For Naa Amanua Ankrah, Mother Mine.

There is only one person who can tell me “I love you” and “Leave there” in one breath, in one word.

Saah 1

I know only one person who can call me “Sheilla” and it does not feel foreign…

There is only one person who can remind me that my waist beads need changing, and at that same instant, this person has more than enough new strings of beads and thread and all, ready, to do the new beading.

For me.

I know only one person who can play and laugh, cry and worry, pray and work, all with full and earnest zeal, all at the same time.

There is only one person (alive) who can call me “Ishe”, easy and free, with nothing seeming forced or stolen, without any shadow of anything seeming out of place,  with nothing at all feeling like a fraud or camouflage.

Just like that.

I know only one person who sees a bra or some fancy dress – anything to the tune of an article of clothing – and immediately imagines and knows beyond any telling and instinct that I am the only person who the designer and maker of that piece of clothing had in mind…

There is only one person who, once upon an instance, chased me for almost forever and finally when she got hold of me, she remembered too late, she remembered all over again that she just cannot spank me, that she just cannot bring herself to spank me.

That she cannot even bring herself to pretend to spank me.


I know one person who will remember that the ripe plantain portion of the cooking is for Aisha, and in the midst of every dish exotic and embellished, she will know beyond knowledge itself that Aisha will (always) choose the corn and fish end of it all.

There is only one person who will do or undo my hair, who will see and help me get fitted in a dress or similar, and she will not be afraid to forget that I am no child – no small child, I mean.

No doll, in fact.

I know only one person who would visit me too frequently (while I’m away from home) that I would need to beg and give her reasons upon promises why she needed not come visiting me that often, that she really needed not come checking on me far too often.

There is only one person who can get herself worked up in worries about me, worries because anything as nothing as as ants and dust are ‘worrying’ me.

Worked up with worry that is just not her own.

Saah 3

I know one person that (my sisters and) I bypassed all her names and invented a name unique to her and peculiar to all others, a name for her and only her, a name she did not, does not, does not look like she ever will mind.

There is only one person who will call me “Aisha” and I never need to turn and look to be sure who called and why – with never any need to be sure of anything at all.

Only one living person.

I know only one person who would mindlessly sacrifice her youth and sweat, who would pour all of her stubborn love and unflinching presence for me, even if it means setting aside (her) other loves, even if it means breaking and looting into her stores for the future, even if it is to her own hurt and lack and shame and worse.

There is only one person who I will never be able to return – to even, ever, begin to pay back – the milk and pillar, the honey and rock, such kindnesses and all over again, more of these and all others like them that she has been, and continues to be.

To me.

I know only one person who can call me on phone and by (her) asking only “Aisha, what have you eaten today?”, she would have asked her “How-are-you-s?” and a thirty and thousand and more other questions.

There is only one person who when I sit to count my lot of blessings, I have to pause, ponder and count and count again and one more time and another.

One more time and again and never too many.

Saah 2

There is only one Naa Amanua Ankrah.

And she is not only *The Eyes (That See) For The Nation/ People, she is not only **The One Who Fights To Redeem The Nation/People.

This Naa Amanua Ankrah, she also is the Queen and Mother, the immense and great Good, the ever-giving and never-ending Love that God gave and did and showed me.

That Queen and Mother, that Good and Love that is called Naa Amanua Ankrah, today is the day she first happened – on this side of life and eternity, at least.

And I choose to bless her ***today (too) with the boundless Person of Father God Himself.




– Monday, 3rd September 2018; Dansoman, Accra.



*The name Amanua is derived from the Akan (Akwamu) expression ‘ɔman (no) aniwa‘, which can be translated as the ‘the seer of / the eyes of the nation‘.

**For the Otublohum clan of the Ga people in Ga Mashi, where my Mother hails from, the appellation (known as ‘sabla‘ in Ga, and ‘mmrane‘ in Akan) for the name Amanua is ɔko(m)afo ajeman‘, which loosely means ‘the one who fights for/to redeem the nation’. Ajeman may also be spelled Agyeman(g).

***An earlier version of this post first appeared as a Facebook post on my wall, on Saturday 1st September 2018, my Mother’s birthday.





A Poem and Some: To Onukpa Atukwei Okai, In Memoriam. (Part 2)


This is the second and concluding Part of this writing. Read the first part.

Prof-Atukwei-Okai 3

Picture of Prof. Atukwei Okai – Image may be protected by copyright.

The next and last time I encountered Onukpa Atukwei Okai, it was not at PAWA House.

That next and last time, it was a phone conversation, a conversation which occurred days before my getting into what has always been the very closed undergrad (third year) Introduction to Creative Writing class at the Department of English, University of Ghana, Legon.


Foregrounds of the The Balme Library, of the University of Ghana, Legon – Image may be protected by copyright.

Prof. Kofi Anyidoho was to be the lecturer, and he would later be a teacher, and a father, to us his students – and when I am not too shy, he would be a friend too, to me, like any of the rest.

And this was throughout the two years that the full Creative Writing courses ran – that is, throughout the two years the course progressed from Introduction to Creative Writing (year three, first semester) and congealed into simply Creative Writing (year three, second semester) before caking with a frightening but freeing intent into Advanced Creative Writing (final year, year-long).

And this was throughout same two years during which the class size was whittled down from 21 to 15 and then straight to 5 students.

From Twenty-One

With the One sitting odd and decidedly detached from the neatly even Twenty, the One sitting aloof yet playing like It belonged to the defined, recognisable form of the Twenty…

I was that One

And for reasons and circumstances I am – again, even up to this day – not able to fully understand and believe, I was one of that final Five.

I was One. Anyway. Despite. In the end.


Picture Mine: Personal copies of portfolio submitted for grading at the end of each semester of the entire Creative Writing courses: ENGL 363 – Third Year, First Semester; ENGL 364 – Third Year, Second Semester; ENGL 450 – Year long, Final Year. ENGL 450 portfolio is submitted at the end of both semesters, the final one being the ‘fuller’, final student work.

Somewhere during those two years, Dr. Mawuli Adjei would take the classes for some four or two weeks, while Prof. Anyidoho needed to be away. And this was not necessarily the beginning, but definitely was a reference point for his becoming my former lecturer and an ongoing teacher, a kind father and great friend. (And oh, for a reason I’m yet to know, and perhaps, too shy, as usual, to ask, he calls me Sheilla, not Aisha! But not like I mind. So…) Dr. Mawuli Adjei.

Again, forgive me if I (seem to) have digressed again: I only want to tell this story and tell all of it (in one piece, at one place) and never have to tell (another bit of) it elsewhere, again.

So that phone conversation with Onukpa Atukwei Okai. The point of it all was as urgent and grave as the great good which his bringing of Madam Star Nyaniba Hammond and I together brought to my writer-life.

So somewhere in that very brief phone conversation, there was something Onukpa Atukwei Okai said, something after which our conversation had to die a natural, sudden end.


Credit: BBC Pidgin// ‘Proverb’ Translation: No matter full a bus gets, nobody sits on the driver’s seat.

Something which sank with indelible impact in me because Onukpa Atukwei had taken the time and care to say it in Ga, the mother-tongue he and I shared.

Something which I would later ponder and wonder long about for days and hours, weeks and close to months and a year.

Something which, in the end, would seep and pour and pool into a poem I would write and include in the portfolio I would submit for grading at the end of the first semester of the entire Creative Writing course.

A poem which, in its own weight and ways, would add to the grades which would keep me in the class throughout those two years, the two years at the end of which only 5 out of the initial jagged-edged number of a 21 – rather than the crisply neat 20 – students remained. Solely by merit, I must mention.


Picture of Prof. Atukwei Okai – Image may be protected by copyright.

