The flood that spills blood

The water that calls forth fire is strange water

The fire that burns on water is a strange fire

Let every clan know

Oil can spoil our toil to make progress

And foil our march to good fortune


On the wings of the master bird

I fly across the territories of Ghana

Looking out for the billowing smoke

From your grandmother's kitchen

That signifies you will drink grandma’s soup of snails and crabs

So that I may call you by the names your ancestors approved

Abeiku, Abeba, Abe

Alas… you stand beyond my lens


My kafugbe lies across my shoulder

Stuffed with metal powder from the village blacksmith

Headlamp sits on my forehead

My bare chest stands hardened and ready to die

The wailing of our women folk fade in the chill of the wet night

I note each how each note urges me on to advance into the jungle

I lead the Asafo troupes through the Adansi forests

Fishing through the semi-deciduous undergrowth for the smell of human armpit

That I may rescue you; lift you onto my shoulders

While I whisper your nsamraneee

Okofo, Afroso, Mensa Kese

Alas…you stand beyond the river


On the broad back of the king whale

I swim across the Ga-Dangme seas

Weaving between the rocks and the floating Charlie wote

Searching for the fish with the silver tongue that can spew out your names to me

So I may proclaim your sabla from Tema to Kokrobite

Akweley, Borteley, Lamley

Alas…you stand beyond nshonaa


Tamale savannahs

Oda forests

Nungua seas

Tell me the names of my brothers

Who for daily bread walked the streets

Show me pictures of my sisters

Who for shelter run to the canopy

Declare now where you hide them

That I may fly on the wings of a master bird

To carry them to safety’s shores

Feel the anguish of our mothers

Beating their breasts at the family house and crying buckets full

They flood their chests with tears that pour like the angry heavens that heaped sadness on them

Their scarfs lie crumbled as their braided hairs lose their threads


Flayed flesh hold hearts of gold

That wail and dare the bold


The waters we plead to come soften the grounds

Come and harden our convictions that all is not well

Shady shadows loiter the village square

Strange sewage litter the festival dais

The durbar grounds stink

Bare knuckles of kwashiorkor-ridden teenagers clutch long handles of fake brass

That support faded umbrellas dyed with cheap sudii

To cover the shaved head of our chief

Who sits on a ruined palanquin secured with twisted strands of dry grass


I wait for the diviners to decipher how water calls forth fire

Let the soothsayers tell how water blazes as fire

Consuming our royals in our sight in our tropical night

Spewing strange sounds that silence a whole community

Sense the sticky airs that eat our breaths


The water that scorches at night like the noon day sun is strange water

The fire that burns on water is a strange fire


Theo Aryee