Lessons from Essay Lessons.

When the bell ends school’s
petty prisons – rules, reasons –
Love and Life runs out to play…

– Aisha Nelson

The sun finds it fun to generously pour its radiance, through the window, onto a page of my exercise book. Perching at the top corners of the page are the constant Date and Exercise Number. Apart from these, this new page is blank. And I know better than to expect that only these constant-s, without writing the exercise proper, will fetch me a decent grade, any grade. I take much time and care to write the topic of the new exercise. Topic too, I know, still counts for nothing, no grade.

Riza, my friend, has long finished and submitted her work, one of those essays.

I’m forever far from finishing mine. I can’t even bring myself to begin writing. The thought of it:

How I spent my Christmas Holidays”!


Picture mine: Eclipse, a painting by Kobina Bucknor, at the Ghana Museum of Science and Technology; December 9, 2019

How I wish the sun fills my near-blank page rather – the whole of my exercise book, actually – with Words. With beautiful Words. Beautiful but truthful Words. Words more truthful than they are beautiful. Many such words. Only such words. For I always tell myself not to lie. All my essays, including this one, which I am yet to even write, really need to be short.

This is because all there is to think and write about my recent Christmas holidays can be done in as much as a single lean paragraph. Any addition will be unnecessary, superfluous – a smudge, even, on my integrity. Anything short of or more than the plain truth will be a grave lie. To lie is something I am not to do, to not lie especially because of something as trivial as a grade, a better grade. So I believe.

Meanwhile, the street outside the classroom is bursting with so many stories outshouting each other for attention, shouting to be told, to be written, by anyone who cares to.

Ms *Enam Doe will not be able to mark all the stories if I and every other pupil are to care enough to write a lot less than half of those stories. Yet, she complains my essays are too short. On the previous page of my exercise book is one such exercise. Her red ink’s frozen scream under that last essay eternally reads,

 “This essay is too short, Enam. This must be the last of this kind!”

The last is long past. My turning over a new leaf is not only to write a new essay, but more importantly, to write one of appreciable length – at least, as deemed by my Grade Six Teacher.

“No offending Ms Enam Doe this time”, I mutter to myself.

So I set my **Bic on the first line of the page.

Slowly, I start. I finished my first sentence. But not without the expected drag. Little by teeny little, I write. And write on. One thoughtful word after the other, I filled the page with crisp, warm and fond pictures, moments and memories of my recent Christmas holidays. I was thankful to finally finish.

I shut my eyes for a few seconds. I let myself dream of seeing my new page – my whole book, and even my desk – spilling with the many words I very recently poured…

My essay is set. It sits still, clean and lean on the page. It sits still and still several lines shy and short of half the new page.

And even before Ms Enam Doe’s red ink will add its voice, the blank larger half of the page screams the wretchedness of my mere scratch and funny toil of an essay. The scream rumbles and doubles. The scream fires and crackles sparks and thunders on my poor page. Methinks I even feel my desk quake with all the turmoil.

I watch on, helplessly, as the rumblings scatter my poor essay. The tongues of fires, they hungrily lick my already-lean and now-scattered essay away. Then the rumblings, now full and fat from eating my essay, sport a sly smile, give a guttural belch, wail one long yawn. Stretching its tiny limbs and making to take a nap on my page, the bloated ball of rumblings burst…

The mess from the burst splashes on my sad long face, spills over and into the rest of my book, hangs thick above my desk.  My face falls. My head remains bowed in shame, a shame I can’t readily account for.

Save my face I must. I sit. Upright. Still.

But I don’t write. I can’t bring myself to write. Not anymore. Not yet. Not again. Not for this essay.

I look outside from my desk by the classroom window. That side of the world is bubbling with vast numbers and weights of life-s and promises. The stories on the street are now leaping off everyone and everything. The stories are wandering frantic, peeping here and there, wearing fragile half smiles, prancing down and up everywhere. The stories are tugging along and bumping into everyone and everything and themselves, begging and hoping, insisting and waiting. To be written. Or to be told.

To just put on the temporal…


Eager traffic lights and drowsy street lights
blink dawn off their metal-gilded brows.

Towering bill boards and
patches of dew-studded grass glance
beneath and beyond them. With glee.

Low drones of engines from all ends
embrace distant hums of some church organ.

keen conductors
tucked in windows of moving vehicles. 
keener hawkers. 
Outshout, outrun each other.

Breeze heaves past, weaving
through throbbing background and noise.

Wind whistles through
kites tattered and tangled and caught up
tall on soulless poles.

