Fifteen Pieces of Literature: Fifteen Shades of What They Call LO.V.E. (2)

Because of the savour of thy good ointments

thy name is as ointment poured forth,

therefore do the virgins love thee.

Songs of Solomon chapter 1, verse 3 (KJV)

For this reason, the very very few times I have written anything which could easily pass for the ‘love poem’ label, I have gone on to live questioning my own and sincerity – both as a wannabe-writer and more. Long after writing such poems, I like to console myself that I never set out to write a ‘love poem’ from the very onset. With a mind and will of its own, such poems simply insisted on turning out the way they did. As ‘love poems’.

poetryy[1]Photo Credit

These are poems borne of some state and or feeling that transcends mere mind and matter; someThing real, strong and raw. I speak of a reality of a self, an-other and or the world – a reality which is tangible, even if it is yet to get a name, and no matter how momentary or monumental it turns out to be. This someThing can be anything far from love. It may be Love itself. Just as it can be something that is not exactly Love; something that may be barely short of Love. Or this someThing might have started off as Love. This someThing might have as well simply morphed or long moved on…well, from (being or even vaguely having the semblance of) Love.

These are poems which will later on, receive very little or no re-vision or re-write. This is what must happen. Otherwise, I dis-miss – but not, discard – these my ‘love poems’ altogether. Almost always, I dismiss these poems, not without giving myself the ‘What were you thinking?’ laugh and shake of head. Yes, I laugh at my own self for my feeble attempts at – that is if I even ever set out to writeLove poems.

A and B

One day when I grow older in this Thing they call Love, and when I grow as a person and as a writer too, I may change my mind about all these dogmas I have about Love and what is usually called a ‘Love Poem’.

Until that day, I believe in something. That there is something sacred, shifty and so infinite about Love, something which makes pinning Love down on paper, and with words – in poetry, to be specific – an apology of what Love really, truly, fully, is, can be and can mean. One can always try with the pinning down with words thing, but that does not make the whole process any less than an apology, unpretentious and unqualified.

(In the immediate previous blog, the first in this series, I already implied that there ARE, and there will be poems that capture all or almost all that Love can possibly mean and consist of. These are exceptions. And together with their writers, I respect and celebrate these poems.)

Keke 1

Keklevi Ansah

Having said this, whenever I am reading anything that seeks or attempts to deify, demystify or so much as even suggest a description of Love, I find myself too much on the guard to look out for how forced or vain, inadequate or exaggerated, blasphemous or even hypocritical the whole attempt of writing about Love is. Again, in poetry, to be specific.

Of course, there are ‘love poems’ which even on my first time encountering them, I knew right before I ended the first line that this poem is like no other ‘love poem’. Truth is, I did not even know the names of the writers of some of these poems, or that they (the poems, that is) have anything to do with love. And this is not to even mention how I can be very bad I am at remembering names of writers and the titles of their work(s). This chronic forgetfulness happens more times than I can even forgive myself for, irrespective of how I much I was filled and or affected by the said poem – or any piece for that matter – and whether or not the piece was about or had anything to do with love. This will not be my first time saying this, and also citing the two Elizabeth B-s as examples.

I may never be quick to call these other writers and or their works (my) favourites, but I do know that I will always go back to read and re-read many of them over and over and far too many a time. I will read them and enjoy reading them more than I will my own self. This, I know.

For now, and in keeping with the title of this blog series, I have gathered fifteen Love Poems/ Pieces of different peoples and genres, from places and times. In this blog, I present the first set, five pieces. Especially in this first set, more of the writers are from Ghana. Based more on format/ structure than on essence, the third piece of each set is a non-poetry piece. Apart from these, and alternating the pieces based on the gender of their writers, the pieces presented in the whole of this series are in no particular order.

sushiPhoto Credit

For some of the writers – Kofi Anyidoho and William Shakespeare are examples – I deliberately chose their less known ‘Love’ Pieces. This was to present a broader picture and richer texture of their literary works in the context of, and together with those of other writers. And apart from the writer of the very first piece, Keklevi Ansah, I have provided one source, an internet link, for readers to find more about each writer. (Keklevi tells me she is not on any online social network. I know this has everything to do with a personal decision – hers – than it is a matter of access or any other means. I respect Keklevi – her decision and all.) Instead of such a source, I have provided pictures of Keklevi, and she is the only writer I have done this for.