And even though I am certain Onukpa Atukwei Okai did not know, and might/would never know about this poem, I do not want to forget to let it be known that long before he passed on, he had lived and will continue to live in a poem he inspired.

A poem he could have as well written and written far better.

A poem he would have all but written if not that it would have been – or at least, have seemed – too novice of him.

A poem he inspired, singularly, all the same.

A poem, I say.


The Car 

I have a destination
I have a ticket
the car is full
some said

I have to get there
I have what it takes
the car is full
all chanted

I shall be there
I ought to
the car is full
conductor comes

here I am
out-standing them all
the car came full
and I was the driver




Monday 20th August, 2018;
Kalpohine Estates, Tamale, Ghana.



 The Car was one of the poems I read on the weekly radio programme, Writers Project on Citi, on Citi 97.3 FM, on Sunday, 6th May 2012. Before then, I had performed this poem at an open-air theatre event by the Academy of Young Writers – Ghana, at Mensah Sarbah Hall, University of Ghana, Legon

A Poem and Some: To Onukpa Atukwei Okai, In Memoriam. (Part 1)

The Onukpa Kobena Eyi Acquah love story is told. And the poetry for Onukpa Kofi Awoonor is…

The love poems for Onukpa Mawuli Adzei (also Adjei) and two or three others abide. And so does that story about Awula-nukpa Star Nyaniba Hammond, the story about how I Never Remember Setting Out as a Writer…

Prof-Atukwei-Okai 5

Picture of Prof. Atukwei OkaiImage may be protected by copyright.

But there is more. There has always been a not-exactly-little more to that story. And this is how I come to talk of a memory, a poem, and a not-so-little more.

Particularly a poem for, about, and singularly inspired by Prof. Atukwei Okai, as he is better known as.


When I first heard of the passing of Prof. Atukwei Okai, I was shocked and still reeling from the sadness of the passing of Greats gone ahead – Greats like Prof. Kofi Awoonor, a few years earlier; Kojo Laing, a year or so afterwards; Efo Kodjo Mawugbe and Peggy Oppong (pseudonym for Magaret Sarfo), more years earlier; and Dr. Kobena Eyi Acquah, whose passing was some days, maybe even weeks, before Prof. Atukwei Okai’s.

My earliest memory of Onukpa Atukwei Okai was a meeting that happened during my senior high school years, at a time some of my earliest poetry and short fiction were getting published in Graphic Communications Group’s, The Mirror.


Photo mine: Some of my earliest publications, in The Mirror. Highlighted parts show my name. Handwritten parts are Madam Star‘s: one, my senior high school address on an envelope; the other,  feedback after her reading one of my published work in the The Mirror  a short story, A Friend in Need.

Around that same time, I became friends with one Daniel Asumadu Ndo, who had first written to me, after seeing one of my work –  A True Home, a poem–    in The Mirror.

Mainly through post-mailed letters from Mawuli School to Mfantsiman Girls Senior High School and back and again, Daniel and I dreamed and prayed, planned and worked, and ultimately, published the first installment of what was meant to be a series of The Mfawuli Mail, a pamphlet of episodic life-in-senior-high-school stories revolving around a set of stock characters.


Photo mine: My personal copy of The Mfawuli Mail, printed and mailed to me by Daniel. Around the copy are one of many letters and envelopes of some of posted letters from Daniel.

That first installment – copies of which we posted to be placed in the libraries of selected senior high schools  in Ghana – will later also be the only installment.

Because Daniel and I  were more than half-way through our senior high school years.

Because we – especially Daniel – were funding this fine dream ourselves, from our student pocket monies.

Because, and even worse, we lost touch for more than five years after we completed senior high school.

Daniel and I got in touch again after he heard me on radio. I was a featured guest on one of Writers Project of Ghana’s Sunday evening literary radio programme, Writers Project on Citi.

But long before we will be re-connected and while our senior high school years lasted, it was Daniel who first mentioned the Ghana Association of Writers (GAW) and Pan-Africa Association of Writers (PAWA) – PAWA House, specifically – to me.

It was Daniel who had encouraged and persisted in making sure I went and inquired at the place, to find out how I could get what he believed would be a big start to my becoming established in this writing thing, something same Daniel was very confident I had a clear, clean knack for.

It was not easy finding the place. PAWA House. Nor was finding my way back home. Not the first time, at least. And I had to use different routes for my latter going-s and returning-s. There not being a clear sign board or anything of the sort about and around the premises on which both the GAW and PAWA offices stood did not help.

I remember standing right behind the back wall of the premises and asking person after passing person, asking people who were confident they knew everywhere in these parts, people who proved to know everywhere but the place I mentioned and claimed was a part of these parts they were sure they knew more than just well. What did help was that I had been told that PAWA House is quite opposite Accra Girls Senior High School from across the main road, so I was sure not to stray past the school, despite all the advice and (mis)directions I received.


Photo mine: Parts of my GAW membership application, a photocopy.

I don’t remember well how I finally found the place, nor how I found too that the premises’ entrance was not where I had expected to find it – it was not facing the main road.

The first person I saw after going through the gate was an elderly security man.

This kind man would later know so much about me and my going-s and coming-s – which was once or not many times during school vacations – to PAWA House that, he could tell me if the person I had come looking for was around and available. Or not.

Whatever be the case, and being always bent on not wasting my coming-s, I would thank my elderly man friend and then go in, into the reception of the GAW end of the PAWA House offices.


Photo mine: One of many scribblings of Mr. Ankrah, while our many conversations lasted.

I found a friend in another elderly man I came to know and call Mr. Ankrah. He was an administrator or similar at the GAW end of the offices.

The days I went to PAWA House and I did not (get to) see Onukpa Atukwei Okai – because he was the General Secretary of PAWA; because he had many commitments – Mr. Ankrah always gave me a seat and talked long and full with me, encouraging and educating me, until well into the day, sometimes even dusk.


Photo mine: A copy of GAW’s commemorative brochure. Kobena Eyi Acquah, the then GAW President, wrote its Introductory Note!

Another person who was of fewer words, who was not as often available to indulge painfully-naïve-and-shy-wannabe-writer-me was Dr. Rex Quartey, the GAW General Secretary at the time.

He was the one to finally receive and file my GAW application form, the same to issue and sign the receipt for the form. Dr. Quartey also gave me a very past – November 1991 – GAW commemorative brochure.

I found about Dr. Quartey’s passing by accident, many years after, long after his burial, such that, it was too late for me to pay any last – I can only hope this suffices – respects to him, anything honourable in memory of him. Dr. Rex Quartey.

About Mr Ankrah again. (Did I say he had my mother’s maiden surname? Well.) He also was the one who told me more about GAW than I could have asked. He had given given me the GAW membership form to fill, and he personally initiated the administrative work after I returned the form to Dr. Quartey.

Mr. Ankrah also told me about Bill Marshall and the approachable brilliance of his novel, The Oyster Man.

It was also Mr Ankrah who told me about Madam Star Nyaniba Hammond, and greatly helped in making my meeting with her happen.

But – no – And for reasons I can only guess, even as at today, it was Onukpa Atukwei Okai who first mentioned and advised with certain urgency that I meet Madam Star Nyaniba Hammond.

Forgive me. For the digression, for my mentioning and talking long and large about other people, when it is Onukpa Atukwei Okai I have said to write about and for, when it was Onukpa Atukukwei Okai I mean to ‘remember’…

What I mean to say, to achieve, with this apparent digression is that, that my story about my ‘…never remembering setting out as a writer’, my story about Madam Star Nyaniba Hammond’s far-too-brief yet far-more-generous an influence on my writer-life story.

That story.

None of it would have happened if Onukpa Atukwei Okai had not mentioned me to Madam Star Nyaniba Hammond.