Colour-filled smells of breakfasts linger and vanish
in between the thick and trickle of people and other…

Warm human
bodies and bottles of
chilled water and drinks and such
sweat with heat and cold and both.

LoveCokctail 6

Picture mine: Angles and Gazes and Heights. – A picture of me, somewhere in Accra, Ghana; September 30, 2018.

Time ticks. Time fidgets under blankets of
humid air. Humid air hangs at every end of the street.

A quick push there. A shove.
A crisp pull here.
A crash. And then, a thud.

Skyscrapers stand scattered,
grinning their morning greetings to high clear skies.

Spells of rain showers
soothe and refresh and smooth
aches and wilts and frays.

sprout on tables under sheds.

shuffle hardens into a walk. A
jog eases into a walk. A
jog grinds into a saunter. A
stop springs into a saunter. A
stop revs into a run. A
shuffle breaks into a run…

shine anew on shelves in shops.

Honks and horns
screech each
other to hoarse stops.

Sun peeps from behind
billowy clouds sporting white toothless smile.

The street is a pool of people, street is dotted
with soft whirls. The street is awash with
happy hues, street sways to its own music.

Last glimmers of neon lights
fade past early shimmers of glass doors.


Good old Life glides past. Everywhere I look, stories abound.

And here I still am, sitting and thinking, labouring and wasting myself away, behind an essay which refuses to be written. I think harder by the seconds.  I search and turn my memory times and over, trying to find if there still is one tiny detail about my Christmas holidays which I may have forgotten.

Then, I can blow up this my new detail with words from that Word Class we learnt in the last Grammar Class: Adjectives, they call it.


Featured Image: Picture mine: Fishermen at work; a canoe called ‘Good Name‘. somewhere at the seaside between James Town and Ussher For, both Ga Mashi, Accra, Ghana; July 26, 2019.

But then, there is my face to save and my teacher to make happy – and my-self too to make happy, since my teacher and I share a Name. Enam.

And this is how I also will outdo one of my Grande-Mother’s many sayings: I will ‘‘kill three – not just two birds with one stone.’’

Two years later, I’m in a new class in a new school, with a new teacher, having the same lesson – Essay Writing. It is a debate, this time.

I begin with an introduction, as Ms Boakye has taught me, and as I best know how. I begin with an introduction which excellently expressed my side of the motion and fully justified it. I combine truth and length well enough – or so I insisted on believing. That introduction should please any teacher, who should in turn, reward this my rare – if not unique – feat, ever since I began writing essays in school.

But I was to be surprised: I’ve outdone myself and the normal.

My introductory paragraph alone is two lines short of one page. I scan it. I read it. I skim it. I re-read it. I revise it. I proofread it. I review it. And I end up with the same essay and introduction, with same words and word count. For I find every word in there worth choosing, very much worth the inclusion.

And by so doing, I displease another teacher for the opposite of a previous offence: too short essays.


It’s been many years since. If only I had understood those Essays as Compositions, I would not have thought of too many words as Lie-s.

And Oh! How I wish I had realized much earlier that too many words could as well be truth, beautiful truth.

Whether about the use of Adjectives or some other writer-ly style, one thing emerged from this whole experience: Modesty – not of the raw and rigid kind. I prefer to call it, Giftedness, or simply, Gift.

This Giftedness, It has never needed to save its owner’s face. Rather, It feeds her imagination and fills the pouring of her creations, It sharpens her outlook and adds life-colour to the fountain of her imagination.

This Giftedness effortlessly is. It intimately knows.

Through words, this Giftedness unfurls and flares out worlds beyond the mere now, worlds populated with personality, worlds loosened from locale, worlds forever far from the mundane. It is at once an exclusive sanctuary for all things too wondrous for the eloquence of words. It is a universe of possibilities upon infinities.

This Giftedness has a unique gift for everyone who encounters It.

This Giftedness does not kill one, two, three or more birds with one stone. Rather, like birds, It is free to soar the endless realms of the worlds of Words, soar and explore without the fear of room or restraint, without any fear of any kind.


Flying despite the fear, into the face of the fear, past the fear: A picture of me taken by my nephew, Kofi – at the Ghana Museum of Science and Technology; December 20, 2019.

So I now soar and explore, I write my life-world away.

And while at it, I am all too glad to watch the sun generously pour itself into my bliss…


*   *   *



– Wednesday, January 29, 2020: Dansoman, Accra, Ghana.



