some will find poetry; others will find politics; others have found mundane stories, news, etc. All have been welcome. Here, today I celebrate with a small sample of my poems, all, published poems in my four books of poetry. These were already scattered around the web, but are gathered for your pleasure. Enjoy and let’s live. Life is short and beautiful. Let’s keep our hopes for all the women around the world as we celebrate International Women’s Day and as we celebrate Women’s History Month. Happy Women’s History Month even if you’re a man. Remember, without a woman, there is no man.


          — Patricia Jabbeh Wesley (copyright: The River is Rising Autumn House Press, 2007)

Closure is such a final thing- the needle in the arm,
one last word or no last word at all, a death chamber

where the supposed convict lies waiting so the poison
will descend or ascend to the heart, a final beat,

and then sleep, that eternal thing none of us living
has ever seen. In California, today, a man is being

put to death, but outside, his supporters wait; candles,
flames, anger- the cold chill of death and life,

and a country that waits for all the arguments to die
or live on. The victim’s mother will see closure today,

they say, and move on after the murderer or the supposed
murderer is laid to rest with her son, side by side.

Death is such an ironic thing to know. To know death
is to know rot, hush, the lack of pain. It is 3 am

in Pennsylvania. Time, so deceptive, and arbitrary
and imperfect. Around the world, we all wait, for

the executioner’s poke into vein, blood meeting poison.
We are such civilized people, I’d say, dishing out death

in small poking needles. The newsmen tell us they
cannot find his vein. The awkwardness of asking the one

awaiting death to find his own vein so they can murder
him too- the executioner’s awkward fingers, the knowing

fingers- afraid of both the man and the art of killing the man.
I hate death. I hate the dying, the ugly process of dying,

the ritual of murder. So I too, keep vigil on my carpet.
Tomorrow, I’ll tell my eleven year-old daughter how

we have all murdered another human being. An eye
for an eye, so far away from my bedroom of dim lights,

a comforter or two, the surrounding hills in close view.
There is always a mountain here in Pennsylvania,

always that looming presence of life and death and the
far away feeling of the valley below, of being so far away

from home. There is no closure, I see, after the poison
has reached the heart, and the accused, stretched out, finally.

The victim’s mother begins to weep all over again-
as if this was just the beginning of the dying.


I NOW WANDER    (Copyright: Becoming Ebony, SIU Press, 2003

                                                    Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

I raised ducks, pigs, dogs, barking watchdogs.
Wild chickens loose, dancing, flapping old wings.

Red and white American roosters, meant to be sheltered
and fed with vitamins until they grow dumb;

in our yard I set them loose among African breeds
that pecked at them until they, too, grew wild and free.

I planted papayas, fat belly papayas, elongated papayas,
tiny papayas, hanging. I planted pineapples, mangoes,

long juicy sugar canes, wild coco-yams. From our bedroom
window I saw plantain and bananas bloom, again and again,

take on flesh and ripeness. And then the war came, and the rebels
slaughtered my pigs, my strong roosters, my hens,

my heavy, squawking ducks. Now I wander among strangers,
looking for new ducks, new hens, new coco-yams, new wars.



                                        Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

The women in my family were supposed
to be men. Heavy body men, brawny
arms and legs, thick muscular chests and the heart,
smaller than a speck of dirt.

They come ready with muscled arms and legs,
big feet, big hands, big bones,

a temper that’s hot enough to start World War Three.
We pride our scattered strings
of beards under left chins

as if we had anything to do with creating ourselves.
The women outnumber the men
in my father’s family, leaving our fathers roaming

wild nights in search of baby-spitting concubines
to save the family name.
It is an abomination when there are no boy children.

At the birth of each one of us girls, a father sat prostrate
in the earth, in sackcloth and ash, wailing.

It is abomination when there are no men
in the family, when mothers can’t bring forth
boy children in my clan.



                Patricia Jabbeh Wesley (1998, Before the Palm Could Blook

When I get to heaven
I’m going to shout hallelujah all over the place.
Dancing the Dorklor, the Wahyee,
the Ballet, the Rock and Roll.
I’ll dance the Brake, the Rap, Hip-Hop.
All the dances only sinners have danced.
I’ll sing Opera, the African way,
dance the Ballet the African way.

When I get to heaven
I’ll pray so loud, shaking hands the White way,
the Black way; greeting with kola nuts
as the Grebos do.
I’ll lie prostrate, to greet
the Yoruba way. Snap fingers to greet
as Liberians do.
There will be no boundaries, law laws, no rules.

When I get to heaven
I’ll sing the blues and dance the Sumu.
I’ll paint my face with white chalk and red rock,
sit with missionaries so all can see
I’ll pound my drums, shaking my Sahsah.
Blowing my trumpet the African way
Dancing to Jesus the African way



                              –Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

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

“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?





               —-Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Medellin, Oh, Medellin…
to God, I wish I could take out my heart for you,
but how will I sing this song to you without a heart?
You, with so much heart for love and poetry,
for hope in the eyes of the little girl
who with a scrap of white paper, wants me to say a word
to her, to autograph my name for her, to write it in her
name. She tells me with that unusual smile how
she loves my poems, but she is only eight years old.
She and Carlos, the five year old brother who have
pushed through the thousands to get to me.

Medellin, Oh, Medellin…
where we go down from the mountain
into the bowl of a city, into the deep heart of a city,
so warm, a city where people still smile
and clap to a poem, and cry for the war, a city
where concrete houses hold up the hills with muscles
of steel, muscles of pain, and somewhere along the roads
as the bus descends from the airport, the poor have
erected their own lives so sadly, waiting,
and yet, they overlook the city with hope.
From the edge of sharp cliffs and the side roads,
the burning lights and flames of the city, hard
and indistinguishable from anger.
But theirs is of the pain from the years gone.