Yes, none of said story would have come to acquire the place and weight in my being a writer, if Onukpa Atukwei Okai had not, at least, initiated what would be my first and only meeting – not letterwith Awula-nukpa Star Nyaniba Hammond.


Photo mine: The envelope and the second and last page of Madam Star’s first and only letter to me. ”You must always develop your own style“, she says.

And for people who know the beauty-full and meaning-full gravity of that my meeting with Madam Star on writer me, they can, at least begin to imagine the twice urgent and sheer import(ance) of that one deed by Onukpa Atukwei Okai – his mentioning and advising that I meet Madam Star, and who knows? maybe too his making phone calls and arrangements and such to make that meeting happen.

Now, so far, this is the story behind that my Madam Star Nyaniba Hammond story. And even though this story is perhaps too late in coming, maybe too late in getting told, I am grateful that I get to tell it now, that I tell it at all.

And this, all this, is what I choose to remember and to miss Onukpa Atukwei Okai for.

And all this is but one half of this story…

Prof-Atukwei-Okai 2

Onukpa Atukwei Okai performing… – Image may be protected by copyright.




 Monday 20th August, 2018;
Kalpohine Estates, Tamale, Ghana.

Of Cool Kids, Makola Market, Christmas Waits and Culled Worlds – Introduction: Student Writing (Part 1)

I have written briefly once and quite long and  several about Teacher me and the students who make that self of mine a living truth and reality.

I have mentioned and implied more time than many about how Writer me is never left behind in the life of Teacher me.


Image may be protected by copyright.

But I may never be able to fully write or talk about the vast-s and weights of these two parts of me – the places where they smudge and pour into each other to soon become purely the other, the times they swell and swirl alongside each other and yet remain resolute in their uniqueness-es and their intersections and their molten mixed forms.

These I many never be able to find the words to write or talk about.

Teacher and Writer me, that is.

But I can talk about what happened while I was grading a quiz which I recently conducted for my current Grade 10 IGCSE First Language English students.

I can say how I had to fight and free myself from an abiding personal ethic of not sharing any extract or chunk from, and full written work of any of my students, of not sharing such things with a community other than the class in question and outside of the (college end of  the) school where I teach.

And I can never say enough how sadly glad and glad again and far more so I am right now to come sharing…

At the moment, and because I am not able to imagine myself quitting teaching – or education, altogether, in the near future, in any future, my future – I cannot promise that this will be the first and only time I will be sharing only and fully student work, especially work I en-JOY!-ed being a part of its making and or was happy being a sudden spectator at the time of its making.


Image may be protected by copyright.

I cannot even pretend to make such a promise.

But I do know that I am proud of my students and I am happy and proud and again and more, to share four of the responses from said quiz with you, Reader Dear.

And in in order for you, Reader Dear, to read and see these work for the raw truth and story and unpretentious beauty and personality they each are, I thought to not:

  • make known the question or prompt which these work were responses to.
  • give any summary and description – no label whatsoever – of any of these work.

I must mention that I have spoken long and wide – including helping them write what will be their first author bios! – with the four students whose work I have selected for this series, and I have their consent and better, their very giddy gladness-es, to publish their work.

Also, very little changes and edits have been made to the first and original versions of each work, work produced under strict exam-like conditions. And these changes or edits. They were largely based on the marking annotations and feedback I gave, and always give (to) these students – and every other – on graded written work.

Yes, I just implied my students are such huge writers! Already.


Image may be protected by copyright.

I must mention too, that, Composition, the component (of the said examination) that required responses of this nature and length, is meant to test more than English language proficiency.

A careful look at the component’s mark scheme – as at the time I write this – should prove this: a total of 25 marks, consisting of:

  • up to 13 marks for a criterion called Content and Structure.
  • no more than 12 marks for another criterion called Style and Accuracy.

This component of said subject of said examination. Composition.

The mark scheme criteria for same component. Same Composition.

What these three of four things mean to me?


Words. Creativity. Writing. Words again.

Creating. With words. Creating worlds. Weaving worlds. With words.

Or simply, Creative Writing!

And it is for the loves and heart-skips, the joys and mind-tickles of these that I, many a time, approach the mountain and chore that grading students’ work can be for many many a Teacher – not excluding me.

And it is with all immense mind-tickles and joys, such surreal heart-skips and loves for writing and creative writing, for words and the wonders of their creations that I bring you, Reader Dear, the four selected writing from a recent quiz that Teacher me conducted for my Grade 10 IGCSE First Language English students:

Coolest Kid in Africa  by Akosua Kumbol.

Makola and her Market by Kojo Obeng Andoh.

Waiting by Papa Ekow Archine.

Ghost Town by Keli Dey.

can use me plus students 2

(Feature) Picture mine: Some of my current Grade 10 students and me – fourth from right, in white loose blouse, three-quarter jeans and orange-brown wedge shoes – during a retro dress up school day–Wednesday, 17th October, 2018.



AishaWrites. Too.

— Dansoman, Accra, Ghana; Tuesday, 19th March 2019.

Falling in Awe of Kobena Eyi Acquah.

 “We have crossed the Red Sea
On a dry land
And have since had a trying time
Making the world believe our tale
But if we did not –
If we did not
How did we arrive here”

– Kobena Eyi Acquah; from Meditation: Atɛntɛbɛn Interlude in Movement Three: The Face of Freedom in Music for a Dream Dance, one of his poetry collections.

— from my Facebook post, dated 15th August, 2017.


Today, Facebook shows me this ‘memory‘ to ‘look back on’. And I can’t quite deal with it – the memory, the ‘sharing’ of it, the ‘looking back on’ it. All.

Some days and a year ago, my writer and filmmaker  friend, Kingsley Kojo Antwi, lent me an anthology of poems by Kobena Eyi Acquah. I did not wait, could not wait to read the book and share excerpts of it on Facebook. This ‘memory’ was one such excerpt.

Soon, I was eager and greedy to devour the treats and feasts that I knew poem after poem in the anthology would spread before me. How I knew what I knew? I had one or seven reasons. But not too fast.

Sooner, and not at all surprised, I was falling in love all over again with the effortless mastery and wise grace of Kobena’s works – his poetry, in this case.

And all this is not even where this story begins.


Dr. Kobena Eyi Acquah, Poet and Lawyer – Image credit

I had first found about Kobena Eyi Acquah in a poem – yes, the import and impact of that poem on me was so strong and huge that it distracts/ed me from remembering its title.  (For the purpose of this writing, I went searching for the title. Borrowed Airs it is.) The poem was featured in An Introduction to Language and the Language of Literature, a supplementary textbook for one of my early undergrad courses. The book was jointly written by three lecturers from the Department of English of the University of Ghana, Legon: Kari Dako, Gervase Angsotinge and Aloysius Denkabe.

Before I graduated, I found the anthology from which that poem had been culled at some obscure place at the then University Bookshop.

I was undone!

The price of the book was friendly and easy on my broke student wallet – yes, I do wallets, sometimes pockets, hardly purses. For I usually find purses too rigid in their fancy ways, simply impractical or just not-kind-of-it for me. But maybe that is just me. Or maybe I don’t even know purses enough.

But I digress.

So I rushed to the counter of the bookshop to pay for the book. While the person at the counter was pulling and punching and pushing things, I prayed. In my head.

I prayed that by some crude and cunning twist in fate or similar, I am not told, suddenly, that the book price was wrong, that the price had long been changed and whoever was to write the new, correct, higher! price must have forgotten…decidedly forgotten to do so.

I was afraid.

My fear died early. The book’s price was exactly what I had seen written somewhere on it. The book, it is a poetry anthology by Kobena Eyi Acquah. It was The Man Who Died.

