Today marks the UN World Poetry Day.

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO says:

"As a deep expression of the human mind and as a universal art, poetry is a tool for dialogue and rapprochement. The dissemination of poetry helps to promote dialogue among cultures and understanding between peoples because it gives access to the authentic expression of a language."

In honour of the day, myjoyonline.com presents to you a collection of poems by the late great Ghanaian Poet and Writer, Professor Kofi Awoonor.

OF HOME AND SEA I ALREADY SANG

A calm settles

at the beckon of sweet age…

Joy and hope soar

for the ultimate task

ahead written about, already

promised in the trajectories of jail,

in absence and exile…

That we will perform our duty by the people

depose the recalcitrant brutes

and march ahead of our beloved masses

to a coming kingdom…

Let the dream not die, master;

Let the dove coo at dawn again,

Let the masthead rear its head

out of the storm

and share the night with me on this sea.

Let me sing the song you gave me.

Before death comes, master,

Let me dance to the drums you gave me.

Let me sit in the warmth of the fire

Of the only native land you gave me.

A DEATH FORETOLD

Sometimes, the pain and the sorrow return

particularly at night.

I will grieve again and again tomorrow

for the memory of a death foretold….

I believe in hope and the future

of hope, in victory before death

collective, inexorable, obligatory;

in the enduring prospect of love

though the bed is empty,

in the child’s happiness

though the meal is meagre.

I believe in light and day

beyond the tomb far from the solitude

of the womb, and the mystical night,

in the coming of fruits

the striped salmon and the crooked crab;

I believe in men and the gods

in the spirit and the substance,

in death and the reawakening

in the promised festival and denial

in our heroes and the nation

in the wisdom of the people

the certainty of victory

the validity of struggle….

I will not grieve again tomorrow.

I will not grieve again.

GRAINS AND TEARS

…. Go and tell them I paid the price

I stood by the truth

I fought anger and hatred

on behalf of the people.

I ate their meagre meals in the barracks

shared their footsteps and tears

in freedom’s name

I promised once in a slave house in Ussher

to postpone dying until

the morning after freedom.

I promise.

SONGS OF SORROW

I.

Dzogbese Lisa has treated me thus

It has led me among the sharps of the forest

Returning is not possible

And going forward is a great difficulty

The affairs of this world are like the chameleon faeces

Into which I have stepped

When I clean it cannot go.

I am on the world’s extreme corner,

I am not sitting in the row with the eminent

But those who are lucky

Sit in the middle and forget

I am on the world’s extreme corner

I can only go beyond and forget.

My people, I have been somewhere

If I turn here, the rain beats me

If I turn there the sun burns me

The firewood of this world

Is for only those who can take heart

That is why not all can gather it.

The world is not good for anybody

But you are so happy with your fate;

Alas! The travelers are back

All covered with debt.

II.

Something has happened to me

The things so great that I cannot weep;

I have no sons to fire the gun when I die

And no daughters to wail when I close my mouth

I have wandered on the wilderness

The great wilderness men call life

The rain has beaten me,

And the sharp stumps cut as keen as knives

I shall go beyond and rest.

I have no kin and no brother,

Death has made war upon our house;

And Kpeti’s great household is no more,

Only the broken fence stands;

And those who dared not look us in his face

Have come out as men.

How well their pride is with them.

Let those gone before take note

They have treated their offspring badly.

What is the wailing for?

Somebody is dead. Agosu himself

Alas! A snake has bitten me

My right arm is broken,

And the tree on which I lean is fallen.

Agosi if you go tell them,

Tell Nyidevu, Kpeti, and Kove

That they have done us evil;

Tell them their house is falling

And the trees in the fence

Have been eaten by termites;

That the martels curse them.

Ask them why they idle there

While we suffer, and eat sand.

And the crow and the vulture

Hover always above our broken fences

And strangers walk over our portion.

THE WEAVER BIRD

The weaver bird built in our house

And laid its eggs on our only tree.

We did not send it away.

We watched the building of the nest

And supervised the egg-laying.

And the weaver returned in the guise of the owner.

Preaching salvation to us that owned the house.

They say it came from the west

Where the storms at sea had felled the gulls

And the fishers dried their nets by lantern light.

Its sermon is the divination of ourselves

And our new horizon limits at its nest.

But we cannot join the prayers and answers of the

communicants.

We look for new homes every day.

For new altars we strive to re-build

The old shrines defiled by the weaver’s excrement.

REDISCOVERY

When our tears are dry on the shore

and the fishermen carry their nets home

and the seagulls return to bird island

and the laughter of the children recedes at night,

there shall still linger here the communion we forged,

the feast of oneness which we partook of.

There shall still be the eternal gateman

Who will close the cemetery doors

And send the late mourners away.

It cannot be the music we heard that night

That still lingers in the chambers of memory.

It is the new chorus of our forgotten comrades

And the halleluyahs of our second selves.

THE CATHEDRAL

On this dirty patch

a tree once stood

shedding incense on the infant corn;

its boughs stretched across a heaven

brightened by the last fires of a tribe.

They sent surveyors and builders

who cut that tree

planting in its place

a huge senseless cathedral of doom.

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