Medellin, Oh, Medellin…
Waiting can be so hard, Medellin.
And I love you from my heart. I love your laughter,
your warm hugs and kisses, your Spanish, so simply
plain and warm. I love even your tears that
you have shared with me, when a poem I’m reading
touches you in that place where only a poem can go.
At the International Poetry Festival, you sit there,
along your hill arena, clapping, thousands of people,
sitting and thinking and listening and hoping,
Medellin, I have never seen anything like this before.
Thousands of people sitting for long hours
at a poetry reading, Medellin…
we wait for that day, Medellin, we wait.
Trust me, I know how to wait, and I know you do too.

Announcing My Fourth Book of Poems: “Where the Road Turns” is Now Available in Stores

A new book is like a new baby. You plan, you write, you edit, nurturing the poems, then you find a publisher, and wait, and then the book is published. When the book is published, like a new born, it must be well-received, welcome, and shown around the harsh world it was born into. If it finds good footing, it thrives and finds its own hearts to conquer, its own eyes to drain tears from, its own lovers to make laugh. If it does this well enough, the author and publisher are happy, and the book grows as reviewers study it, examine it, and test it. The author on the other hand, has delivered the book, and is empty of everything for a while, like a new mother.

Biography When the Wanderers Come Home

—Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

This is where we were born
in these corrugated rugged places,
where boys chasing girls chasing
boys chasing other girls chasing bellies
chasing babies chasing other babies
chasing poverty, chased death.
Of potholed streets and bars and sex
and other girls getting drowned
forever and ever in loveless love.
And then the fires of our lives
lit other fires of other lives
with lust and then
there was no longer us.
So then the war came with its bullets
chasing people chasing the bombs,
and ghost towns sprang up
with carcasses of the dying
and the dead. And like mushrooms,
the dead rose up to claim the land
and we were no more.
But the fires still burned in the wombs
and in the eyes of the city streets
below which the dead lovers and
love lie. And there was life again
out of so much pain,
and life took on its own life again
and the girls returned on the backs
of surreal horses in search
of that old fire. But these were no longer
the same girls or boys or men or women.
But this is where we grew up on these
sidewalk streets, in these rugged places.
This is where the streets come in.
This is where we belong.
This is where life begins.


When people ask me which of the few books I have written is my favorite, I say, “All of them. They are each like a child, unique and beautiful in themselves, and there’s none that is better than the other.” That is the writer’s perspective. The literary reviewer/critic says something entirely different. They are the gate keepers. So, here comes another book for the gate keepers to examine. Enjoy.

I am pleased to announce to my readers, my supporters, fans, friends, fellow poets that my fourth book of poems,  Where the Road Turns has been released by (Autumn House Press, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, July 20, 2010)

The book, which has 110 poetry pages or 126 pages in total was published by the publisher of my third book, The River is Rising, and is already enjoying its first week on the market. I was fortunate to have two very important writers in my life write blurbs for the book. Frank Chipasula, poet, editor and publisher reviewed the book and wrote a very beautiful blurb for me. Another blurb was taken from a review by Robert H. Brown in the Liberian Studies Journal. Chipasula is the editor of Bending the Bow: An Anthology of African Love Poems, e Heinemann Book of African Women’s Poetry and books of poetry by himself wrote a blurb that I have yet to live up to. I am only the fortunate one to have so many great poets, publishers, poetry friends and well wishers in my corner. I would not be here writing books of poetry without all of this network of good people. I take this moment to express my thanks and gratitude to these friends, my family, including my wonderful children who have always been there for me.

A Very Busy Few Weeks Leading to the Book’s Arrival:

Where the Road Turns was slated to come out on Sept. 1, 2010, but I was again blessed when my publisher, Michael Simms decided to bring the book out as early as possible. So, it arrived at my door on Tuesday, July 20, a day after I arrived from the 20th International Poetry Festival of Medellin in Colombia. In another post, I will take the time to highlight my adventure, the great festival of 100 world poets, the great audiences and the Colombian people. At this point, I will post a few poems from the book to help you take a glance into the book. Michael Simms, my publisher really believes in the book, and let me confess, he helped even me believe in the book. I know that you will love the difference between this fourth book and the third, and you will see how far the book is from the first two.

This is my last reading from Where the Road Turns as a manuscript. A new book is like a new child. It comes into a very harsh world, but if the book is fortunate and is promoted, it is well-received, and finds its place into the hearts of the people.

This reading is part of the nine readings within ten days that I had scheduled for me in Colombia’s 20th International Poetry Festival of Medellin. The auditorium was packed with about 300 or more from the region of the city of Villavicencio, Colombia. To get to the town from Medellin, we were driven about an hour or more to Medellin Airport, flown for about an hour or less to Bogota Airport, from there, a driver drove us from Bogota Airport to the city of Villacicencio, where a packed room of the beautiful poetry lovers of Medellin awaited my team member, Erling, a poet from Norway and I. This is only a sneak peak into the Festival posting that is to come within the end of the week.


We Departed Our Homelands and We Came . . .
Grebo Saying

By Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

We departed our homelands and we came,
so the Grebo say, we came with our hands
and we came with our machetes

so we too, could carve up the new land.

When we left home, we crossed streams
and we climbed up hills; we set out through
wet brushes, and the rivers parted
so we could cross.

We know that if the leopard should leap,
it is because it sees an antelope passing.

We came, not so we could sit and watch
a wrestling match, not so we could watch
the land on which our feet walk,
rise beyond our reach.

We journeyed from our homelands,
and we came
, so, let it be known that we left
our homelands, and we came.

When we arrived, we dug up the earth,
and in this new earth, we laid down
our umbilical cords, forever.

So let it be known among the people– we left
all the beauty of our homelands

not so we would sit out on The Mat to wail.

Ghosts Don’t Go Away Just Like That
By Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Sometimes they lurk in hallways where they have lost
the other side of them. They may hover over new wars,

like the wars that carried them away from their bodies,
causing them to lose their world and us in the rush.

Ghosts don’t go away just like that, you know;
they may come in that same huge crowd that was

massacred together with them, and since that massacre
may have happened at school, in a bar or at church, they

may be found, kneeling at the pulpit, singing and taking
communion again and again, with everyone else.