I would cherish this book with a soft and jealous part of my head and heart. And I will croon myself sweetly tired to anyone who cared to listen about the gem of a poet I had discovered in the person and voice called Kobena Eyi Acquah.

I would later share this my love for Kobena with my good friend, Kwabena Agyare Yeboah. And I would find that Kwabena already knew about Kobena, more than I probably did. With Kobena for a meaningful chunk of inspiration, we talked and dreamed things. Kwabena and I.

And by this time, I had long graduated from the University of Ghana, Legon.


Fore grounds of the The Balme Library, of the University of Ghana, Legon – Image may be protected by copyright.

Later when I found a poetry anthology by another Great, John Aidoo, a contemporary of Kobena, I jumped at it.

Immediately I got out of the bookshop, I called Kwabena. He knew about John Aidoo. Too. Already. I asked myself this one question one time too many, too many that it is quite the cliché for me and for anyone I know who also knows Kwabena.

The question? ‘What doesn’t Kwabena know?!’

But, again, I digress.

This new book I found, it was also at about the same too-cool-to be-true price, and at the same bookshop – only this time the shop had changed names or something of the sort.

And Kwabena and I, we will talk and dream and promise

All over again.


Long before both encounters at same bookshop, and during one of my internships during my undergrad years, I met and became friends with a much older man who said for me to simply call him Ataa. (In keeping with some of the truth in what they say about the world being a small place, I will later find out, long after I graduated from university, and years into my being a teacher a CIE-curriculum college in Accra, that Ataa was an uncle to one of my colleague teachers.)

Ataa, like his name meant, could be my father‘s age.  Or older. Ataa quickly became father and a friend at once. Mine. And he was a regular visitor at the place I was interning, Healthworks Stress Management and Ayurvedic Clinic, which used both traditional Psychology and Ayurveda in its therapies for clients. (I was accepted for the internship because I was studying Psychology – besides English and Sociology – at the time.) Up to now, I don’t know what happened to what I’ve always believed is my quiet, unassuming and introvert self whenever I see Ataa, or rather, whenever Ataa and I see each other: we talk! A lot. A whole wholesome lot. Ataa and I.

We talk. About anything and everything. Anything knowledge and worth knowing. Everything including religion, literature, history, psychology, music, art, politics, culture, medicine, philosophy. Anything Life and Earth and beyond and back and all over again. We talked and talked and beautifully and meaningfully distracted each other – me, from my assigned intern duties; him, from the actual, usual people he came to visit, the permanent staff and the practitoner-owner of the clinic.

During one of those our many rich conversations, I mentioned that Kobena Eyi Acquah poem, Borrowed Airs, to Ataa. I was more caught in my love-s for Kobena and his poem than I was in telling Ataa the title and subject of the poem, in as few words as was sensible. Maybe this was — still is — because (I tell myself) I am awful at memorising things — ‘remembering’, certainly; ‘memorising’, I’d rather not.

Ataa got it. The sense of what I was saying. Ataa got me. Like only he could. And Ataa decided that if I loved the poem and its writer that madly, it was more than just very-likely that he too would love the poem and not just…

waakye waakye

Waakye, a popular rice and beans meal eaten with sauce and stew, gari, (salad) leaves, meat and or fish and egg/s – from Ghana – Image Credit

I was restless looking forward to the next time I was to see Ataa. And this was usually a Friday or Saturday, and not without him coming with a feast in usually two bags.

The feast, usually, was big and generous choice fruits. Fruits or wraps and rolls of cooked food, usually waakye, with all the necessary and optional accompaniments.

All demurely wrapped in the usual leaves.

All edible-y hot in more ways than one.

Yes, Ataa was this generous at heart, generous with his material goods, and from what I have come to know of him, also generous in his life and how he leads and shares it. Ataa was generous and was too busy with his being generous, too busy to see and acknowledge and respond to the Thank-you-s that poured and poured fast on his paths.

But forgive me. I digress, again.

So I brought that textbook containing that Kobena Eyi Acquah poem for Ataa to see for himself. Ataa did read the poem, but his seeing of the same took too long for me to bear.  Don’t misunderstand me: Ataa did not take long with his reading: I was the one who was in too much of quite the senseless hurry to get to talk to him about the poem, to get to talk about it already.

And that day, the day I shared Kobena Eyi Acquah’s Borrowed Airs with Ataa added to it all for me! My undone-ness. My love for Kobena and the beautiful, approachable legend that he was, and continues to be. To me.

That day, Ataa walked me through Kobena’s poem, and by the time Ataa was done, the poem took on layers and levels of  meanings and insights. Even inspiration! The poem acquired peculiar textures of grit upon wit that hitherto, I had not realized – besides, despite my being a student (of English language and literature-s in it).

That day, Ataa and I would not talk about anything else. And for many of the following times we met while my internship at the clinic lasted, we continued to talk about that poem. Or it nicely coloured and fleshed many of my conversations with Ataa. That Kobena Eyi Acquah’s poem. Borrowed Airs, that is.

From The Man Who Died, I will find one other poem: Hello Day. I will later feature this other poem in a series of Essays about Love Poems.


Hello Day.

Hello Day was what I was afraid would happen the first day I saw Kobena Eyi Acquah in person. He was in a writer-and-writer conversation with phenomenal Ama Ata Aidoo, during Writers Project of Ghana‘s 2017 Pa Gya! Literary Festival. After this conversation, like everyone else who was willing, I could have made my move.

I could have gone right on and walked up to Kobena Eyi Acquah and said what would have been the beginning of many Hello-s. Hello-s which would, could have thawed and flowed into making me become, possibly, to Kobena, the kind of daughter and friend that I am to Ataa and his kind in my life.

I could have…

…but I was afraid that I would act scattered and funny with my love for Kobena (and his work, more). I was afraid that I would end up embarrassing myself and unfairly, unduly dragging him into the shame that I had carefully nurtured into existence – yes, existence, only that it remained in my imagination. I was afraid that it might all end up sounding and looking artificial – a fan of a writer not merely, politely being the die-hard fan: but fussing and gushing and worse.

I was afraid – or so I convinced myself.

Kobena and Ama at PaGya 2017

One of the pictures I took with my phone: Prof. Ama Ata Aidoo and Prof. Kobena Eyi Acquah in conversation at the 2017 Pa Gya! Literary Festival20th October, 2017.

So I decided to take a picture of Kobena Eyi Acquah and phenomenal Ama Ata Aidoo, while the two were still in said conversation, from far off.

So I scratched solace from my secret, covertly giddy love for Kobena and his work.

I realised I was being inattentive and perhaps, clumsy in the chit-chats around where I was standing and negotiating a good angle and coverage for the picture I was taking.

I noticed my clumsiness climb beyond little. I noticed it thicken.

So after managing a few decent shots, I did not forget to clump shut all kinds of “shutters” about me.

And I was sure to drink in all the experience of my having seen Kobena in person, for the first time, almost a decade after first finding Borrowed Airs in that textbook.

But some Love can be like that.

Some Love can cry and work Itself into a kind of death, and yet, and yet when It gets all that It has been longing and dying for, all on platter after forever a platter and with every necessary accessory, what will this Love do?

It will go cold or comatose or worse at the sudden getting and having of all these Its heart-shredding, soul-gorging desires? It will go mute and numb with the wonder of prayers that get answered with such jarring humour and dramatic flourish; with the fear of how It came to deserve this wondrous giving, with stubborn hesitation of how-in-God’s-universe It could have been worthy of such giving, such generous return of a meager love It even barely gave.

And when this Love, some Love does get over Its mute and numb, It plays to shy or too afraid or too careful or too careful and too afraid and too shy to let the first words gather form in Its mind, put on soul in Its heart, roll down Its tongue, slip out of Its mouth…

Is some Love not like that?