*Enam is an Ewe name that means ‘Gift’ or specifically, ‘God/He gave It to me’.

** Bic is the trademark of a very popular brand of pen in Ghana.

An earlier version of this story was the second  of my and Phillis Wheatley‘s annual Chicken Soup publication.  


One Year On. And AiShaWrites On.

We give thanks. (I)

We found dew
to show
for the morning.

Thursday, 27th February, 2014.

 *               *               *

Yes, it’s been a year since this blog went up, with the first post, about how it became that AishaWrites.

I appreciate everyone who has been part of Nu kɜ Hulu (Water and Sun).

Whether by my worrying you without end with my dreams and talks about my writing; my wanting to start a blog; why I settled on the blog name; which of many many pictures to use for a masthead and more such.


Whether by visiting and thoughtfully leaving or carefully not leaving behind a tell-tale – like a comment, a follow, a smile or a frown, and even a wink-and-a-half.

Whether by stopping me in the middle of some corridor somewhere to talk, or by sending a cute message elsewhere about what you thought about one post or the other; which other(s) reminded you of something personal; how sad or happy or…or…well, nothing…you felt about some other post or a part…

Whether by sharing, spreading Nu kɜ Hulu (Water and Sun) and or by simply enjoying, savouring it all alone. Whether by visiting for the first time and or skimming through previous post(s).

And whether any one or more or even none of these apply to you, come visiting again. Please do. Whatever be the case. And more so. As often as you can, and even if it is to say just ‘Hi’.


Again, Aisha appreciates. All.

 *               *               *

Today, I share a piece of a special kind. Like many things in life that have a beginning – even if not markedly so – so it is about how It became that AishaWrites. This It is as much about beginnings as It is about another of its kind. About coming-of-age.

I first posted this piece, a memoir, as a Facebook Note before it was officially published at Phillis Wheatley Chapter (PWC), as the maiden edition of its annual Chicken Soup publication, in December 2013. (There is the December 2014 edition too, which consists of two short poems and another memoir.)

PWC CS advert blue poster
Credit: Phillis Wheatley Chapter 

Phillis Wheatley Chapter (PWC) is a publication that collects African American, British, Canadian, Caribbean and West African poetry. Other forms are published alongside, to celebrate the culture and history of the black people –  in the spirit of Phillis, a young lady who was born in The Gambia in AD1753. As a honorary magazine, PWC does not accept voluntary submissions. Publication is by invitation only.  

PWC has a number of contributors, Ayebia Clarke Publishing as a partner and Darko Antwi as publisher and interviewer. A CIP record of this magazine is available at The British Library. ISSN 2046 – 3537.

Find more about PWC here.

 *               *               *

We give thanks. (II)

For that and more,
and for life of all
good gifts, we are grateful.

Thursday, 27th February, 2014.

 *               *               *

A Memoir: Of Coal Pots and Self- Confidence.

Shepherds set fireShepherds (Yes, they are girls!) light fire for warmth: 2014 Nativity Play which I adapted, directed and co-produced for Alpha Beta Education Centres

I should be four or five years old at the time. And I cannot remember exactly which of the two or two or three classes it was, but it all happened in one of any of my kindergarten classes.

Miss Vida was what we used to call her. And Vida was her first name, not her surname. It was usual, if not the norm, to call teachers by their appropriate titles plus their first names.

Miss Vida had given us an exercise that must have been about something on Environmental Studies. At our age and grade, it should be obvious that the said exercise would heavily entail drawing. It could have as well been about colouring, identification, matching or association.

Then, and even now, I’ve always been called slow- but not dull- at home. And that is not to say I, in any way, am a slow learner. On the contrary, and in all modesty, I am a gifted student. It was only when I grew up that I realized that the root cause of this ‘slowness’ of mine had everything to do with my kind of temperament. I am more of a melancholic than any one of the other four or five temperaments.

So perfectionism and the eyes for details, it turned out, were my faults, and hence, the reasons for my ‘slowness’.


It therefore took me longer time to complete my exercise, but I finished much earlier than was typical of me. Even better, I was not exactly amongst the last pupils to submit their exercises for grading.

And as Miss Vida would usually have it, she sat behind her perpetually almost-fully occupied table. On top of Miss Vida’s table stood tidy rows of mighty skyscrapers of different heights and kinds of books, and tidier trays of supplies of used stationery – pencil butts, chipped erasers, quarter crayons of different colours, pencil sharpeners with blunt blades and the like.

We pupils queued in wait for our turns to have our exercises graded, one after the other, right beside Miss Vida’s seat, behind the screen of the towering skyscrapers.