They gather on a Saturday evening, as the sun sets over
the hills and a small flash of yesterday’s lightning lingers

from that old storm as the new storm rides in, and then,
there they are, ghosts! You can see them only if you have

eyes to see them as ghosts of humans, and yet not ghosts.
They’re looking to see if we will recall that they were here.

To see if we will build a stone to honor the fact that they
were here, with us, walking and talking, like us, to see

if we will remember that they lost so much blood
in the shooting, that they broke a leg or two, and that

so many of them were not counted in that sad number.
They want to know if we will put up a stone or keep

the fire burning to put out the fires, to stop all the killing
in the city streets, around the world,

to stop all the killing in the eyes of the city streets.


All poetry in this post was taken from Where the Road Turns (copyright Autumn House Press, Pittsburgh)

(“Biography When the Wanderers Come Home” was previously published in The Literary Review, Winter 2009 Issue.  Copyright: Autumn House Press, Pittsburgh, PA)



Amazon.com, Autumn House Press, your neighborhood bookstore (if not available, you can ask them to carry the book, most institutional libraries, etc.)

Again, thanks for giving me the inspiration and support to continue to write. None of this would be possible without you.

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

All My Travels: The Life of a Poet Isn’t as Bad as They Said It Would Be. Even Without the Money, Trust Me, You Still Have a Life, So, Com’on, Be a Poet if You’re Cut Out to Be

Every now and then, one of my teenagers jokingly says, “Mom, get a life!”

And I often say, “I’ve got a life, child, and I’ve got a good life that I’m grateful to have.”

One of my highlights prior to the OSU visit was my reading for the Fall for the Book Festival Reading in Sept. 2009: Here we go above and immediately below. Maybe I don’t have a life, but at least I have wonderful friends who love poetry.

It’s interesting when art and poetry merge: The woman in the painting is like a new competition in the world of poetry reading. I love this photo of her taking over the mic from me even though she’s only in the picture.

Associate Vice President and my good friend, Robert Killoren of Ohio State University, who was one of my hosts on February 25, 2010, photo taken after my talk on: “Travel Research and Writing: A Big World in the Small Storie We Tell”

A Chinese lady in the audience at the talk. She was one of the sweetest people I met on my visit.

Assistant to the Associate Vice President, Theresa, who worked so hard with the VP to bring me to OSU.

My African sister and a professor at OSU, originally from Sierra Leone, Miriam Conteh-Morgan, who was gracious to sit through the talk after she’d listened to my radio interview on NPR.

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow U? I still want to be a poet when I grow up.

When I was a kid in Monrovia, Liberia, my father’s company of men and women would take a break from their beer, food and laughter to talk to us children. In the living room, near Capital Bye Pass or Warwien, where we lived, my father would call me out to greet his company of Grebo people, mostly middle class, affluent, Grebo people who had settled in Monrovia in the late 1940s and early 1950s. They were now doing great in the Monrovia of the 1970s.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” A tipsy man or woman would ask me in the middle of the Saturday laughter, the bright Liberian, sun piercing through everything. “What do you want to be, baby girl? They say you ae clever, ” one of them would say, staring at me.
“I want to be a writer, a poet or something,” I’d say, often trembling, scared to death of my stepmother who didn’t like me very much.”
“A writer? A writer?” Someone in the group, sitting on my father’s plush sofa would rebuke.
“What kind of clever girl want-to grow up and be a writer?” They would roar with laughter.
“You should be a doctor or something, a doctor, I mean,” one of the men would add, and there was more laughing. All of this was said in impeccable Grebo, with all of the nuances and sighs a Grebo person is capable of. There of course were proverbs to spice up their disapproval. A woman these days had to learn something, they all agreed, not be some writer.
“She wants to be a writer,” my father would come to my rescue, “and that’s okay. I only want her to be educated, very, very educated so no man takes advantage of her,” he would finish.
“Girl, you need to grow up and be a doctor or some kind of big politician,” most of the company agreed, and I’d walk away to my room or to the kitchen or to the front porch, away from the suffocation of their adult world.

Emmanuel Wettee and the young Ms. Nagana after the symposium, snapped in this photo with me. It was a pleasure to have a few Africans at the OSU symposium talk.

I wondered all through my childhood and adolescence what was wrong with becoming a writer. Why did people think a poet or a writer wasn’t important just because doctors make money and poets didn’t?
“Or maybe you can become a teacher so you don’t have to starve while you write,” another of the visitors would follow me with one last comment even as I fled their company. I didn’t have much to say  since an African child was not supposed to express strong opinions in such a situation.

Daughter of Dr. Nanaga, young med. student at Ohio who took time out to attend my symposium talk, Emmanuel Wettee, one of the leaders of Liberians in the Diaspora at the symposium at OSU.

Dr. Ado Dan-Isa of Beyaro University in Nigeria, now a Research Scholar at OSU

So, I ended up being the writer who could have become a medical doctor, making money somewhere to feed me and all my relatives from my home town. If you know Liberians, then you know that they do not care about writers or poets or any such crazy folks like me. For most Liberians, you have to be a government cabinet minister or an important official if you want people to listen to you. But that’s one of our many problems as a people. Any nation that refuses to understand the importance of art in the life of its people is simply moving toward self-destruction.

Below is a link to one of my interviews at OSU. This link is to the one on NPR with Ann Fisher. Here is a photo in the studio, and then the one hour interview. Ann was one of my highest points, an exciting and vibrant interviewer who comes from Grand Rapids, Michigan. What a nice surprise to know that only in the studio.


The life of a poet or writer isn’t as bad as it was made out to be, I now know.

When I look at my life, the wonderful people I meet as I travel for poetry readings and talks from campus to campus, the wonderful students and lovers of poetry that enrich my life, I say, I’d never give up this for anything else. Where would a poet be without poetry? Where would the world be without poetry, you may ask.