So Hello Day it is. And…

Even if it was because of contrary intents and reasons.

Even if the essence and spirit of it all was definitely, positively higher and nobler, Hello Day happened. I mean, I let Hello Day happen to me, happen to Kobena and I, happen on the day I will later, regretfully learn mattered the most.

So my falling in awe of Kobena and our meeting that never really was.

So my falling in awe of Kobena, and all the rich and full-filling people and places and pasts that this fall touched and blessed my life as a writer and a thinker — a Christian too! – and a human and a live-r of this Life on this Earth.

…all these and such. They happened too quickly and too much with a mind of their own.


The Facebook post which is a ‘memory’ today happened a year and a few months ago. The literary festival and the writer-and-writer conversation, the meeting that never really was happened few months after the Facebook post which is a ‘memory’ today.

Hello Day remains…

Today, it occurs to me that I enacted Hello Day that day I first saw Kobena at the festival.

And the story is now told – even if not quite fully:

The other day a bird by the wayside whispered about Kobena’s passing

But I told myself not to mention it because I earnestly wished that what I had heard was not true, or would soon cease to be true. I have not heard anything again. Since that day, I have heard nothing new to confirm or deny the content of the bird’s whisper. Since that day, it’s been all silence.

Maybe the passing of Greats in the literary circles came too fast this year, and news of Kobena’s got lost before it even started on its way. Something like what happened after Kojo Laing‘s, earlier? I don’t know, may never know.

But a bird did tell of Kobena’s passing, of Kobena passing his own Red Sea.

And from the little I know of Red Sea-s and what is beyond them, I say…

…I pray that Kobena lives and continues to shine — in his words, in that thick and lush of voice and character that was, is, and will remain uniquely his and his alone.

Rest well, Onukpa Kobena Eyi Acquah.

Rest in perfection, Onipa Kobena Eyi Acquah.

Kobena and Ama at PaGya 2017.jpg - pix by Nii Ayertey Aryeh

A closer view of Prof. Ama Ata Aidoo and Prof. Kobena Eyi Acquah in conversation at the 2017 Pa Gya! Literary Festival. Picture from Nii Ayertey Aryeh.



AishaWrites; AishaRemembers; AishaLoves.

Kalpohine Estates, Tamale, Ghana:

Eve of, to dawn of Wednesday, 15th August, 2018.

*  *


Onipa is Akan for ‘Human Being’,  and in this context – not just in the literal sense of the word, but more importantly – the essence, the true, original capacity of a human (being) to be good and full(y human).

Onukpa is Ga for ‘Elder(y)’,  and in extension, a term of deferment to a person older in more respects age (alone).

*   *   *


Featured Image/ Masthead (mine): A close shot of one of many ingeniously crafted art pieces at and around the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana. Circa: July 2017

– An earlier version of this writing appeared on my Facebook page.

– Find a bio of Kobena Eyi Acquah on Writers Project of Ghana‘s website.



CloudYOU! – The Introduction (Part 1)

I have always been careful about professing my love for Love Poems, both as a reader and writer of poems. And more. I have written to explain one time and at another and again and again about this.

I would later suggest a few Verse-ions of Love – not Love Poems – and quite recently, I wrote to appreciate Love in Four Persons I have come to, and continue to cherish.

While doing the thinking and the writing about my reluctance to Love Poems, I learnt more than a few things about myself: the how-s and why-s of the what-s, the things, I think about. The Psychology – a subject I love very much – of it all.

But I digress.

Late last year, I suffered and enjoyed a bout and a thrill of writing poems, poems which once again, I will be careful to call Love Poems.

This is how the thrill-bout happened:

  1. I randomly open my Facebook account and meet the eternal question, ‘What is on your mind?’ where my next status update should be.
  2. I think of what to write. I mean, I think of what Facebook is asking me. For the very first bout, the first poem of what will later be the first in a series, I was thinking of Someone, someone specific. This was on 23rd November 2017,  some time after nine in the night. (The last in the series happened on 30th December 2017.) The poems that poured after this first one had a mind and method of their own. That is, I needed not have the said Someone in mind before I wrote them.
  3. I write, free and as fast as my phone’s keypad and its text prediction, as fast and easily as my fingers and my typing pace can allow. I write, the words coming in drops and shots, dribbles, puddles, and sometimes pouring too fast for my mind to assign moulds to, and for my fingers to put down before the words gel and cake on on the phone screen. The words came to me, far too willing and freely.

    CloudYOU! Dusk.

    Photo mine. Dusk. A small town not far from Lapaz, in Accra, Ghana. Circa 2014.

  4. I pause, sometimes, to do very little editing — like correcting spelling errors and replacing words and such with others. At other times, there was no editing. Only more of versification,  that is, packing words and punctuation into lines — arranging fragments and whole units of thoughts into lines and stanzas or verses.
  5. If there is no slip in my use of the technology, I touch the POST button  when the stream of words cut, albeit with a discernible sense of closure. And it is ready to go, more raw than parboiled. The poem, just as it is. If slip happened — and it often did, for some poems — I would re-write (not re-type) the whole poem from a near zero-remembrance… Because I often tell myself that I have no talent for memorizing things, things including poems, even my poems, especially my own poems?
  6. Poem then loads. Then Poem goes up and public.
  7. Poem is posted!

The immediacy and urgency with which the poems happened to me, the solid and presence of the soul with which they came to me, the feel of freedom and light which followed my clicking the POST button on Facebook…

These. And more. I love. A vast lot. These.

It could be that things happened the way they did because I was in Love. Like actually, literally, in Love. Or because I thought I was in Love. Or I was only in Love with being in Love. Or because Love was falling in Itself with me. Maybe (not).

But if this experience is one of many things Love can do, one of many ways Love can come to anyone, and a writer in particular, then yes, I love Love (too). And I want Love coming my way more often. This way. Or any other way — Verse-ions, Persons, Other(s) — that Love chooses.

And I still can’t really explain why and how I settled on CloudYOU! as the title for the whole series. I say ‘I can’t really explain’ because cloud is not the only motif in many of the poems. Because there were others like corn and okro and fish and even water and sun. Because I gave each poem, in the time order in which it happened and poured, a #HashTag — more of a Name-Tag — of a stage in a plant’s growth. Such that, the series began with #Sprout, went through #Blossom, and ended with #Harvest.

I do expect, some day, that I be(come) more relaxed and reckless, less careful and calculating in professing my love for the kind of poems categorized as, or bluntly called Love Poems. And this time, not only as a Reader and a Writer and perhaps, Teacher too, but also as a Lover, and as every-One one of the Wonders about and inside the Magic called Aisha Nelson. Me.

So on this note, an excerpt from one of the poems in the series called:



sought and saw you in all, around me.
thought about you.
wove fine futures of us, around you.
dreamed about you.
crowned you





– Thursday, 1st March 2018; Dansoman, Accra.

Ben Okri: Of Incidents, Stories, Stirrings. And a Song.

Over this past weekend, I went through one pile of books which I keeping adding to but never seem to find the time to read. I had to go through the pile because I needed to squeeze up stuff somewhere in my room(s) and I picked up Ben Okri’s Incidents at the Shrine and Bessie Head’s Tales of Tenderness and Power, both of which are collections of shorts stories. I picked these two only because I found that they are the only ones in this pile which I had not yet signature-labeled, like I do for all books which are in my possession and are mine.

There is a mound of books – mostly fiction, among a crowd of other genres as well as drafts and pamphlets and other documents. All these and more are permanently sitting, large and airily, in one armchair in my living room. And the situation on the chair is but one spillover of what had long happened to my bed and any other space which happened to be idle and unlucky enough in any other part of the room. It just has to be too bad for such a space if it happens to be in or on a piece of furniture. It will not be spared.

