(1965 / Abor, Volta Region, Ghana)

If We Must Die

she sends me news of bushfires with the rain
falling, not falling, and the pain of the old man
in the cold, biting hamarttan
she speaks of births and deaths on village lanes
sometimes like stars at harvest moon
with hope buried in palms
the diviner himself is lost gazing at the sick hills
painted with withered leaves of corn

lightly, she speaks in blues and lists what is all lost
except me, the Sun, rising behind the hills
to kill Death in the dark

I read the lines like rotten melons piled
beside my door or like baskets filled with dried raisins
sitting in my studio hoping if I could tell courage
to hide me in some banana leaves
till I touch the tip of an Envelope
from which drips Stardust like rain

here where my life seems sweet and strange
I read her wild excitement of a place
where stars fall on laps and nightingales sing long
I thought long of the broken years that don’t change
and my wailing lips touched the Cross
I wish she knew how people live
and never live at all in this part of the sea
if she knew, maybe
she will not tell me if she cries

I folded the pages as I rise
tipped the envelope from which
drifts scraps of blues from home
and there are dozens of such in my closet

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