A cross section of the audience at the poetry reading during my Ohio State Visit: It was an added treat when fellow poet and former grad student from IUP, James Barker came to the OSU reading with his students.

This academic year alone, I have been to several places, reading and signing books alongside my life as a teacher. My world is larger because of the many friends of my writing whose lives have enriched mine, and yet, I can still feed myself, which is a surprise. Often, I get bored reading my own poetry from place to place, bored that after I have written something, I have to go out and read it. But when I see the excitement of those who know how to appreciate art for its sake, I am encouraged. They bring a lot to the life that we lead.

Reading poetry at OSU

What do I tell my writing students? What do I tell fellow writers who enjoy this writing life, and often, this traveling life? Well, if this is your calling, don’t fight it. Use it to enrich some life, to bless the world, to be a consolation, to ask the questions no one wants to ask, to tell other people’s stories through your own eyes, to be there, simply, an ordinary writer whose gifts have nothing to do with intelligence or power.

And yet there were many other readings prior to this. Here are some of the past readings in brief. Sometime last year, there were readings for the Fall for the Book Festival as seen in these other photos, and of course, accidentally, with me wearing the same outfit. Being a writer does not often mean one will know which fashion to wear at an occasion, but here we go.

Signing books at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art Reading in Sept. 2009

My poet friend whom I admire a lot, Gabeba Baderoon and me after the Smithsonian reading in Washington DC

Liberian writer, Elma Shaw who attended my reading at the Smithsonian and took this photo.

My life as a writer is a small gift that comes from God, the power that only the divine can give. Why did anyone think that something was wrong with being a writer?

Another reading at Clarion University in PA. Daughter of immigrant Liberians, now a senior student on the left and her friend pose for a photo after my reading in Sept. 2010

See how short I am posing beside this Math professor at Clarion. He is originally from the Sudan.

I grew up to discover early on in my life that there were others out there who love poetry and writing, those who value writers. There were my professors, and of course, my father who taught me over and over that I had something to give to the world. There were publisher, mentors, other writers, struggling like me both in Liberia and in the US, who made the writing life worthwhile. I discovered that publihsers who edit the junk I write, magazine publishers who discovered me for themselves were far more valuable than we make them out to be. Without them, where would we be? Speaking for myself, where would I be if no one had said to me, “This is not good; this is good or this is trash.”

My hosts, Poet and Professor at Clairon, Phil Terman, who is a good friend of mine and Roger, both who worked diligently to get me to their campus. Where would the world be without poets who love poetry?

Poets are because many others out there are: Here’s to you. “Where the Road Turns” forthcoming.

Not too long ago, the publisher of my third book of poems, Michael Simms sent me one of the best e-mails I’d ever got, asking if I wanted him to look at my new manuscript of poems, and if I were interested in him publishing it. I quickly placed it in the mail, and now, we have a book forthcoming, and I say “we,” since I never consider myself to be the only author of any of my books.

For who will ever believe that those classmates, friends, fellow poets, publishers, professors, and mentors who have shaped us are not also co- authors of any one book that comes out anywhere in the world? A book is like a child; it takes a village to raise it, so of course, I don’t believe that just because I grew up thinking I would be a writer means I am a writer on my own island.  In fact, I’m still trying to be a writer, if you ask me.

I didn’t know that despite the lack of money from the writing life of a poet, despite the lack of huge grants as other writers are lucky to get, that I would indeed love my life as it is. My life has been scarred by tears, but poetry has been a source of strength simply because it is beautiful and those who appreciate what I do are even more beautiful. I once told my medical doctor neighbors that I am the only doctor on our street whose patients are a bunch of lines and mataphors arranged on a page, penniless patients of words and yet, it is these same words that may heal what a doctor cannot heal.

LUCILLE CLIFTON: (June 27, 1936- Feb. 13, 2010) A great American poet- May her soul rest in peace.

Lucille Clifton departed this life as we know it on Feb. 13, 2010, having lived the full life of a poet.

I studied her poetry during my final doctoral project towards my oral defense when I chose to study her connection to African poetry under the topic: “The Influence of The African Oral Tradition on Black American Poetry: A Connection Between Lucille Clifton’s Poetry and its African forebears, using Okot p’Betik’s “Song of Lawino” as a Source of Reference.” Now I treasure AWP 2009 where I last saw her.

Finally, let me conclude this blog post with a tribute to Lucille Clifton, a great poet, a mentor, a woman whose poetry life helped to show me that poetry is worth everything, that writing is a calling, and that no matter what, a poet is a poet for life. Goodbye, Lucille. We will all miss seeing you at AWP this year, but your spirit will linger here with us. We are, because you were and still are.

The Mississippi River Empties Into the Gulf

By Lucille Clifton

and the gulf enters the sea and so forth,
none of them emptying anything,
all of them carrying yesterday
forever on their white tipped backs,
all of them dragging forward tomorrow.
it is the great circulation
of the earth’s body, like the blood
of the gods, this river in which the past
is always flowing. every water
is the same water coming round.
everyday someone is standing on the edge
of this river, staring into time,
whispering mistakenly:
only here. only now.

sorrow song
by Lucille Clifton

for the eyes of the children,
the last to melt,
the last to vaporize,
for the lingering
eyes of the children, staring,
the eyes of the children of
of viet nam and johannesburg,
for the eyes of the children
of nagasaki,
for the eyes of the children
of middle passage,
for cherokee eyes, ethiopian eyes,
russian eyes, american eyes,
for all that remains of the children,
their eyes,
staring at us,   amazed to see
the extraordinary evil in
ordinary men.

[if mama / could see]

by Lucille Clifton

if mama
could see
she would see
lucy sprawling
limbs of lucy
decorating the
backs of chairs
lucy hair
holding the mirrors up
that reflect odd
aspects of lucy.

if mama
could hear
she would hear
lucysong rolled in the
corners like lint
exotic webs of lucysighs
long lucy spiders explaining
to obscure gods.

if mama
could talk
she would talk
good girl
good girl
good girl
clean up your room.