This is how Head and Okri’s ended up on the waiting-to-be-read mound on that armchair. And this is my first time (having) to read both writers writers – or is it to have pieces of their works? Truth is, I never planned to read any of the two. Not this soon, not yet, at least. Now, I’m on the fourth of the eight short stories in Incidents at the Shrine. Disparities is the title. And no, I’m not reading the stories in the order in which they appear in the collection.

For all the three or four I’ve read so far, I hear the voice of Chuma Nwokolo. Voice in the literal, not literary sense. Voice as in the sound, and maybe the personality – but not necessarily of persona – of it. Nwokolo’s. I am still figuring out why this is so for me, but I’m very certain it has nothing at all to do with both Okri and Nwokolo being Nigerians. Otherwise, it could have as well been the voice of Rotimi or Wole Talabi or Soyinka or Ifeoma Okoye or Achebe or Ene Heneshaw or Adichie or Adewale Maja Pearce or others. Or?

The epynomous story in Mohammed Naseehu Ali’s collection, The Prophet of Zongo, echoes the ending or how the main character ended in Okri’s Converging Cities. A major character, Monica, in Laughter Beneath the Brigde vivdly reminds me of Anowa in Ama Ata Aidoo’s Anowa a play; the setting and much of the themes resemble those of Beast of No Nations, the movie; part(s) of Achebe’s Things Fall Apart makes me appreciate how the Egungun part of Laughter Beneath the Brigde later turned out.

I am well into Disparities, a little over half-way through it. Even though the setting and strain of the themes may be distant from those of Ayi Kwei Armah’s Fragments (a novel), there is a lot I see of in both characterization and voice. And this time, voice as in both persona and personality. Still in this story, I find that there remains more truth, sadness and loneliness than one may be willing to tolerate, especially if one has imbibed too much of the sleek lies, divine vanities and well…the exalted follies of (what) this side of eternity (has turned and is growing into).

This also means that, I see a lot of Armah’s Baako (main character in Fragments) in Okri’s I-don’t-know-his/her-name-yet in Disparities – so far in my reading, this other character in Disparities has still not been named by Okri. Maybe this character in Disparities will also go (deliberately) not-named, like The Man, a similar character in another Armah novel, The Beautyful Ones are not Yet Born.

Again, I’m on my fourth story and I can say Okri’s writing tastes like parables.

They touch on the human and the mundane but not without giving that needed, albeit eccentric glimpse – and sometimes, or a little more – of the (sur)real world(s) and or forces that inform and or define this popular side of the known and absolutes. They are as innocent and wild as they come, but with neither apology nor any claim to perfection. They are as easy as they come, but only apparently. The stories exude truths that one may think are simple and familiar, and sometimes even funny, until one finds that they are also sly and slippery and sticky, so that given even the smallest shred of thought, these stories weigh on the mind and refuse to let go…

There is Okri’s story endings, which I find natural but not exactly predictable; conclusive and yet, may as well be cyclical; and then, full and no more. No spillover of any kind, and yet lead somewhere and everywhere and nowhere, all at the same time. The endings.

I can say similar things about Okri writing in the first person voice. It drips with something so far away, beyond mere craftsmanship and empathy for its own sake.

There also is his mastery for language: it is poetic and lyrical, it is lean but generous with layers and dimensions of meaning, it is precision and prudence. Images are apt. The images jump… It is almost as if language finds Okri, rather than he arriving at it. The grit and tune do not wear. The wit and humour are so fluid, so subtle, so married that they startle and saturate at once.

One more thing I find striking…I’m wondering – thinking and learning – what it is with Okri and his use of lizards in the stories. The lizards. They appear and disappear like all lizards do in real time. However, the lizards in the stories are special in that, they hold or are tied to the structure and (some of) the themes in (some of the) stories.

At one time, the lizard motif is innocent but dramatic, and at other times, curiously funny and armed with every power to tear a character’s sanity and or dignity beyond some kind of rest or redemption. They drip with the un-nameable, the un-normal, or maybe the para-normal, bordering of the spiritual. Yes, lizards. Like in Crooked Prayer and Laughter Beneath the Bridge and Converging City. In Disparities, one may see the lizard motif (morph) in(to) something queerer. Dogshit.

Even besides the lizard-y thing-y, the spiritual and the mysterious are rife in Okri’s stories. And where love and madness – or anything in between, and in any degree or status – they never ask for one’s permission (to happen) nor for forgiveness (after happening). And they never need nor even wish for one’s pity or praise. Most of the time. Most of them. Whether as events or as characters. The love or madness or whatever is raw and real and righteous in its own right, and without any restraint whatsoever.

I can’t say I’ve discovered my love for Okri’s writing because it has been there long before I actually read him, for I’ve long been famished with his The Famished Road. This has always been more because of an inexplicable pull, a bottomless yearning for The Famished Road than because it won the Man Booker Prize in 1991. I nearly got to read The Famished Road: a friend would have lent it to me, if not that the friend, at that time, was sweetly, slowly savouring the novel and among other things, was learning something about how Okri crafted dialogue. Even though I never got to read it by borrowing and have not found a copy of The amished Road to buy for myself, I couldn’t and still won’t begrudge my friend the delight and treasures…

When it comes to reading, I am unforgivably erratic – but not reckless – and willful, yet unpredictable. Or so I think. Once, I read Nii Ayikwei Parkes‘  Tail of the Blue Bird in one day; Armah’s Fragments in more than five weeks; Mawuli Adzei’s Taboo in about two days; and I’ve read bits and chunks of several others in such and several other duration-s. So even though I know it is good to set reading  goals, I end up doing with reading goals what I usually do with ‘rules’. Because I find ‘rules’ painfully incompatible, and even antagonistic, to the way I like to think my brain works, I abhor ‘rules’ and relish in ‘breaking them’ for the simple fact that they exist or that someone decided to breathe them into being.


So maybe I will know better as I grow. But right now, I know better than to go setting reading ‘rules’ for the self that is me. So I will try waa diɜŋtsɜ, but I cannot promise myself to finish reading all eight short stories in Incidents at the Shrine, despite all my longing and taste of Okri’s writing.

And I cannot promise myself I will read Tales of Tenderness and Power after Incidents at the Shrine. Yes, even though I expect to come to adore Bessie Head for just about any of her writing like I do Mariama Bâ for her So Long a Letter. Somewhere in the mound on that chair and elsewhere, there are borrowed books and personal and academic and every other reading thing for me to start or finish or start and finish.

Then there and the set texts for the IGCSE and AS and A Level Literature classes that I teach. Somewhere in the set texts are a CIE-selected collection of tonnes of poetry form different places and times and peoples; a hefty collection of hefty short stories including Thomas Hardy‘s A Son’s Veto, (Hector Hugh Munro); Saki‘s Sredni Vashtar; Sylvia Townsend Warner‘s The Phoenix and Rohinton Mistry‘s Of White Hairs and Crickets. Novels include Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake and Adichie’s Americanah. For drama, besides Shakespeare and others’, there are Ama Ata Aidoo’s plays, The Dilemma of a Ghost and Anowa. Thankfully, I’ve already read Adichie’s, some of the Shakespeares, Aidoo’s two, a decent number of the collected poems and a good number of the short stories and others.

At the moment though, and somewhere soft and cozy inside of my being, I feel like I can and will write (more) short stories again. Soon. This has long been coming but I think having read Okri has heaved it all into a sensible motion and dare I say, direction. I feel a re-baptism and a confirmation of that song-full, soul-ish day last year when I knew and said (a) Story is calling out to me, starting and stirring and warming and whirling up…

So I sing of the song of the river and of that some-one’s-only daughter.