From time to time, ‘Y-e-e-e-s,’ – or was it ‘N-e-e-e-x-t,’- called Miss Vida, with her eye glasses pulled down too low on the bridge of her bold bevelled nose. Her slightly bulging eyeballs rolled above her nose and the upper rims of her eye glasses. Her delicious intelligent eyes poured from above the eye glasses and pored on the remainder of the shrinking, snaking queue tailing one breadth end of her table.

Without Doubt!.jpg

A fine tuft of grey hair perched half-way at the front of Miss Vida’s hairline. On some days, Miss Vida let the lock of hair down, to frame her high cheek bones and round face. On such days, the balls of her chubby cheeks gleamed than usual. The beauty spot on her temple and the last of what would have been a rugged patch of a man’s goatee, which touched Miss Vida’s double-chin, stood out even bolder on her round sweet face.

All these, together with the stern, yet warm look in Miss Vida’s eyes, and her intimidatingly tidy table, made seeing Miss Vida unnecessarily foreboding. For pupils of my kind. Especially.

And like the perfectionist that she also might have been, Miss Vida critically examined each pupil’s exercise, all the while, pausing several times to question and admonish or guide and correct each pupil about every conceivable aspect of the exercise: from dancing handwriting, through un-dotted i-s and g-s and y-s without curled tails, to omitted punctuation marks, disproportionate lower and upper case letters and the like.

The real task in Miss Vida’s exercises therefore, lay in the drill that came with the shared grading process. And this did not help matters with how foreboding it was to submit an exercise to Miss Vida for grading. Still, for pupils of my sort. Especially.

seff esteem
Credit: Colour Box

So having completed my exercise, I joined the queue.

Little by teeny little, the queue crawled at a pace dictated by the quality of each pupil’s exercise -per Miss Vida’s own criteria- and by how long Miss Vida took with her interrogation or correction –or what not- with the given pupil. The queue shrank as quickly as more pupils left it from Miss Vida’s table’s end, and as more others joined it from the tail end.

The pupils, who were still sitting, therefore, might have either been to Miss Vida already or were yet to complete their exercise, and then, join the queue.

But much much before it got to my turn, I went back to the last place in the queue.

Several times did I offer my mates the right to get ahead of me, to jump the queue. And I am sure those of my mates who should had been behind me in the queue might have thought me too kind or some other things not as positive.
11133715_824251257629707_8544641783088182080_nPhoto credit: Dr. Lizzy Attree, Director of the Caine Prize for African Writing; one of three workshop participants at a local school visit, a part of the 2015 Caine Prize Writing Workshop at Elmina, Ghana.

Finally, I was the very last person to have to submit her work to Miss Vida, and to submit to her not-exactly pet-talks. I was to be both shamed and elated – though inwardly – when it finally got to my turn. For this particular exercise, I did not keep as long as any of my mates had been at Miss Vida’s table.

With her red pen, all Miss Vida did was to dig a check sign with a rather long tail, which ran through almost the whole page on which I had done my exercise. She also scribbled one or two of those congratulatory remarks that teachers often write under the check sign.

Like most of my classmates, quite apart from the hurried nature with which these words were written, we could not – at that age and stage – read those remarks. However, we all well knew, just by their looks, what each one of those remarks meant.

And yes, those scribbles meant a lot to us pupils.


A few words- scribbles, I mean- to reinforce the remarks under the check sign, a deliberate tender pat on the shoulder – mine – and her broadest smile, and then Miss Vida closed my book, neatly placed it on top of one of the skyscrapers on her table, and asked me to take my seat.

And to think I did not get to sit that soon after all, after the drill of a shared grading; not after Miss Vida had stood in front of the class with me, and she had given what should be a recommendation speech: recommendation of me to my classmates.


PWC CS praise yellow poster
Credit : Phillis Wheatly Chapter

I merely went through the motions: Miss Vida’s passionate speech and the applause and cat-calls from my classmates at the end of the speech.

All these. And more. For a simple exercise on something about coal-pots. Something I was about the only pupil who had it right. Per Miss Vida’s criteria.

 *               *               *

We give thanks. (III)

Let us find fruit
to show
for the evening, for dusk, even.

We pray.

Thursday, 27th February, 2014.

 *               *               *

Now, in the newness of the season and of every goodwill, in the spirit of Nu kɜ Hulu (Water and Sun) and of goodness itself, in gratitude for times past, and in prayer for the days, the year to come, Aisha wishes you the best of…

Life. Love. More such goodly gifts. ,



Love: AishaWrites.