Happy New Year’s Wishes to My Readers, Friends, and Supporters: May 2010 Bring You Lots of Prosperity and Happiness

The Blessing

____By: Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Let your days ahead be sprinkled with laughter
and with laughter, peace.
May all you touch spring forth with freshness.
Find time to giggle and dance and jump,
and watch the setting of the sun.
When you wake up, wonder out loud
about the sun’s rays, about the darkening
of the morning, about the fog over the hills,
about your babies down the hall,
about the neighbor and her dog. Wonder
at the stars; wonder and wonder why
you are so blessed and why is it you are
among those of the earth who have
more than their allotted air for breathing.
Wonder why the cat meows and why
the dog wags its tail.
Wonder and wonder why dew falls
at night and about the squirrel’s fleeting stare.
Make laughter come alive in your home.
And when you touch someone, let that touch
be real, and I mean, real, my friend.
Walk gently on soft ground, and when
you walk on a bare rock, step hard, this
life is precious. May your year follow only
through a clear path, and please, when you walk,
let it be with God, my love, let it be with God.

— Patricia Jabbeh Wesley (Copyright: from new manuscript of poetry)

New Year’s Day is celebrated all around the world with grandeur, pomp and pride. No matter where you are, New Year’s Day is recognized as a significant bridge between the old present and the future, between the past and the future, between the new and old generation. Today, 2010 is no different. This however, is the end of a decade, a major bridge into a new era. In Liberia, New Year’s Day is celebrated by huge cooking and neighborly well wishing, visitation of relatives and open doors for children to roam in their dressy outfits just as much as they did at Christmas. In fact, when I was a child, our parents bought us two holiday outfits, one for Christmas and one for New Year’s Day. Today, however, many of us now live abroad, in the US, in Europe and around the world where our children can be assured of lots of eating and watching of football at home after watching the ball drop at Times Square or for some, after partying all night.

But why is the New Year significant to us Africans? In many African traditions, the New Year is a time when there is much hope and expectation that the old year’s troubles will be past and the new year will bring better times, goodness and happiness, prosperity and greatness. In many traditions, our people sacrifice animals in order to assure a good future. Here, today, many of us who are immigrants pause for a better year, for prosperity just as much as our forefathers.
Last night, I called home at about 8:30 Eastern time here, 1 am, in Liberia, and wished my father a Happy New Year. He, at 83, was already in the new decade, already in the New Year, and I, living across the ocean was still in 2009.

This is the serious question however: what do you expect of this New Year? What was the last year like for you? Many will say that the last year was a difficult year for them. For many, there was the loss of good jobs, of relatives losing their jobs, and yet despite all, many of us for the first time saw the Presidency of the first black president in the United States. So, maybe, it was a mixed year for you. For some, their heartache was not just professional, but emotional, social, marital, etc. Whatever the year was for you, you are at this new beginning, hoping for a better year. I wish you the best. I wish you will receive all that is good and wonderful, that your home will be healed, and that you will draw closer to God. I am grateful for the thousands of hits this blog has got since its founding a less than three years ago. I am grateful for the hundreds of comments from my readers, and wish that we together can one day bring peace to refugees, immigrants, and all of the downtrodden of our world. May the sun go before you and the moon be upon your path in 2010.

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2009- A New Year Prayer for All My Wonderful Readers/Viewers-


Happy New Year From Me to You
————————–Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Happy New Year, I say, Happy New Year.
Let your days ahead be sprinkled with laughter
and with laughter,  peace.
May all you touch spring forth with freshness.
Find time to giggle and dance and jump
and watch the setting of the sun.
When you wake up, wonder out loud
about the sun’s rays, about the darkening
of the morning, about the fog over the hills,
about your babies down the hall,
about the neighbor and her dog. Wonder
at the stars, wonder and wonder why
you are so blessed and why is it you are
among those of the earth who have
more than their allotted air for breathing.
Wonder why the cat meows and why
the dog wags its tail.
Wonder and wonder why dew falls
at night and about the squirrel’s fleeting stare.
Make laughter come alive in your home.
And when you touch someone, let that touch
be real, and I mean, real, my sister.
Walk gently on soft ground, and when
you walk on a bare rock, step hard, this
life is precious. May your year follow only
through a clear path, and please, when you walk
Let it be with God, my love, let it be with God.


My Iyeeh used to say to me, “May you always walk in the light and all those who come upon you love you. May you know peace, my child, and may your days be filled with laughter. Let no darkness come upon you when you walk. Let the days ahead dance before you, and may you never know tears. Remember who you are no matter what, may God bring you so much blessing, you are forced to share it.”

Hope is the thing with feathers (254)   by Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

From the inspired poem ‘ If ‘ – by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream and not make dreams your master;
If you can think and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools

good times
by Lucille Clifton

my daddy has paid the rent
and the insurance man is gone
and the lights is back on
and my uncle brud has hit
for one dollar straight
and they is good times
good times
good times

my mama has made bread
and grampaw has come
and everybody is drunk
and dancing in the kitchen
and singing in the kitchen
of these is good times
good times
good times

oh children think about the
good times

Share Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World,” Please

Managing your health and assuring yourself a long life- When is it a good time to fire your doctor and get one that really works for the money you pay and treats you like an equal???

As we grow older, we will no doubt develop newer health problems we never expected to have. Those of us living in the Diaspora from African descent will have diseases that others from European descent or from Asian descent do not have. And yet, we will be free of diseases those from other backgrounds or races have. For example, African women and men or blacks will develop more problems with High Blood Pressure, obesity, Diabetes, and stroke at a higher degree than people from other backgrounds. We will also have less cholesterol problems, less problems with bone loss, etc. than those from Western European backgrounds because we have larger bone mass and if we stick to our diet of of less sugar and less processed food, we can do even better. But if we eat all of the oils and the sugar choices added to the salty diets we already have, than we will add our inherent problems caused by our culture to that of the Euro-centric proplems to push us further toward the grave yard.