So I sing in the tongue that speaks and speaks true, in folds and in stretches, whenever I speak or sing or hear It or Its essence in utterance or in song. Ga.

Mawie Ga. Mala Ga.

Faa lɜ kɜ lɜ miiya e-e-e-i

Faa lɜ kɜ lɜ  miiya

Faa lɜ kɜ lɜ miiya e-e-e-i

Faa lɜ kɜ lɜ  miiya


Mɔko biyoo kome too

Faa lɜ kɜ lɜ miiya

Mɔko biyoo kome too

Faa lɜ kɜ lɜ miiya

*     *    *   *

The river is taking her away e-e-e-i

The river is taking her away

The river is taking her away e-e-e-i

The river is taking her away


Someone’s only one daughter

The river is taking her away

Someone’s only one daughter

The river is taking her away





Sunday, January 10, 2015.

Fifteen Pieces of Literature: Fifteen Shades of What They Call LO.V.E. (4)

And now abideth faith, hope, charity [charity is often translated as love],
these three;
but the greatest of these is charity.

1 Corinthians chapter 13, verse 13 (KJV)

love related words

L.O.V.E. is what they call It Love. And It comes in different forms.

from simple liking and raw affection
fondness and fanaticism
sheer blindness, madness -even

from everything that makes
admiration and adoration, idol-atry
and idealization, reverence and deference
alike and yet, different

Psychologists are yet to agree on one, ultimate definition for Love. Liking and Altruism seem to easily lend themselves to definition and probity, more than Love does. Yet, Love sits in the middle of these two, acting shy, playing hard-to-get, smiling knowingly, and yet exuding defiance.

love smiley

willingly serving another
dire sacrifice
slavery itself

At what point does plain self-love become selfishness, a non-Love. How does an innocent love for something degenerate into an addiction, a dis-order a dys-function, a dis-ease? Where in the world do humans not understand a crush – crush as in the beginning and or potential for Love, and crush as in a break, a heartbreak? And what too with the thin line they say there is between Love and anti-Love, hate? What informs a teenager’s idea of love and that of photographers and writers for their craft, their calling? Why would the mad dog go digging its teeth into everyone but the playing, giggling toddler’s flesh?

ilove note on scrap

presence or lack of it,
goings and comings of it,
sweet pains and pinching joys of it

doing, neighbours, rats, seasons, reading,
dreams, post-stamps, roses, work, spaces,


the not-exactly simple pat on a shoulder
an ardent, urgent kiss

a wink
a smile
a shrug a silence which is laden with so much more than words and deeds can convey, and fully and effectively so

Agape. Phileo. Storge. Eros. Kinds of Love, they say. According to the Greeks. There are more different ways to classify different kinds of Love. The question remains if it is that simple, that simple to draw sharp and discreet lines between these different different kinds of Love.

love bougainv

random show of uncomplicated thoughtfulness
laying down one’s life for another,

At exactly what time do friends become lovers? How is it possible to listen to, or be loyal to another, and not necessarily love too? Where, in the grand scheme of things, may a mother’s love fail, and another Love, a higher Love, begin? What changes do the love between say, a father and a daughter, undergo, while they both grow in more ways than one? Why do Christians believe that the one essential, ultimate nature and personality of God can be summed up in one Word: Love? Agape Love, they say.

love in maple leaves

the weirdest, the plain silly
the wondrous, the sheer vanity

a mother or a great-grandson or a stranger,
to a doll or an-other stranger or a shell

being ordinary to an-other
becoming the very centre of that other’s life, being – and if not universe, then world
Oh World! And what they say about what makes it go round!

love drop

Enough said about Poetry and Love and People and all.

Here, the final set of the fifteen Love Pieces. The last is one of of my few poems which insisted on – I explained – turning out as a (kind of) Love Poem.

Sit. Spread. Savour. It. They call It L.O.V.E.

love candy on plank

11. How Do I Love Thee by Elizabeth Barrette Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.


love in melon

12. her II by Kwabena Agyare Yeboah
love is what is lost when translating a poem
and the days of relapse

i have pinned you on my memory

it’s dark out here
your hand is cold
and your hair is strangely reciting nursery rhymes

love is a letter i write everyday
and post on facebook, hoping your pictures match my letters

i can learn to love you
like how a mockingbird sings other songs

pardon my manners. there is something on your brow; i love you

love is prose, and i will put my name to it one day
i will be a bestseller because you will be my novel
of the gentleman


love note pegged

13. Extract from Edufa, a play which is an African/Ghanaian adaptation of Euripides’ Alcestis by Efua Theodora Sutherland

SAM: [To an imaginary crowd towards the gate] Thank you. Thank you. [Gloatingly] They didn’t get me. [Speaking to no one in particular] An idiot’s life isn’t so bad. There are always people to stop children from throwing stones at us. They only do that for idiots, I find. [To the cage] Let us tell my master that.

[Paying tender attention to what is inside the cage, he walks up a step, crosses to left and puts the cage and the box down.]

SEGUWA: [Entering from the kitchen] You’re back.

SAM: Are you pleased to see me? [Lifting up the cage] Look, he is my bird.

SEGUWA: [Horrified] Don’t bring it near me. It’s an owl.

SAM: [Blithely] Of course. An owl is a bird.

SEGUWA: What’s it doing here?

SAM: It came with me. It was an owl before, but now it’s with me, it’s no longer itself. It’s the owl of an idiot. What we get, we possess. I caught it in a tree.

SEGUWA: Take it outside. [………………..]


EDUFA: [Coaxingly] Sam, are you back?

SEGUWA: I don’t know what he is doing with that thing. Let him take it away.

EDUFA: What is it, Sam?

SEGUWA: An owl.

EDUFA: [Terrified] Take it out. [SAM sulks.] We would do well not to disturb him before we’ve heard what he has to say. He can get very stubborn. [Sweetly] Sam, come here. [SAM doesn’t budge.] You may keep your bird. [SAM turns to him grinning broadly.]

SAM: [Pointing to the owl] My owl and I had a nice thought for you on the way. When you are born again, master, why don’t you come back as an idiot? There are always people to stop children throwing stones at us. They only do that for idiots, I find.

EDUFA: [Smiling in spite of himself] All right. Now tell me quickly what I want to hear. [Anxiously] Did you find the place?

SAM: It’s an awful place. What do you send me to places like that for? Not the village itself. That is beautiful, floating in the blue air on the mountain top, with a climb-way in the mountain’s belly going zig-zag-zig, like a game. [He thoroughly enjoys his description.]

SEGUWA: [Impatiently] He’s so tiresome with his rambling.

EDUFA: [Trying to be patient] Good, you found the village. And the man?

SAM: He is a nice man, tall as a god. And he fed me well. You don’t give me chicken to eat, but he did. [Thinks a bit] What does such a nice man live in an awful house like that for? That’s the awful part.

EDUFA: [Very anxiously] Never mind. What did he say?

SAM: Ah! [Secretively] Let me fetch my box of goods.

[He fetches the tin box and sets it down before EDUFA]


SAM: I won’t go that awful house again.

EDUFA: No. Get something to eat. And rest. You are tired.

[SAM picks up the box and walks eagerly to the bird cage.]

But …Sam. You must let that bird go.

SAM: [Aggrieved] My owl? Oh, master, he is my friend. He’s a bird of an idiot. He likes us. He and I had a nice thought for you on our way…

EDUFA: [Threatingly] Take it out of here. Out.

SAM: Oh… [He picks up bird cage and goes out of the gate muttering sulkily] We’ll stay outside…If they won’t have us in we won’t eat…We will starve ourselves…we…


love isaland


14. Hello Day – Worldwide (November 21, 1999) by Kobina Eyi Acquah
In their town
Where good morning
Is offensive
And the very audacity
To offer it unsolicited
Maybe they need
A hello day,
A gesture, a token
Of what could have been.