I never remember setting out as a Writer. I do know that I have not only been a loner, but also, always been a thinker – as in the philosophical, reflective, and yes, the daydreaming sense. The first time I remember telling someone, an elderly person, what I would like to be in future and I mentioned Writer, I was told that no one makes a serious job, a meaningful career, out of being that. ‘Beside, writers are too weird a people. And I don’t like the way they dress. And other things,’ my aunt’s husband had added. I knew little at the time to decide what to make of his words about Writers and their ways…

I never remember setting out as a Writer. I do remember that quite early in my first year in high school, I was to write a story on a theme similar to ‘Ball in the Soup’, a story in our English Language textbook. Our Teacher had a few of us students read the stories we had come up with. Then she called me – and I had not even raised my hand, to be called – to read mine. It so much looked like one of those pranks Teachers sometimes like to play on students who are rather too quiet (but not necessarily passive) in class, just to get such students too to talk. The Opening of my story, everything In Between and The Ending made nothing, if not nonsense, of all that our Teacher had taught us about what makes for proper, well-crafted stories.

I never remember setting out as a writer, so I could not have meant to be rebellious or something of the sort to all the tips – or were they tricks? – which my Teacher had taught, and very well so. I just wrote my story the way it came to me, and that, I read to both Teacher and classmates.

I never remember setting out as a writer, so I could have expected my Teacher to be disappointed with what I read. My teacher waited too long to give the remarks about my story. There was something ominous and everything intentional – reflective, even – about the wait. While I had read and when I had finished with the reading, my classmates had been far too silent than could be true of them. They seemed to be both afraid and eager to hear what rebuke, whether harsh or hushed, that our Teacher would give me. Theirs was one worrisome wait. In an already thin voiced which had waned shrill with sheer wonderment, the rebuke came…

‘I tell you! There are writers in this class’, was all that my English Language Teacher had said. Miss Wobson is her name, and the last time I searched for her, she is late…

I never remember setting out as a writer, so during those same years, when I met Madam Star Nyaniba Hammond, I was more surprised than elated when she gladly offered to mentor me. And I did not ask, just as it never would have occurred to me to ask… She had only read one short story of mine which had appeared in Graphic Communications Group’s The Mirror. Her first letter to me – I was in boarding school by then – was more praise and love than recommendations and encouragement. That letter was to be my first and only from her. After several writing and calling back, all without any response whatsoever, I later learnt Madam Hammond passed away…

I never remember setting out as a writer and even now, and for a long time to come – and maybe forever, I will remain careful to call myself a writer. Too.

One day, I will tell of Ali Nelson and Naa Amanuah Ankrah and Ansaba Botchway.
One day, I will also tell of Prof. Kofi Anyidoho and Dr. Mawuli Adjei (Mawuli Adzei).
One day, I will tell of Adza Gloria (as I used to call her) and one Mrs. Ruth Benny-Wood. Too.

One day, I will tell of more others and properly tell this story of how it became that AishaWrites.

Until then, it just happens that Love is, that AishaWrites.

Until then and in in keeping with the name and spirit of this blog, Nu kɛ Hulu (Water and Sun), here are two poems, the latter of which was first published in the Kalahari Review.

with heads up

They went as fast as they came
leaving behind stuffed air for reasons
around all the dreams we wove
They went as fast as they came
leaving behind tired knots for cords
on the songs we strung and sang together

the dreams turned into walls
and echoed the ugliness of
the love-turned-hate songs
For a long lost memorial,
the love-turned-hate songs
smeared, smudged on the blanched walls and all

They went as fast as they could
leaving behind fine feathers for trails
to some place without a name
They went as fast as they could
to build fancy, fairy castles
with strange elements and stranger people

the feathers became wings
and fanned time, age and more time on
their haste-turned- castles
For a sorry, soul-less thing,
the haste-turned-castles
stood, drooped under the wasteful wings

They went
as fast as they came
as far as they could
leaving me with plenty room
for everything,
and all the Sun
for all things…

Thursday, 26th April 2007

…at the scent of water

not water
not dew
at the scent of water

let the frayed stump spew green
let the foul egg vomit a being

let that which was birthed to die
find life
let that which died before birth
know life

at the scent of water
not dew
not water

Friday, 19th June 2009

Do remember
to share the Love,
to spread this Love and
to leave a comment.

Do have
a merry Christmas,
a happier new year and
a fruitful, fulfilling life.