All of this silly explanation is to say that we NEED to manage our health since no two individuals are the same and no two races or cultures experience health issues in the same ways. What works for us does not work for others, and our diet practices at home in Africa are not exactly the same as we try to improvise out here in the US.

Additionally, the child who grows up in an African home, eating African meals alongside hamburgers and French fries, drinking highly carbonated, sugar coke products, eating lots of candies and other types of sweets, one who does not exercise through walking as children in other countries do, will have different childhood diseases, and later, adult health issues than children in Africa. Worst is that the children we bring up here in the US do not do the same tasking household chores children and their parents must do in Africa. Our children will therefore for this lack of exercise develop even bigger bones, but they will also be heavier, more obese, and will develop many health problems children in Africa will never have.

What’s worse are the adults who come to the US and develop all of the eating habits very fast because of stressful work schedules, a lack of opportunities to exercise or the refusal to change lifestyle practices. Now having stated all of these negatives, let us examine how one can be the manager of their own health, keep a clear eye on what the doctors are giving one to swallow, how doctors treat us, and how to stay alive longer than our parents.


I’m no medical specialist or doctor, but from my common sense experience and my own life, I’d like to offer a few words to women out there. If this is a good word for men, thanks to God. I am no specialist on what illnesses men have, so you can bear with me.

FIRING YOUR SWEET, SOFT SPOKEN, NICE LOOKING FEMALE DOCTOR…. or FIRING THAT OVERBEARING, VERY CONFIDENT MALE DOCTOR WHO DOESN’T EVEN GET IT WHEN YOU TELL HIM WHAT YOU’RE FEELING- Can you do that? Can you be brave to say to your doctor, who probably, has been your family doctor for longest “You’re fire!”?

YES- you can! Yes we can, as Obama’s campaign would say- YES, WE CAN!

Let’s examine some of the problems with us women who care more about our doctor’s feelings than about own health.

Let”s say you are a very professional, hard-working woman who takes care of your health, you have a very good insurance, and because you care about your health, you have been at your doctor’s office every time you felt something wrong with you. You go to see your doctor, whoever she or he is, male or female, but on every visit, you tell her that you think she out to check your sugar, to check for whether or not you have high cholesterol because you feel a certain way that is not like yourself.

But time after time, your doctor does not check for these problems. She tries to console you or he tells you that it’s all in your head, that you’re overstressed, and therefore, he or she does not do anything to check your sugar, to check for problems with your pressure or to inform you of results from a Mammogram you had or you feel something strange, and need to be examined for certain serious conditions, but she refuses by quietly dismissing you or promising to order the exam later. Or maybe you need a certain medication to treat an ongoing problem, but she says, oh, you don’t need it. It can wait.

Now, you may think these are really extreme examples. But you’re not being true to yourself because one time or the other, this has happened to all of us. We are often so busy, so caught up trying to keep our families in focus, we neglect ourselves. We never stop to think- hey, didn’t I tell that doctor how I am feeling, and why didn’t she take me seriously?

When weeks after you discover something wrong with you, your doctor finally feels the bright light from Heaven and orders the test for what you already knew, BAM, she calls to tell you that you have this or that disease. She tells you have something you knew all along you had, and the problem has got so bad, your life is threatened by this disease that the doctor was too busy trying to avoid treating even though you have good insurance. What do you then do, especially, when you discover that the doctor is not even qualified to treat what the laboratory work has discovered, and she, your nice doctor who only wants to appease and not treat you, does not want to refer you even though she should and she can.

What do you do?

Or let’s take this argument on another leg. You have a certain illness that is being treated by some medication that is actually killing you. You go in and tell your doctor to take this medication away. You tell your sweet female doctor or your big male doctor that the medication makes you sleep all day, that it makes you suffer from that stupid illness they call Vertigo, or that the medication depresses you or that the medication is just not doing what it was meant to do. Your doctor looks at you and says with her/his eyes “here we go again- this woman!” You cannot get it.

You are used to those old time doctors who saw an illness and wanted to destroy it, who wanted to go to battle with illnesses for the sake of God. Today, your doctor is a younger, more popular-culture kind of person who actually may be underhandedly working for someone else. If she/he sends you to the lab to do that very complicated procedure, the insurance company may not like her anymore. So, she puts off finding a diagnoses by not ordering the test. Remember, now you live in a country where most good medication has to be prescribed for you to get your hand on it and one does not ever order their own lab test.

Maybe your doctor does not help you out because the insurance will be mad that she has given you a very expensive medication that actually does the job it was meant to do, so she holds back. Or maybe she will look bad among her peers, so she gives you some weak tablets that make you come and go when what will really help you will cost you just two dollars after insurance. All of this is difficult to prove, but that is just what seems to happen, doesn’t it?

What do you do with such a doctor?

Now let me tell you why these questions are significant to us African women or women from African descent or simply immigrant women who come from a culture that respects and treats our doctor as if they were some God. We do not quit a doctor or question them or try to find out why they cannot agree with us. We simply go, and if they are so bad, we will keep going until they finally kill us.

My mother died because her nurse practitioner who noticed that she was very ill one day decided to help her by injecting her with some medication that caused her to have a cardiac arrest. He did not mean any harm to her. He simply did something stupid, and Mama was no more. In this country where we don’t have to have someone come to our home to play doctor on us because we have great doctors despite the problems, why should we settle for less?

My case was made for the woman with the best health insurance or the very good one. But just because one does not have health insurance or the money to pay does not give a doctor the right to neglect treating them or giving them the right medication or from listening to their complaint. There are many ways of solving the financial problems with the lack of health insurance, therefore one should not allow a doctor to give them poor services because of this lack.

When a doctor performs in the manner I have described above, such a doctor should be fired. I mean if you went to work and did not perform your job properly and caused clients to leave your business or if as as an professor of English, you could not effectively teach English so that students are drawn to your classes and to the institution, do you think your employer would keep you just because you are sweet or beautiful?