Keklevi Ansah is one of my students in eighth grade and about going to ninth grade. She is also one of the handful of students who beyond my being their Teacher and friend, I am super proud to mentor in anything Creative Writing. In a recent Talent Competition organized by the senior-most class in the college where, currently, I teach English Language and Literature, Keklevi performed a longer version of her poem, When Father Comes Home from the War.

Keke 1

Keklevi Ansah

I am yet to recover from the magic, the…the…well, the Love that is called Keklevi – both on page and on stage. Truth is, I do not even want to.
Remember It comes in different forms. And that they call It L.O.V.E.


1. When Father Comes Home from the War  by Keklevi Ansah

I never wanted father to go for that war
He could be hurt
He could be shot
Or he could even die
But when he comes back
I know he will
He will for me

When father comes home from the war
He will bring me daisies
and candies
and all those stories
Yes, he will tell me
When he comes back
I know he will
Just for me

When father comes home from the war
I will tell him never to go again
Or else I will never see him off to the train
All this grief and pain
Like an un-washable stain
He will have to stay

When father comes home from the war
This is what I will tell him
What I want from him
What I need from him
When father comes home from the war

 2. Love After Love by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

  1. Extract from Changes a novel, a love story, by Ama Ata Aidoo

‘Not many women are this lucky…’ Esi could hear her grandmother’s voice. ‘And who told you that feeling grateful to a man is not enough reason to marry him? My lady, the world would die of surprise if every woman openly confessed the true reasons why she married a certain man. These days, young people don’t seem to know why they marry or should marry.’

‘What are some of the reasons, Nana?’

Ah, so you want to know? Esi, we know we all marry to have children…’

‘But Nana, that is such an old and worn-out idea! Children can be born to people who are not married.’

‘Sure. Sure, but to help them grow up well, children need homes with walls, a roof, fire, pots.’

‘Oh Nana. But one person can provide all these things these days for a growing child!’

‘Maybe…yes…Yes, my lady. We also marry to increase the number of people with whom we can share our joys and the pains of life.’

‘Nana, how about love?’

‘Love? … Love? … Love is not safe, my lady Silk, love is dangerous. It is deceitfully sweet like the wine from a fresh palm tree at dawn. Love is fine for singing about and love songs are good to listen to, sometimes to even dance to. But when we need to count pennies for food for our stomachs and clothes for our backs, love is nothing. Ah my lady, the last man any woman should think of marrying is the man she loves.’

  1. Territoriality by Mawuli Adzei

Let not the crab in his psychedelic gait
Stray into my virgin field at night
Nor the tortoise for want of pace
Tarry a minute longer on my hallowed portion
Nor the cockroach encroach
Upon my holy-of-holies

The animal in us is obsessive-possessive
We mark our jurisdictions in style
Some with urine
Some with shit
Some with body scent
Some with barbed wire
And the redlines glow
With the white heat
Of the cremator’s pyre

In the law of dominions
There are no ghosts
No vacuums
No oblivions
Everything is etched in concrete
Pictures hang permanently
On walls of the mind
Smiles illuminate the darkness
Tears empty into the sea
But leave their paths of flow behind
And the heart in all seasons desires
And claims all for a heirloom

The animal in us is obsessive-possessive
We mark our jurisdictions in style
Within the bounds of this microcosm
I call my own
Carved from a million geographies
I bind you in the Gordian knot
Of the spider’s flimsy-tenuous spokes

And I’ll be PREDATOR
Defending to the hilt my TERRITORY
Spilling BLOOD
Poised to DIE
Just to hold on to YOU

5. Wine by Nana Nyarko Boateng 

when your heart wakes
without you
and goes to find trouble
hurts itself
and comes back
hides in your stomach
and coils around itself like a snake
pushes against your chest just like a storm
and beats, no end
till you cry
and beat, no end
when you stop
to breath hard
like nothing is enough
to let you be
one heart
without another
attached involved loved
pumping not for its own sake but
for her
for him
for them

when your heart stops
and beats you hear
is only from your memory
how it used to
be, eat, fear
love, love, love

Keke 3

Keklevi Ansah

3 thoughts on “Fifteen Pieces of Literature: Fifteen Shades of What They Call LO.V.E. (2)

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