Here in our village
A man must show cause
Why he passed his neighbour
And did not greet
And ask how he is
And how is home.
In our village too
We need to be reconciled
From strain and friction
But we require more than a day:
The grief-joy mixture
Of knowing and being know
Takes a lifetime to drink.

So if a day must be declared
Then let it be
The beginning of a
Lifetime commitment
To the unbarring
Of windows and gates,
The demolition of fences and walls,
The abolition
Of border ports
And entry permits
Or maybe
All they really want
Is a hello day, no more;
So they can say hello,
Like a toothpaste smile,
Like their cold fingers-shake.
Maybe all they want
Is the momentary flash, the quick open-lock
Of the shutters
Of the soul.

That way no light comes in
That will wake
Their conscience
Disturb their greed.

And we
We follow in their train

love wod to plasyic toy


15.*Consummation by Aisha Nelson
the barrier
falls flat
still and stale

the wall
grinds into clots
of grit and water
just by a drizzle
not rain

the bud
flaunts its secrets
of spikes and flesh
due to a tickle
of dew

blood-frothed throbs of passion
scent-strung beads of sweat

And behold
you are not ashamed
not impregnable

But stand naked
in love

*This poem was first published at Munyori Journal.

love wall, use



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

A bundle of myrrh is well-beloved unto me;

he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.

Songs of Songs chapter 1, verse 13 (KJV)

So I have issues – serious and personal – with what gets called as a ‘LOVE Poems’. I explained. Yet I can find, and have found myself falling in love with some Love Poems. This too I explained.

So what? What I think makes some ‘Love Poems’ so special, the real deal?

Out of some kind of reverence for Love Itself, and for Poetry managing to defy Its own odds in order to give a thorough, solid and (con)densed treatment of the Love subject, the real, true love poems, I would say, would rather not parade themselves as ‘Love Poems’.No. Rather than glory in balling up the nobility and boundlessness of both Poetry and Love in one piece, such poems seem to give deference – if not reverence – to the two for allowing themselves to first agree to, and then, let themselves gel and congeal in a way that only the two of them can.


In such ‘love poems’, I usually find a rare, impossible mixture of something bordering on both the down-to-earth and divinity.This quality is almost to a fault, a fault which is so striking in its essence and depth and sweep that, one forgives the ‘fault’ in a way that is a quite shy – not short – of awe and yet, too generous for one to even help it. Simply, such poems have character like no other: humility – almighty and enthralling yet, approachable and filling…

Like I said somewhere of KwabenaAgyareYeboah‘s writing, there is someThing about such poems that definitely transcends art and makes an easy cliché of talent – and sometimes, even of what genius means. And it almost does not matter if that piece of poetry was informed and or inspired by some rooted, riveting personal experience or encounter of any kind. Poems of this nature, obviously, are either rare or are not found in every pile, on every day. Or I do not even know what a love poem (really) is.

talent genuis

Much of the – for lack of a better wordmagic of such poems lies in saying the taken-for-granted and the mundane in ways that are much better than just new; in ways that language is capable of and at the time, is bereft of. More of the – again, for lack of a nobler word – success of such ‘love poems’, just like most other poetry, lies in letting every syllable and pause or break of any kind, every capitalization and punctuation –if any at all – and the whole poem says more than its individual parts, and much more than its entirety.

The use of original, apt imagery is one way of a poem can pull of this magic. Imagery is word-based. Other stylistic devices like structure, syntax and versification can also be explored and of course, used to complement the use of imagery. Whichever way a poem achieves this magic, it expands and or creates (new) meanings and (shared) experiences where they never existed, or where these worlds of were even thought to be possible – as far as the medium of language is concerned.

nature ethereal

And the beauty-full-est of all these is that, these magic-s (poems) are so effortless and light and fluid that one wonders whether one is not reading so much into so little. Also, one wonders whether it is ever possible for the profound and the unbounded to really happen; one is forced to wonder whether that really did happen – in such a demure poem of all others. Their brows are not weighed down with mere mechanics. Neither are they, anywhere and in any way – forced into shape and being, and then propped up, with anything that amounts to trying too hard to please – or trying to please or even, wanting to please.

And it is this very lack of want to please – and most times, even indifference to please, too – that makes the reader, the supposed giver of the ‘success’ label, wonder when in the reading of the poem that s/he was shortchanged into giving out the label, quickly and too eagerly, all the while, without remembering any real ‘work’ done by the poem.


Oh, one actually ends up being pulled into and served, literally, the import and the world of the poem. So much so that one forgets all the ready-in-hand, rather artificial criteria for what a poem should look like, should be and should do. Such poems are on no prowl to score such points. In being themselves, they become many things to the many people who encounter them. And much more often than not, they are well able to afford to be the exact someThing that each of the many, many different readers are or will be, were or long to be.

Without so much as even choosing or meaning to, such poems are unassuming, at a glance, or at the start, at least. And this unassuming-ness is as well the (strong)hold of the poem. And to a large extent, this nature is also the magic’s (read, poem’s) success. Such poems. They do not intend, not to even talk of trying, to succeed. Whatever success even means. Such poems, like Love that is true and real and has come to stay, do exist, but again, are not in every pile, and not found every day. Not yet, at least. I think.


More often than not, and like I once said of Ayikwei Armah’s writing (prose, to be specific) too, such poems get to choose their readers – read, LOVErs. Strangely, this their proud, choosy nature, perfectly fits and gives hold and character to their unassuming, too-humble-to-be-truenature(s).

And this probably explains why every time I forget the title of such poems and or the names of their authors, I know too well that I have not lost anything at all: I may be one lucky, chosen LOVEr of such poems so I can always know that they will draw me unto themselves, with or without much effort in my seeking them out…one time too many. Always, actually. And what more, they will never fail to give me a fresh draught…a new peek…an-other spark…some simple pebble of a wisdom or a twig of thought for keeps – just one more reason of any kind, just someThing to keep me coming back to them.


Such Poetry.

Such Love.

I speak of such Love Poems.

And I present the second set, five of the fifteen Love Pieces, five more shades of the magic that is called L.O.V.E.


6. Two Poems by Kofi Anyidoho
I met a tall broadchest
strolling down deepnight
with my fiancée in his arms
She passed me off for a third cousin
On her mama’s side of a dried-up family tree

I nodded and walked away
Murmuring unnameable things to myself

                                                 Bloomington, 9 September 1978

And so

And so
I could go down in crouching posters
I could gather your woes your griefs
I could reach all out for that last
calabash of fresh palm-wine
go to sleep to sleep and sleep
sprawled upon the floor amid your tears…
But I would wake up before the squirrel’s
search for a morning meal

                                                Bloomington, 22 November 1978

7. One Art by Elizabeth Bishop
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

– Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

8. Two Psalms of/by Biblical David ben Jesse.
Psalm 23 (A Psalm of David)

1 The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Psalm 133 (A Song of Degrees of David)

1 Behold, how good and how pleasant
it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

2 It is like the precious ointment upon the head,
that ran down upon the beard,even Aaron’s beard:
that went down to the skirts of his garments;

3 As the dew of Hermon,
and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion:
or there the LORD commanded the blessing,
even life for evermore.

9.The Prologue (a sonnet) to Romeo and Juliet, a tragedy by William Shakespeare
Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

10. I’m Really Very Fond of You by Alice Walker
I’m really very fond of you,
he said.

I don’t like fond.
It sounds like something
you would tell a dog.

Give me love,
or nothing.

Throw your fond in a pond,
I said.

But what I felt for him
was also warm, frisky,
and could swim away

if forced to do so.

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