A doctor that causes a patient’s health problems to remain undiagnosed for long even after the patient asked them to check for the problem, should be fired immediately. Firing your doctor does not mean that you will take their job away. Firing your doctor does not mean that you dislike them as a friend or a person. It simply means that the relationship as doctor and patient is no longer working well. You simply stop seeing them and find yourself a good doctor, one who knows what you’re paying them to do. Do not settle for any less.

In case you settle for less, in case you allow your doctor to play with your health, in case you make excuses for your doctor, you should know that you are only playing with your life.

The idea for this blog came to me not only from my own personal experiences. I was watching CNN when the topic came up about the high statistics of women who die or put their lives in danger because they refuse to fire or get rid of their bad doctors. Men refuse to go to the doctors, but women who go, never fire a bad doctor and can die from the lack of good services.

As immigrant women, we find ourselves in an entirely different country now. The doctor is a good friend, but that friendship is base on the trust that the doctor will be the good care taker of the health needs we pay them to meet and we will in turn take care of our health the way the doctor advises.

I was in to see my doctor, who is a very fine specialist in his area, and when he saw the new results of an ongoing health condition he has been treating me for, he was elated. He is a very no-nonsense kind of doctor, one who seems to be from the old school of thought where doctors took seriously the needs of their patients. I have friends who do not like him because they say that he has “bad bedside manners.” They mean that he doesn’t waste other patients’ time chatting about useless things when they go to see him. He gets to the matter of one’s illness, finds a problem, and chases it down. He does not give useless medications. In fact, the first time I was referred to him three years ago, he took some useless tablets my family practitioner at the time had given me, and asked me if he could throw them away. Of course, I said yes. He told me upfront that the medication would harm me in five years, would do this and that, that I did not need such when my body could produce better than the medication was doing. I tell you, he was right. I have never needed that medication again in three years.

This time, now, he was excited that within two weeks, I was making progress. Now, that’s what I call “good bedside manners!” When a doctor can see a difference in his/her patient and get excited about that, that is a good doctor. When a doctor sees a problem and pretends it’s not there simply because he/she does not want the extra work of following up, that is what I call “bad doctor,” who should be fired.

It is your first responsibility as a woman, as a mother, as a professional woman, as a human being to take good care of yourself and your health. I always compare taking care of my own health to what the airline stewardess tells us about emergency safety precautions when the plane is taking off. “If you are traveling with a child, you must assist yourself before you can assist the child.” To me, that means that if I am not alive because I did not take care of myself, I will not be around to take care of my children.

As I conclude this discussion, let me give you the right to free yourself of a bad doctor if you need to. Fire your doctor who is not good for you. If you are taking medication that is killing you, get rid of it with your doctor’s consent, but if your doctor does not understand your need to quit the medication, you need to ask yourself why.

I recall the last time I had to quit a medication when I was with another doctor. My doctor did not think so, but the medication was causing me to lose my sight gradually. I called a girlfriend who told me to dump the medication because she had had a similar problem with the identical medication. My doctor would not allow me quit the tablets she believed were good for me, but on my friend’s advice, I threw the medication into my trash can. Within a couple days of quitting the medication, my vision began to return, and within a week, as my friend said, my vision was normalized. When my doctor learned that I no longer had vision problems because I had dumped her tablets, she simply smiled. Now what was that?

The medications we take as well as the health services we get are important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Please take care of yourself. You are the only person you’ve got that is you.

Read A Poem, Please, The World Is Going Crazy!!!


by Paul Laurence Dunbar
I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
   When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;

When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,

And the river flows like a stream of glass;

   When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,

And the faint perfume from its chalice steals--

I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats its wing

   Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;

For he must fly back to his perch and cling

When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;

   And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars

And they pulse again with a keener sting--

I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,

   When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,--

When he beats his bars and he would be free;

It is not a carol of joy or glee,

   But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,

But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings--

I know why the caged bird sings!
    Paul Laurence Dunbar
Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar was one of the first African-American poets to gain national recognition. He was born in Dayton, Ohio, on June 27, 1872, to Joshua and Matilda Murphy Dunbar,freed slaves from Kentucky. His parents separated shortly after his birth, but Dunbar would draw on their stories of plantation life throughout his writing career. By the age of fourteen, Dunbar had poems published in the Dayton Herald. While in high school he edited the Dayton Tattler, a short-lived black newspaper published by classmate Orville Wright.

Still I Rise  
by Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops,

Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don't you take it awful hard

'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines

Diggin' in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I've got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame

I rise

Up from a past that's rooted in pain

I rise

I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 4, 1928. She grew up in St. Louis and Stamps, Arkansas. She is an author, poet, historian, songwriter, playwright, dancer,…

From And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Reprinted by permission of Random House, Inc. For online information about other Random House, Inc. books and authors, visit the website at www.randomhouse.com.

“Ring out, wild bells” from In Memoriam  
by Lord Alfred Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.


George Bush on His Way to Liberia, Obama, Here, Making Us Cry Tears of Amazemnt, and Me, Not So Significant, Doing My Usual Thing As I Drive Out to Read Poetry at Penn State York: God Is So Good, We Used to Sing, God is So Good to Me!


“You know one thing I’ve learned, and I suspect the people of Liberia have learned, is it’s easier to tear a country down than it is to rebuild a country,” Bush said on the final stop of his five-nation tour of Africa. “And the people of this good country must understand the United States will stand with you as you rebuild your country.”

—George Bush says in Liberia.



Something is happening, and I think you should know:


US President George Bush and Liberia’s President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Monrovia today, Feb. 21, 2008. Bush pledges support for Liberia.

God moves in mysterious ways. History can redeem us or betray us, but history-making is real and alive today in the US and in the world. I always believe that a writer should see herself as being in the center of history, to write within the making of history, that a poet should always be aware of where she is standing, both in place, time, and in circumstances, where she is when history is being made. That other eye, that ability to place oneself in the midst of things as they are stirred up, shaken, or calmed is important if a writer is to become a great writer. A writer must be socially engaged with her world. This is where I come in. I have no strong arguments about why the US President should have or should not have visited Africa, and particularly, my original homeland. It is a great thing for all of us. I only pray and hope that Liberia will come out better off by Bush’s short stop in Monrovia.

And yet, here I am on my way to Penn State York, to the historical town of York, Pennsylvania where my poetry reading schedule isn’t any different from other poetry reading schedules that I have had these few weeks. But I must stop to pause here to remember because I am going to read for Black History Month, me an African, now becoming part of the history of these great African Americans who have shaped my life long before I came. I pause to wonder how all of the histories being made around me are significant to poetry reading, which of course, others will say is insignificant.

As I pause, I must admit that last night as with other nights of the US Primaries and Caucuses, I stopped my very hectic schedules of house work, paper grading, reading, writing, etc. to watch history happen around me as Barack Obama won his tenth consecutive primary. To be here and experience this new kind of history while at the same time the US President is visiting my original homeland of Liberia to speak to the first female President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and to visit the war ravaged remains of a country where everyone has lost almost everything, and to be here and be a poet with the power to write whatever I want from my unique perspective, to me is a blessing. God has been good to many of us not because of circumstances, but because we can take the circumstances around us and make them work for us. I believe this is where I come in. So despite all of the great things happening, I see myself as a significant part of everything because I am a human being with a mind.

I’m glad to be alive to see history, but I am glad to be alive to do what I know how to do in my own way. As a Liberian woman who was in college during the visit of the only other American sitting President, Jimmy Carter, visited Monrovia just for a few hours in 1978, I am again curious to see what this visit of another US President will bring for a country that was beaten down and hammered by war for fourteen years, what President Bush will bring to this new Liberia, coming out of misery, and how his visit will be more beneficial to our people than Jimmy Carter’s visit in 1978.

But in the midst of this history is another major one: Barack Obama. And all I have to say is that it brings tears to my eyes to see that there is a power larger than power that is moving, and I, a mother, a wife, a believer in the love and power of God, a teacher of college folks, a writer, and woman from Africa, a black and an immigrant who came to the great United States having lost all due to the ugliness of politics and greed can be here to see this history– I say, I can only pause and be thankful to God.

I have seen many US elections over the years, but this, the first black man who is able to bring America together, both whites and blacks, brings tears to my eyes. I always believed in America, the first time I met America on a Pan American Airliner 747 in 1981, young and newly married, on my way with my husband to Nigeria, there, on that airliner were Asians, Indians, whites, blacks, people of all shades, sitting side by side on a plane, about three hundred just out of New York City, traveling to various African destinations. I was dumbfounded to tears. I had never seen anything like this in my life in my own country before or then, in 1981, and so as a young poet, not much published yet then, I wondered, “Is this America?”

I have searched for that America for years, but to my eyes, the fact that people can come together like this in this great country recalls that sweet memory. I am not saying this to make you to vote for any particular candidate. I am saying this because there is a power somewhere that is bringing people together, and that power of Obama to make us all cry no matter who we are is only from above. It takes God to make the history that we are seeing.

It is a good thing that President Bush is going to Liberia tomorrow, the 21st of February. Wish he’d invited me along and given me a ticket on his plane so I would take him to my damaged village, but I guess I’ll have to wait for the next President. I know the way to that village still, you know. It is a good thing however, that America is making history with Hillary running, the first serious female candidate, the first former First Lady, and it is a good thing that Barack, the first black man, the first son of a white and black union is winning big. It is a good thing that I am alive to see all of this and it is a good thing that you are reading this and you too, are alive to record this for your children.

What is Peace?

What is Peace?


This is a universal question that came to me once more today. What is peace? What is freedom? Who is free and who is not free? Is the convicted prisoner any less free than any of us walking around? Are city dwellers more free, more at peace than people living in the country? Or are those in the country more free and more at peace? How does the idea of God or the power of God affect my peace, your peace, the feeling of peacefulness in your town, city, and how does your religion or faith affect your current state of peacefulness and freedom.

One of those days when I was in Colombia, I asked one of our escorts/translators/interpreters whether I could do something that day, can’t recall exactly. He looked at me and said, “this is a free country, you can, (Pa-trli-cia) in that Spanish sort of way, and I thought, I have heard this before- “This is a free country.” I laughed and said, “that’s what you say in America, not in Colombia; when was this also a free country?” And we all laughed at that.

“This is a free country,” we often tell ourselves. For many of my friends, America is the only free country in the world. So in Colombia I turned to my Colombian escort, and I said, “there’s no free country in the world, none,” and those around laughed once more.

What is freedom? What is peace?

This question often can be answered in a philosophical, poetic, romantic, religious way, depending on who is responding. The question came to me once more when I began to reflect on the bridge collapse in Minneapolis. How is it that we who depend so much on the power of bridges to hold us up when we drive on them or walk on them have been told now that those very bridges may no longer hold up our cars when we drive on them? How can we know peace when such a reality becomes a question to ponder when in the past, we did not need to think of such a question?

Often, many people don’t see the connection between spirituality and poetry, between a poet’s mind and the world of a poet’s words, between the power of the invisible and the person of a poem. Often, I find solace in that reality that behind all of the jargon of poetry and the power of the metaphor is a sweet calm that indeed, there is a God, and that God is real and is powerful and alive.

Whenever I forget, I only have to recall my own past to be reminded over and over that there is a God, and that if there is any sense of peace, it is the reality of that all stabilizing God. Sometimes, that reminder comes with simply stepping out on my deck in Duncansville, Pennsylvania, where my home sits on a steep cliff. From the deck, I see the clumps of small mountains rising one after the other, the Haze in the distance against the sky or at the twilight and the awesome landscape. I know certainly that none of this amazing beauty is accidental, and I know that the sense of peace that calms my very busy life is in no way accidental.

What is peace? What is freedom?

None of these two words is accidental. Freedom and peace are not in a sense of country.